December 18, 2014 · 26 Kislev

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The majority of the Religious Action Centers interaction with various racial and ethnic communities is through coalition work. The RAC works together with representatives of different communities on several issues, including hate crimes, affirmative action, criminal justice, human rights, gun control and economic justice. In addition, the Reform Movement has passed several resolutions related to various racial and ethnic communities in the United States.

Race Relations and Jewish Values

In the Torah, Jews are taught to accept others, without prejudice or bias. The Torah states "You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman, but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the Eternal" ( Leviticus 19: 17-18).

In the Talmud, we learn that all people are descendants from a single person so that no person can say, "my ancestor is greater than yours." God created humanity from the four corners of the earth - yellow clay, and white sand, black loam and red soil. Therefore, the earth can declare to no part of humanity that it does not belong here, that this soil is not their rightful home.

Judaism also teaches the importance of working with others in the community to achieve social justice. We are taught that "in a city where there are both Jews and Gentile, the collectors of alms collect from both Jews and Gentiles; they feed the poor of both, visit the sick of both; bury both and restore the lost goods of both, for the sake of peace" ( Yerushalmi Talmud, Tractate Demai ).

Asian-Jewish Relations

The Census suggests that the Asian-American population is among the fastest-growing minority groups in the United States. Asian-Americans constitute significant percentages of the population in California and New York City, for example, where high concentrations of Jews also settled. The term Asian-American, however, is somewhat misleading for it includes people from a wide variety of backgrounds from Pacific Islanders to Southeast Asians to those from East Asian and the Indian subcontinent.

Though in the past, relatively little interaction or collaboration has occurred between Jews and Asians, a variety of opportunities for cooperation exist between the communities, including community organizing, mutual support, and political advocacy. For example, the Union for Reform Judaism has taken strong stances against human rights violations in North Korea, Sri Lanka and Tibet.

Reform Movement Policy

In a 1981 resolution Reparations to American Citizens of Japanese Descent, the Union of Reform Judaism called upon Congress "to assert its moral and constitutional responsibilities to legislate reasonable reparations for the Japanese-Americans" who were forced to relocate to internment camps. In 2001, the URJ passed a resolution on Religious Persecution In China, which called upon the government of China to “End all persecution, including that of members of religious and ethnic minorities.” In 2003, the Commission on Social Action passed a resolution on North Korea, encouraging the U.S. government to “engage promptly in diplomacy and negotiations with North Korea to attempt to resolve differences.”   A 1987 CCAR resolution, On the Growing Importance of the Hispanic and Asian Communities in the United States, calls for Jewish outreach to and interaction with Asian communities on areas of mutual concern.

For More Information

To learn more, contact RAC Legislative Assistant Amelia Viney or visit the following websites:

Black-Jewish Relations

The history of cooperation between the Jewish communities pre-dates the Civil Rights Movement. Despite the media's portrayal of the communities acrimony, this cooperation continues. The RAC continues to work on significant civil rights legislation and other issues of concern to both the African-American and Jewish communities.

In the past few decades the perception that this partnership no longer exists, that it is an historical artifact, has permeated American popular culture. However, the RAC has been at the center of more events in the name of Black-Jewish relations than almost any other issue. Although there is always the chance of problems in the interactions between individuals in the two communities, cooperation exists at the local and national level on all issues that have an impact, directly and/or indirectly, on Blacks and Jews. The two communities work together in leading the fight on several issues, including welfare, economic justice, affirmative action, reproductive rights and gay/lesbian issues.

The Reform Movement and Black-Jewish Relations

Through funding from the Marjorie Kovler Institute for Black-Jewish Relations, the Union of Reform Judaism and the NAACP have worked together to develop resources to assist those working to develop greater understanding between Jews and Blacks, including The Common Road to Justice: A Programming Manual for Blacks and Jews and The Common Road to Freedom: A Passover Haggadah . Both items are available from the Religious Action Center. In addition, the RAC gives the Civil Rights Leadership Award every other year in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Day.


The Union and the CCAR have both passed resolutions in support of the Black community and in the interest of improving Black-Jewish Relations.

Union of Reform Judaism



A Common Road to Freedom Edited by Leonard Fein and Rabbi David Saperstein

  • Designed with Black/Jewish seders in mind, the newest edition of the heralded Black/Jewish Passover hagaddah is rich in new songs, ancient and contemporary writings, and reflections by Jewish and African American leaders. Scores of synagogues, communities and college campuses have held Black/Jewish seders during the Passover season using A Common Road to Freedom . $4.00/copy; $3.50/copy for orders of 25+. Shipping costs: $3.00 for the first 10 copies; $1.00 for each additional 5 copies. Contact the Religious Action Center if you would like to order a copy.

A Common Road to Justice Edited by Rabbi Lynne F. Landsberg and Rabbi David Saperstein

  • Published by the Marjorie Kovler Institute for Black Jewish Relations, co-sponsored by the Union and the NAACP, A Common Road to Justice is a programming manual for Black/Jewish relations. The manual includes extensive background information on the history of Black/Jewish relations, several creative and helpful programming suggestions, sample liturgies and model sermons, as well as a list of additional resources. $7.95/copy. Contact the Religious Action Centerif you would like to order a copy.

For More Information

To learn more, contact RAC Legislative Assistant Amelia Viney or visit the following websites:

Latino-Jewish Relations

According to a recent report of the U.S. Census Bureau, every year from the present until 2050, it is predicted that the race/ethnic group adding the largest number of people to the population will be the Latino population. After 2020 the Latino population is projected to add more people to the United States every year than all other race/ethnic groups combined. With this rapid growth in population, the Latino community faces special challenges to overcome educational, employment, and economic disadvantages.Immigration reform continues to be a priority for the Latino community as Latinos living in the United States maintain close relations with friends and family still living in Central and South America.

Former President Clinton's Advisory Committee on Race created an Initiative on Race and authorized the creation of an Advisory Board on how to build "One America" for the 21st century. The Board members canvassed the country meeting with and listening to Americans who revealed how race and racism have impacted their lives.

One of the issues that the Presidents Initiative on Race focused on was employment discrimination against minorities. "Testers" have been utilized to uncover systematic hiring discrimination. In one instance, a Hispanic tester was paired with a comparably qualified white tester. When the Hispanic tester applied for a receptionist position in a Washington suburb, she was told the company was not taking additional applications. The white tester called shortly after and was given an appointment for the next day. The Hispanic unemployment rate is 7 % higher than the rate for whites. Much of this disparity persists even when differences in educational attainment are considered. Moreover, discrimination in hiring and few job opportunities in low-income communities contribute to higher rates of unemployment among minority workers.

The Reform Movement and Latino-Jewish Relations

The Reform movement has traditionally recognized the importance of building bridges to other minority communities. The Reform Movement has made extensive efforts in outreach to the African-American community through seminars, conferences, coalitions, and programs. It is important the Jewish community makes the same commitment to building significant bonds with the Latino community, a rapidly growing dynamic community that shares Jewish concerns for social justice. As a community conscious of our own immigration narrative, the Jewish community should continue to play a strong role in pushing for just immigration policies today.

CCAR Resolutions:

For More Information

To learn more, contact RAC Legislative Assistant Amelia Viney or visit the following websites:

Native American-Jewish Relations

There are over 557 federally recognized "Indian tribes" (variously called Nations, Bands, Pueblos, Communities, Rancherias and Villages) in the United States. Approximately 200 of these are located in Alaska, the rest are scattered throughout 34 states.

Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution reads, "The Congress shall have power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes." Therefore, the U.S. clearly recognizes the governmental status of Indian tribes and creates the basis for the unique federal relationship with tribal governments. The Supreme Court, the President and the Congress have repeatedly affirmed that Indian tribes retain their inherent powers of self-government.

Statistical Portrait

In the twenty-first century, American Indians (Native Americans) remain largely trapped in nineteenth-century poverty. As of 1990, 16 percent of reservation homes lack electricity, 21 percent an indoor toilet, and 56 percent a telephone. In addition, 45 percent of all reservation-based Native Americans lived below the poverty line, roughly half of the adults are unemployed, and of those working, a majority make less than $7,000 a year. (As data from the 2000 census is released, these statistics will be updated.)

Legislative Summary

The House of Representatives Interior Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2001 (H.R. 4578) includes appropriations for Indian Health Services (IHS) and for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), including many, but not all, of the Administrations Indian programs, includingBIA Indian Education programs and the BIA Office of the Special Trustee. The House bill falls far short of both the Presidents request and the level of need Native Americans possess. Overall, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee mark-up of H.R. 4578 allocated $386 million - 2.6% less than the amount required to sustain this years (FY00) level of effort for all programs under its jurisdiction (which includes, in addition to the BIA and IHS, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management the Fish and Wildlife Serviceand other agencies). The Subcommittees bill would provide only a 1.3% increase ($30 million) for the IHS - $200 million below the Administrations request, and less than is necessary to balance inflation. If enacted, this funding level would force IHS to cut staff at a time when the agency is already sorely understaffed.

The Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (H.R. 4577) includes the Department of Educations Office of Indian Education (OIE) and the Impact Aid program. OIE programs support the efforts of local educational agencies, Indian tribes, and other entities to meet the special educational needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives. OIE programs include funding for recruiting and training Indian teachers and administrators for schools with high percentages of Native American students. Impact Aid provides funds to local public school districts that lack adequate local tax revenues due to the presence of large tracts of federally owned (non-taxable) property within the local district (such as military bases, national forests and parks, and Indian reservations). A portion of these funds are provided to local school districts that serve Indian children from near by reservations.

The omnibus appropriations bill, signed by President Clinton on November 29, 1999, includes increased funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). BIA would receive $86 million more that in Fiscal Year 1999. New funds are included for law enforcement, school construction, tribal colleges and contract support costs. Although the final funding level for Indian programs remain below the Presidents total Fiscal Year 2000 request, it is significantly higher than the amount included in the Interior appropriations conference report that Congress had approved earlier in the session.

In addition to the extra funds, one of the most positive elements about the bill is that the moratorium on new tribal self-determination contracts was lifted and funding for contract support costs for tribal contracting of BIA and Indian Health Service (IHS) responsibilities were increased. Ten million dollars is provided for contracting BIA services - half will pay for existing unfunded contract support, while the other half is intended for the expansion of contracting. Unfortunately, some negative policy riders remained in the bill, including a provision that allows theInterior Secretary to redistribute up to 10% of a tribes federal funding in certain circumstances. This authority to redistribute the main source of funding for most tribes should not be placed in the hands of the Secretary.

The Reform Movement and Native Americans

The Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the Commission on Social Action have a number of resolutions on Native American issues, specifically focusing on religious rights, civil rights, and tribal sovereignty.

Union for Reform Judaism

  • Native American Indians (1977)
    As Jews we understand and sympathize with the suffering of American Indians, and their forced expulsion from their homeland. We further are outraged and impelled to reverse the sharp contrasts that exist between the Native American community and the national average. "According to the governments own statistics, American Indians suffer from eight times the rate of tuberculosis; an infant mortality rate 20 percent greater; a life expectancy seven years less; and a suicide rate three times greater."


  • Protection of Native American Remains (1990)
    This resolution is concerned with respecting the sanctity of Native American property, with particular regard to burial sites. Therefore, the CCAR calls on its members to "work on both the state and federal levels to help secure legislation that will protect unmarked burial sites and criminalize the traffic in human remains and burial goods legally obtained.
  • American Indians (1982)
    Outlines the struggles and injustices continually suffered by Native Americans. The CCAR urges its members to "support Native American Indians in their struggle to attain the human and political rights so long denied them."
  • American Indians and Equal Opportunity (1979)
    Calls for Native Americans to be treated justly and fairly and for the U.S. government to hold true to its Native American directed promises. According to the CCAR, "we call upon the President and the Congress of the United States to live up to the moral and ethical responsibility of the people of the United States to honor the promises of the treaties and agreements entered into with the native peoples of this country."


  • Religious Rights of Native Americans (1992)
    In recent years, Native Americans have faced significant obstacles to exercising their religious rights. They are finding it difficult to conduct ceremonies without interference from non-Native Americans when they go into the mountains or to remote lakes and buttes. Federal agencies have begun to restrict Native American access to sacred sites by establishing increasingly narrow rules and regulations for managing public funds.

For More Information

To learn more about race and ethnic relations, including relationships with the Jewish community, contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Claire Shimberg at (202) 387-2800. To learn more about Native American issues, contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Jonathan Edelman. You can also visit the following websites:

  • RAC Civil Rights issue page
  • Code Talk
    A federal inter-agency Native American website that provides information for Native American communities.
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
    The Bureau of Indian Affairs' mission is to enhance the quality of life, to promote economic opportunity, and to carry out the responsibility to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian tribes and Alaska Natives.
  • National Congress of American Indians
    The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), founded in 1944, is the oldest, largest and most representative national Indian organization serving the needs of a broad membership of American Indian and Alaska Native governments.
  • Native American Sites
    This serves as a link to additional Native American resources.
  • U.S. Department of Interior's Frequently Requested Laws
    This site reveals laws related to Indian Affairs
  • Friends Committee on National Legislation
    The Friends Committee on National Legislation is a Quaker lobbying organization in the public interest that seeks to bring the concerns, experiences and testimonies of the Religious Society of Friends to bear on policy decisions in the nation's capital.

Last Updated October 2014

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