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Jewish Values and School Prayer

Neither biblical mandates nor rabbinic rulings completely explain the Jewish community's strong commitment to religious freedom and the separation of church and state. It is, rather, historical experience which demonstrates that the Jewish people have suffered religious persecution when the state was controlled by a particular religion. The First Amendment made the United States the refuge of choice for Jews and others throughout the world when faced with persecution and oppression in countries without equivalent guarantees. American Jews have enjoyed the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom to exercise religion and to organize communal lives under the equal protection of the law. Therefore, the Jewish community has a deep stake in the preservation of the separation of church and state. As members of a religious minority whose history is so dominated by oppression, we are especially sensitive to any effort to weaken the safeguards of pluralism and minority expression and are keenly aware of the dangers of a partnership between government and religion.