Civil Rights & Voting Rights

Description

The Torah teaches to accept others without prejudice and to work with others to achieve social justice. Since the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Jewish community has continued its support of civil rights laws addressing systemic discrimination in voting, housing, and employment against not only women and people of color but also the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities.

Learn About the RAC and the Civil Rights Movement

Engage Your Congregation

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The Reform Movement's Racial Justice Campaign

Join the leaders of the Reform Movement as we examine and address our own behaviors, practices, and policies, through the lens of racial equity, diversity, and inclusion (REDI) and outwardly to pursue targeted, strategic advocacy that could change laws and policies that impact our society.

 

Brit Olam Racial Justice Cohort

Whether your community has been working thoughtfully on issues of racial justice and inclusion for a long time, or if you are just starting out, this cohort will support you in the work of becoming more diverse, aware, and impactful in your activism.

Why We Care about Civil Rights & Voting Rights

The Sage Hillel taught "Al tifros min hatzibur, Do not separate yourself from the community" (Pirke Avot 2:5). Moreover, it is our responsibility to play an active role in our community and choosing its leaders.

Rabbi Yitzhak taught that "A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted" (Babylonian Talmud Berachot 55a). Rabbi Yitzhak further explained that in the Torah, Bezalel could be chosen to build the Tabernacle only with the community's approval. This deeply embedded ethic of political participation has guided Jews to enthusiastically participate in the American electoral process.

Jews played an active role in the dramatic civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, a movement that ultimately granted citizens of color unfettered access to the franchise. Indeed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was partially drafted in the conference room of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, under the aegis of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Given our longstanding commitment to the civil rights struggle, ongoing voter suppression and disenfranchisement, which disproportionately impacts Voters of Color. It is our duty to ensure all voters can safely and freely cast our ballots so that every voice is heard and our elections reflect the will of the people. Only through national standards for voting access can we make the promise of democracy real for us all.

 As Reform Jews, we must heed the teachings of our tradition that speak to the dangers of mixing money and politics and recognize the distorting effect that money can have on a leader’s ability to govern fairly. We are reminded of this teaching from Deuteronomy 16:19, "You shall not judge unfairly: you shall know no partiality; you shall not take gifts, for gifts blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just."  We are commanded to stand up for the widow, the poor, the orphan and the stranger. In a system that allows for disproportionate power of money, it is these groups who are ignored and who suffer the most. 

Take Action

Urge Congress to enact policing reforms

George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Dreasjon “Sean” Reed are just some of the latest victims of the nation’s long history of brutality against People of Color, and particularly Black men. Urge your members of Congress to support comprehensive policing reforms in the 117th Congress.

Urge Congress to Restore Voting Rights

On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder invalidated parts of the Voting Rights Act. In the aftermath of the Court’s misguided decision, many states have tested the extent to which they can legally limit citizens’ access to the ballot box by introducing--and in many cases passing--restrictive voting laws

Related Issues

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Signs that say "restore voting rights"

Voting Rights

Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of democracy. However, for the duration of its history, the United States has been plagued by disenfranchisement and voter suppression.

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Reparations

Systemic racial oppression in the United States began four hundred years ago with the institution of slavery and it was inextricably intertwined with the development of the American economy and of the nation overall. 

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Finance, Facilities and Administration

Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign finance refers to fundraising and spending involved in candidates’ run for office. These campaigns cost a great deal of money; from travel expenses to advertisements and compensation of staff, enormous financial burdens come with running for office.

What's New

NFTY Teens Advocate at Texas Capitol for Voting Rights

July 19, 2021
On Monday, Democratic state legislators in Texas walked out of the capitol building and flew to Washington, DC aboard private jets. This move broke the quorum of the Texas House, currently preventing the legislature from effectively operating, and consequently, from passing Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3 which would restrict the freedom to vote. I took a charter bus to the Texas Capitol in Austin on Tuesday with fellow NFTY regional board member and RAC organizer Ronen Wenderfer where we teamed up with partner organizations to hold a rallied press conference, meet with legislators, and drop off postcards at their offices.

Related Press Releases

Reform Movement Calls for Voting Rights Legislation After Harmful Supreme Court Decision

“The right to vote in safe, free, and accessible elections is fundamental to the promise of American democracy. We are deeply disappointed by today’s Supreme Court decision upholding Arizona voting laws that have made it particularly difficult for Latinx, Native American, and Black voters to make their voices heard in elections. This decision jeopardizes Arizonans’ and all Americans’ right to vote.

RAC Email Sign Up

Learn more about the RAC's key issues and get involved by signing up for the legislative updates newsletter.

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Reform Judaism's Resolutions on Civil Rights and Voting Rights

Learn more about the position of the Reform Movement on these key issues, and read the formal resolutions by URJ and CCAR.

View URJ Resolutions View Resolutions From Our Partners

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Contact our Legislative Assistants

For more information on this issue, contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Josh Burg at (202) 796-6508.