FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2021
WASHINGTON – In response to bipartisan passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, including the provisions of the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the wider Reform Movement institutions:
We celebrate yesterday’s House bipartisan passage of the combined COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act. Yesterday’s vote, which follows Senate passage last month, is a testament to the strong, persistent leadership of communities most directly affected by hate crimes. We are proud of the tireless advocacy of the Jewish community and our countless civil rights partners who have worked for years to strengthen existing anti-hate laws.
In recent years, we have seen significant gaps in reporting amid a devastating surge in hate crimes that has demonstrated the necessity for federal action to combat racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and other forms of bigotry. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed an unconscionable wave of hate crimes targeting Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, who have faced triple-digit percentage increases in hate crimes in many major cities. The Jewish community knows all too well that these crimes are intended to harm both individuals and entire communities, threatening the realization of a pluralistic America where people of all identities can live in safety.
The Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act—named in honor of Khalid Jabara, a victim of anti-Arab hatred, and Heather Heyer, who was killed by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, VA—will strengthen hate crimes data collection, reporting, and response measures. The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act will expedite the Department of Justice’s hate crimes review process and bolster community outreach. By incentivizing law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes to a national database and funding state hate crime reporting hotlines, we will gain a clearer picture of hate violence in the United States and deepen law enforcement’s capacity to respond. The bill’s provisions for rehabilitating offenders through education and community service also reflect our commitment to restorative justice and the central role of teshuvah, or repentance, in Jewish tradition.
As we celebrate this legislative victory, we will continue to push for further congressional action and work within communities to root out systemic racism, antisemitism, and bigotry in all its forms.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the social justice office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 850 congregations across North America encompass approximately 1.8 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit www.RAC.org for more.