May 17, 2023 – In response to Representative Cori Bush’s introduction of a resolution supporting reparations for Black Americans, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Yolanda Savage-Narva, Assistant Vice President of Racial Equity, Diversion, and Inclusion for the Union of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, and wider Reform Movement:
“We deeply appreciate and commend Representative Bush’s introduction of this wide-ranging and comprehensive reparations resolution, which calls upon the United States to recognize and fully address the violence, cruelty, and injustices committed by our government against African Americans. While there is much to study and evaluate in her specific proposals, this resolution will be a vital and needed tool in driving forward a long-overdue public conversation about reparations and presents an opportunity to continue our long history of fighting for civil rights.
“As the descendent of formerly enslaved persons in South Carolina and Mississippi and the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress, Representative Bush has long been a champion for reparations. Last summer, she rightfully called on the United States to pursue ‘Black liberation in its totality.’ Her resolution takes a comprehensive approach in powerfully detailing the extent of harm and destruction the Black community has endured since the beginning of chattel slavery and embodies the importance of educating communities about the ongoing forms of systemic, structural, and state-sanctioned anti-Black racism that persist today – and acting to rectify these injustices.
“In 2019, the Reform Jewish Movement passed a historic resolution supporting the Study and Development of Reparations for Slavery and Systemic Racism in the United States – becoming the first Jewish denomination to call for reparations. Following the lead of Black Jews, other Black Americans, coalition partners, and other advocates who are intentionally centering the lived experiences of Black Americans, the Reform Movement supports H.R. 40/S. 40, federal legislation to establish a commission to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans. We celebrated when the bill passed the House Judiciary Committee in 2021 but are disappointed that it has not reached a floor vote in the House or Senate and have called on President Biden to create a federal reparations commission by executive order.
“At the same time, we must move more swiftly to ensure that reparations are not only studied but also implemented in our lifetime. As a pastor and activist, Representative Bush understands that a multi-tiered approach is necessary to advance the conversation and grow a powerful reparations movement. Her resolution expands upon the 30+ year effort of H.R.40/S.40 to call for a Commission to study reparations by proposing several forms of reparations based on previous scholarship and grounded in the lived experience of Black Americans. While the Reform Movement has yet to endorse a specific reparations proposal, we join Representative Bush in knowing that reparations are essential to advancing racial and reparative justice. We commit to moving into the next stage in our reparations work so that we can meet the urgency of this moment. As Reform Jews, we must heed the call to address the harms perpetrated and experienced by those who came before us, and work to make our institutions and communities more just.”
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 850 congregations across North America encompass 1.8 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit RAC.org for more.