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).
Our Jewish tradition is replete with instances of moral reckoning when we are asked to be present and accounted for. “Ayecha?” we are asked. “Where are you?” We respond with a full-throated, “Hineinu.” “We are here.” As Reform Jews committed to the spirit of this teaching, we say unequivocally, Black Lives Matter. To affirm that Black Lives Matter is to commit to a human and civil rights movement, working to end systemic racism against Black people and white supremacy. To affirm that Black Lives Matter is to recognize that we are a racially diverse Reform Jewish Movement and that our diversity is a source of our strength.
Reform Movement Work for Racial Justice
The United States simply cannot achieve the values of “justice for all” to which it aspires until we address ongoing racism in all sectors and at all levels of society. Despite the abolishment of slavery in 1865, systemic oppression, police violence, and racial discrimination against Black Americans and People of Color continue today. Lynchings, Jim Crow laws, restricted access to the ballot box, a biased criminal justice system, and redlining are just some examples of how racial inequity has been sustained in American life. Systemic disparities and injustices will endure unless proactive steps are taken to acknowledge and eliminate them. The Reform Movement works across lines of difference to fight the structural racism that is embedded in our society and to advance justice for all people, regardless of race or ethnicity.
In 2020, the Reform Movement launched Every Voice, Every Vote: The Reform Movement’s Civic Engagement Campaign with a focus on combatting voter suppression that particularly suppresses the votes and voices of Communities of Color. As Reform Jews, we are called to continue the fight for racial justice and fulfill the sacred work of creating a more just, compassionate, and whole world.
The 2021 Racial Justice Campaign will address systemic racism by demanding policy change on the national level to ensure the U.S. federal Freedom to Vote and on the state level to advocate for racially just policies. It will also focus on reforming Canadian federal mandatory minimum laws and will push members of the Reform Jewish community to do essential Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (REDI) and antiracism work within our communities and ourselves. Get more information and learn how to get involved at RAC.org/RacialJusticeCampaign.
Resolutions on Racial Justice
The Reform Movement has longed worked to advance the cause of Racial Justice. Our work is mandated by the following resolutions.
Union of Reform Judaism
- Resolution on the Study and Development of Reparations for Slavery and Systemic Racism in the U.S. (2019)
- Resolution on Private Prisions (2019)
- Resolution on Our Community's Pursuit of Racial Justice (2017)
- Resolution on School Discipline and Academic Climate (2017)
- Resolution on the Crisis of Racial and Structural Inequality in the United States (2014)
- Race and the U.S. Criminal Justice System (1999)
- Resolution on Crown Heights (1992)
- Rebuilding Coalitions (1984)
- Establishment of Joint URJ/NAACP Human Relations Agency (1977)
- Commitment to Racial Justice (1963)
- Resolution on Racial Justice (2015)
- Race and the Criminal Justice System (1999)
- Black-Jewish Relations (1985)
- Dialogue with Other Groups (1975)
Native-American Issues & Jewish Relations
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
- Resolution on First Nations (2013)
- 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."
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
- 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.
Latino-Jewish Relations from the Central Conference of American Rabbis
- On the Growing Importance of Hispanic and Asian Communities in the United States (1987)
- Hispanic-Jewish Relations (1979)
- Reparations to American Citizens of Japanese Descent (1981): 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.
- On the Growing Importance of the Hispanic and Asian Communities in the United States (1987): This resolution calls for Jewish outreach to and interaction with Asian communities on areas of mutual concern.
- Religious Persecution In China (2001): The Union of Reform Judaism 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.”