Resolution Reaffirming Commitment to Racial Justice Within the Jewish Community

by Haya Luftig

Since its founding in 1944, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) has adopted policy resolutions declaring our commitment to the elimination of racial segregation and discrimination.[1] Working toward an inclusive, fair, and just society is a cornerstone of Jewish communal relations work.[2] This flows from our values as a Jewish people and our recognition of the multiracial nature of both our country and our Jewish community.

 

Over the past 74 years, JCPA has worked tirelessly with partners in the civil rights and interfaith community. Every year from 1947 to the present, JCPA prioritized the advancement of racial equality and civil rights, including desegregation, voting rights, and ending discrimination in housing, education, and employment.[3] Through educational, legal, and legislative programs, JCPA and its member agencies helped achieve widespread civil rights victories in legislatures and courts around the country. Beginning in the 1980s, JCPA expanded its focus to racial disparities in health care, food insecurity, and economics,[4] recognizing that despite significant achievements, racism continues to deprive segments of the population of justice and equity. [5] We continue these activities today.

 

Some highlights of JCPA’s work include:

 

  • In 1950, founding the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights together with the NAACP and the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters. JCPA remains an active LCCR member.

 

  • In 1954, supporting Brown v. Board of Education and working to ensure successful racial integration in public schools through education, litigation, and participation in local citizens groups and the annual Consultative Conference on Desegregation.[6]

 

  • Successfully advocating for the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1964, and 1968, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its subsequent amendments.

 

  • Beginning in 1968 and continuing through to today, opposing repressive measures as a means of controlling crime and working instead to further police-community relations and police accountability.[7]

 

  • Opposing the 1994 Crime Bill and racial profiling by law enforcement. Building on this work, JCPA passed resolutions in 2000, 2009, 2011, and again in 2015, aiming to engage the Jewish community in state and local policy efforts.[8]

 

  • From 2015 to today, renewing JCPA’s focus on mass incarceration by establishing a Criminal Justice Initiative focused on education and relationship-building to improve law enforcement practices and develop pilot projects in the field to support communities in crises.

 

Despite our commitment to ending racial injustice and the progress that has been made, racism and inequality in the United States persist throughout our society, including in our economic, health, housing, education, voting, and criminal justice systems—and every other aspect of our national life.

 

In the current climate of emboldened discrimination and significant challenges to racial equity in society, it is critical that JCPA reaffirm and recommit to the pursuit of racial equity and justice. We recognize that this pursuit is not just a matter of conscience or relations with other communities. Our own racially diverse community of black, Latino, Asian, Mizrahi, Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews has a stake in pursuing racial justice.

 

Therefore, JCPA resolves to establish a Task Force on Racial Equity to study and promote steps our institutions can take to pursue racial justice and inclusion within the Jewish community.

[1] NCRAC Minutes, 1944.

[2] “Opposition to all forms of discrimination or segregation based on race, religion, color or national origin is inherent in our religious heritage and the prophetic tradition and is a cardinal tenet of Jewish community relations.” (Joint Program Plan, 1955).

[3] Racial Equality, Desegregation, Civil Rights, and Nondiscrimination in Employment, Housing, Education, and Immigration (Plenum Report, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951; 1952; Joint Program Plans, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990); Elections and Voting Rights, Voter Registration, and Redistricting (Joint Program Plans, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1971,1974, 1975 1981; Resolutions, 2006, 2011, 2017). Affirmative Action (Joint Program Plans, 1973, 1975, 1981; Resolution, 2004). Early Childhood Education (Resolution, 2009). Racial Disparities in Poverty, Hunger, Health Care, and Homelessness (Joint Program Plans, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999)

[4] Racial Disparities in Poverty, Hunger, Health Care, and Homelessness (Joint Program Plans, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994; Agendas, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999). Environmental Leadership and Justice for All (Resolution, 1996, 1997). African American Heritage (Resolution, 2004). Racial Disparities in Health Care (Resolution, 2006); Predatory Lending (Resolution, 2008); Strengthening the Assets of Low Income Households (Resolution, 2009); Alleviating Hunger and Food Insufficiency (Resolution, 2009); Equal Education Opportunity (Resolution, 2012); Fair Pay (Resolution, 2013).

[5] Joint Program Plan, 1980

[6] Consultative Conference on Desegregation met annually between 1956-1960.

[7] Criminal Justice Reform (Joint Program Plans, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973; Resolutions, 1995, 2000, 2009, 2011, 2015)

[8] Crime and Violence (Opposing the 1994 Crime Bill) (Resolution, 1995). Racial Profiling by Police Departments (Resolution, 2000). Voting After a Criminal Conviction (Resolution, 2011). Criminal Justice Reform (Resolution, 2015).


About the Author


Haya Luftig