On Wednesday, July 2nd, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Reform Jewish community played an instrumental role in the civil rights movement including helping to draft (in the conference room of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism) both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which will also turn 50 next year. Check out this great JTA story about Reform rabbis’ activism in St. Augustine and elsewhere.
The Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C. - called "the RAC" for short - was founded in 1961, in the midst of the civil rights movement, using a building donated by Kivie Kaplan, a trustee of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now the Union for Reform Judaism) and president of the NAACP. Under the leadership of Rabbi David Saperstein, the RAC has earned the Reform Jewish community a strong voice on contemporary social justice issues.
Over the years, the RAC has put together many programs for all ages to learn about the importance of the civil rights movement, and more specifically, the influential actions of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the protections guaranteed by the Civil Rights Act. The RAC’s Shabbat Tzedek page has resources for worship, programming and text studies that can be used in many different community settings.
This Shabbat, consider incorporating one of these programs or ideas into your family's or community's commemoration of this momentous anniversary, both in our history and within our Jewish community. Check out these selected programs, and head over to the RAC’s Shabbat Tzedek page for more: