Re: Senate Committee on the Judiciary Hearing on “Responses to the Increase in Religious Hate Crimes”
Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein:
As the Director of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, I write to share our deep concern with the rise in incidents of hate violence directed at religious minorities or motivated by religion-based animus in our nation today, and our commitment to combatting hate.
Bend the Arc Jewish Action is the largest national Jewish social justice organization focused exclusively on domestic policy, bringing together Jews from across the country to advocate and organize for a more just and equal society. In the past year the United States has experienced a resurgent, dangerous trend of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-refugee rhetoric and bigotry, including attacks against individuals, religious institutions, and entire communities. We are deeply concerned that the rise in incidents of hate has a clear and powerful source--the resurgence of a white supremacist movement. We fear this movement has been emboldened by political, media, and opinion leaders who openly express racist and bigoted sentiments toward broad swaths of our society. When such prominent individuals demonstrate that such sentiment is appropriate, those who believe similarly are in-effect given license to act.
Additionally, as members of the coalition that worked to secure the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, we continue to work toward its full implementation. We have made great progress, but there continues to be a crisis of underreporting of hate crime data, data which is crucial in determining where resources should be directed to better protect vulnerable communities. To that end, Congress should explore new steps that could be taken to ensure more accurate, helpful statistics are available, including greater transparency and accountability. We must also do all we can to prevent hate crimes from happening in the first place by promoting inclusive anti-bias education and by including bullying and harassment and non-discrimination provisions in proposals for reauthorization of appropriate legislation, such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Finally, Bend the Arc has helped to mobilize the Jewish community to be in solidarity with other targeted groups, including Muslim and immigrant communities. As an illustration of the cross-community work that is so important today, I am appending a joint op-ed from our CEO, Stosh Cotler, and Javier H. Valdés, the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, an immigrant rights organization. As Stosh and Javier note in their op-ed, “immigrants, Muslims and other persecuted groups, along with allies in the Jewish community...have already seen tremendous moments of solidarity—including...the inspiring effort led by Muslim leaders to raise tens of thousands of dollars to repair a desecrated Jewish cemetery outside of St. Louis.
Thank you for your consideration.
Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block
Director, Bend the Arc Jewish Action