Jewish groups are mourning the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy and remembering his pioneering work on civil rights and social issues. Nearly 47 years in the U.S. Senate had brought Kennedy close to the hearts of many Jewish activists. And while some are remembering him as the “liberal lion,” for his dedication to advancing progressive policies, others are focusing on his role as a willing partner on issues relating to Israel, Soviet Jewry and religious freedom.
• Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism called Kennedy “the great blessing of my life,” and said his guidance throughout the years was indispensible. • Praise for Kennedy’s leadership on “progressive social justice” also came from the National Council of Jewish Women. The NCJW, which had worked with Kennedy on legislation regarding women’s rights and equality, said he was a “passionate voice of social justice.” • The American Jewish Committee issued a statement mourning Kennedy’s passing and noting its own work with the Massachusetts senator on issues of civil rights, immigration and fighting antisemitism. • The National Jewish Democratic Council said “the greatest tribute” to Kennedy would be to pass the comprehensive healthcare reform, of which Senator Kennedy was among the key backers and the Jewish community has been strongly supportive. • Kennedy was remembered fondly not only by Liberal groups. The Orthodox Union noted Senator Kennedy’s role in legislation ensuring religious liberties and protecting the rights of parochial schools. • The Jewish Policy Center, founded and headed by members of the Republican Jewish Coalition, recalled Kennedy’s push to punish Libya for the Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland as part of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996. • And the American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised Kennedy as a “great friend of Israel” and noted his continuous support for American aid to Israel and his strong opposition for arms sales to Israel’s enemies.
Among other Jewish groups that issued public statements mourning Senator Kennedy were the Jewish Council for Pubic Affairs, B’nai B’rith International, United Jewish Communities, the Zionist Organization of America and the American Council for World Jewry.