How Jews Are Honoring 3 Civil Rights Martyrs

Image: Bend the Arc

Last night, in my musical post in memory of the three civil rights workers slain in Mississippi 50 years ago, I argued that too little had been done to incorporate their martyrdom into our narrative of American Jewish history.

It’s only fair that I take note of those Jewish organizations that did act to remember the martyrs, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, on the occasion of yesterday’s 50th anniversary of their murder.

On June 18, the Anti-Defamation League posted a statement on its Access ADL blog recalling the events surrounding their deaths in that Freedom Summer 1964. It noted that they had died while working to secure the right to vote for all Americans, and that today that right is once again under assault. It specifically cites last year’s Supreme Court decision on voting rights, which opened the way for a flood of mostly Southern state laws restricting access to the ballot. ADL said it’s “helping to lead a very large coalition” to “protect the same voting rights for which Schwermer, Goodman, and Chaney gave their lives.” And it’s working for congressional passage of a new law, the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014, which sets new voter protections to replace the ones the court struck down.

On June 20, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism reposted the ADL statement on its own blog.

Meanwhile, Bend the Arc (formerly known as the Jewish Funds for Justice and Progressive Jewish Alliance) is collecting signatures on an online petition, “So All Can Vote,” urging Congress to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act. And this coming Tuesday, June 24, it’s holding a nationwide vigil, in which it asks supporters to light yahrzeit candles in memory of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney.

The coalition to restore voting rights is being organized by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which comprises more than 200 organizations nationwide. ADL holds one of the seven officer’s positions on the board of directors, along with the NAACP, Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Congress of American Indians, AARP, AFSCME, and the National Partnership for Women and Families. The Religious Action Center holds one of the other 24 board of directors seats.

Here are the ADL and Bend the Arc statements:

From ADL:

From Bend the Arc:

A final thought: educator Pearl Mattenson posted this comment on my Facebook timeline in response to yesterday’s musical tribute:

Amen כן יהי רצון

Written by

J.J. Goldberg

J.J. Goldberg

Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).

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How Jews Are Honoring 3 Civil Rights Martyrs

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