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America’s Largest Jewish Group Has Big Concerns About Jeff Sessions

The largest American Jewish religious organization has “significant concerns” about Donald Trump’s nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.

In a statement Monday morning, the central institutions of Reform Judaism, which represent roughly 1.5 million American Jews, called on Sessions to “enforce and interpret the law to promote justice and equality for all.”

The Reform movement did not say it opposed Sessions’s confirmation, but threatened to do so if he “continues down the path that he has carved out over his many decades in public life.”

The position will likely put the Reform Movement in direct conflict with the incoming Trump administration.

“On issues of vital importance to the Reform Movement, including voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT equality and immigration, Senator Sessions has a voting record and a history of statements that raise alarm,” said Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, on behalf of the movement’s congregational arm, the Union for Reform Judaism, and its rabbinical body, the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Confirmation hearings for Sessions, who has represented Alabama in the Senate since 1997, are scheduled to begin on Tuesday. His nomination has drawn strong opposition from left-wing Jewish groups, including Bend the Arc Jewish Action, which demanded Monday that the Sessions confirmation hearings be delayed.

But the Reform movement is the first Jewish denominational organization to to directly raise concerns about Sessions’s nomination.

In his statement, Pesner called Sessions’s record on civil rights “deeply troubling.” He also cited Sessions’s positions on immigration and women’s rights.

The Reform movement entity that Pesner runs, the Religious Action Center, has a history of taking left-of-center positions on advocacy issues. The statement on Sessions, however, came not just from the RAC, but from the movement at large.

In combined statement on Trump’s victory in the days after the November election, the Reform movement struck a conciliatory note. “President-elect Trump has the opportunity to use his office to bring Americans together, and to move us toward a brighter future,” the movement’s leaders said. “If he does so, we will be ready to work with him for the common good. If he does not, we also stand ready to be fierce advocates for the values that guide us: inclusivity, justice and compassion.”

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com

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