Clergy Call 2009: Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs
July 12, 2009
Continuing our series of speeches from HRC’s Clergy Call for Justice and Equality, Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs resonates with how faith leaders today are learning from the inspiring history of the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1960s, which profoundly shaped his own work for justice. His biography and transcript follow:
Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs is Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Kol Tikvah in Los Angeles, Cal. Among his many social justice contributions, Jacobs served as part of the interfaith delegation to Yugoslavia with Rev. Jesse Jackson and helped to bring about the release of the captured American soldiers; he actively participated with service union workers for wage reform; and during the post-election 2000 uncertainty, Jacobs emerged as the prime force in the renewal of the Black-Jewish Coalition. For these and other activities throughout his life, Jacobs received the 2001 Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award.
“The ultimate measure of a man or woman is not where he or she stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where she or he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King uttered that stirring mandate at a Civil Rights march here on August 29, 1963. I stood with Martin hand in hand protesting the War in Vietnam in the 60’s and I stand here hand in hand with each of you as we work for acceptance and welcome against intolerance and discrimination. Indifference leads to silence and silence in the face of crimes of hatred leads in turn to prejudice and further hatred. We will not remain silent. Every American must enjoy the strongest possible guarantee of freedom from attacks motivated by bigotry and mindless hatred. Victims of hate crimes have been targeted because of who they are or what they believe. As a Rabbi, my faith tradition and I know yours, play a significant role in helping to create a world in which everyone’s multifaceted and complicated gender identity can develop without the threat of violence and humiliation. Transphobia, the fear of gender variance in society, impacts all parts of life. Gender rigidity impacts all of us, even if we are not transgender. That belief that there are only two ways to be human leads to violence and oppression. That is why we must support ENDA’s provision to protect transgender people. We must pass a bill to end hate crimes. We must pass a bill that ends discrimination of our transgender brothers and sisters. Action is imperative now to protect every single person from suffering from crimes of hatred. Hatred and exclusion are neither religious nor democratic values. Equal protection is for all people in all places for gays, lesbians, straights, bisexuals and our transgender brothers and sisters – for Blacks and Whites and Browns – for people of any faith and people of no faith. Not to pass legislation against hate crimes will become the cancer that will destroy our democracy. Lawrence King, a 15 year old, was shot and killed by another student because he was self identified as a gay person. Our community was shaken beyond belief. Lawrence was harassed and then murdered. His young life was brutally terminated, his love foreclosed, his potential ripped away and an unfinished life stolen from his family and friends by outrageous, irrational hatred. We can not feign deafness, blindness and remain mute to sadistic behavior. We must end crimes of hatred now. The promise of America has been smeared and tarnished by hate and violence. This is our challenge. This is our opportunity. Moses said it, Mohammed said it, Jesus said it, Rosa Parks said it, Martin Luther King said it, the Human Rights Campaign says it, and each of us says it today. Out of the bondage of hatred let us be free at last. Free at last. Thank G-d, let us be free at last from the crimes of hatred.