Because of our nation’s sacred promises of religious freedom and opportunity, millions of people over centuries have fled persecution in other countries to be part of the American experiment. Soon after his election, President George Washington affirmed his commitment to religious freedom in a series of letters and speeches to religious minorities. The best known is his address to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, where he said, “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”
The recent rise of extremism and antisemitism have eroded that fundamental promise, and trends of polarization have created an environment where our democracy, which protects our sacred civil liberties, faces unprecedented threats and challenges.
The Jewish Community Relations Council is examining the current crisis in America through its speaker series To Bigotry No Sanction: Jewish Perspectives at the Crossroads of American Democracy and Pathways Forward. Each program will unpack a different aspect of the changing dynamics in our democracy, with a focus on what we as citizens can do to strengthen it.
Extremism: How We Got Here
John Judis and Dr. Gary P. Zola
In partnership with The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives
Events including the violent storming of the US Capitol and the white nationalist march in Charlottesville have exposed how extreme polarization creates fertile ground for violent extremism. This has led to political gridlock and an erosion of our democracy. Join author and journalist John Judis, whose brand new book, The Politics of Our Time: Populism, Nationalism, Socialism, has been referred to as “essential reading” by the Washington Post. Judis will be in conversation with Dr. Gary P. Zola, executive director of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives about the history of populism and nationalism in America and how these two political ideologies have fostered both white supremacy and violent extremism.
The Changing Dynamics of the US Supreme Court
Ronna Greff Schneider
In Partnership with Adath Israel Congregation
As the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court of the United States holds the responsibility and obligation to ensure equal justice under the law. Join Ronna Greff Schnieder, Constitutional Law Professor at the University of Cincinnati, as she examines the debate over First Amendment protection of hate speech, explores the Court's approach to the separation of religion and the state as well as the potential tension between religious liberties and other civil rights, and addresses the role of the Supreme Court and the challenges it faces in these divisive and difficult times.