Jewish denomination passes reparations resolution for Black Americans

The largest Jewish denomination in North America believes that an apology is one thing, but 'repentance must accompany... financial commitment.'

The largest Jewish denomination in North America has recently backed a resolution that would give reparations to address the enduring effects of slavery.

German engraving shows slaves as they harvest and process cotton on a plantation, Southern United States, mid 19th Century. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The largest Jewish denomination in North America has recently backed a resolution that would give reparations to address the enduring effects of slavery.

At The Union for Reform Judaism’s biennial meeting last Friday, delegates passed a resolution that calls for the creation of a federal commission to look into ways to atone for slavery and systemic racism against Black people, according to Huff Post.

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The biennial meeting is the largest Jewish gathering in North America with more than 5,000 participants from 525 congregations. The participants come from 54 states and provinces and 75 international congregations, according to the Union for Reform Judaism.

The biennial event was held in Chicago.

The resolution addresses the history and impact of slavery in the United States and addresses how Black people are still subjected to racial inequities across many areas in the United States, from housing and education to criminal justice, jobs and healthcare.

“Such injustices will endure unless proactive steps are taken to acknowledge and eliminate them,” the resolution states, according to Huff Post.

The resolution stops short of calling for a particular form of reparations, but urges a few ideas to consider, such as “expressions of remorse, education, monetary compensation, and more.” It said Jewish texts state the “importance of restitution for wrongs committed,” according to Huff Post.

“The rabbis understood that the victim of a crime was made whole by financial repayment for damages done,” the resolution states. “Maimonides (a Jewish scholar) went one step further, linking the payment of damages to the concept of t’shuvah, noting that repentance must accompany the financial commitment.”

Yolanda Savage-Narva, a Black, Jewish woman who serves as vice chair of Reform Judaism’s Commission on Social Action, said the resolution acknowledges the “systemic oppression” in America that has been passed down for generations.

“Looking at something like reparations for Black people in this country is something that is very important when we’re thinking about healing the racial wounds that have been inflicted on this country for at least 400 years,” Savage-Narva told HuffPost.

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The URJ claims to be the first major Jewish organization to endorse reparations for slavery. It says the United States needs to take a cue from other world leaders and governments that have repaid for their wrongdoing. The German government, for example, has given more than $70 billion in reparations to more than 800,000 Holocaust survivors, reported Huff Post.

Also, in 1980, the U.S. Congress backed reparations for Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II. The U.S. government apologized for this crime and paid $20,000 for each survivor.