Jewish groups mark Voting Rights Act’s 50th anniversary at White House

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(Washington Jewish Week via JTA) — Two Jewish organizations, the National Council of Jewish Women and Bend the Arc, participated in the White House celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

President Barack Obama in a 20-minute address at last week’s program lauded the historical significance of the act.

In follow-up remarks published online, the president said, “All of us have to play a part as citizens. If you run a business, you can make a commitment to give your workers time off to vote. You can use your time to volunteer to help register new voters.”

He also said: “And at the very least, you can get out there and vote.”

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Nancy Kaufman, CEO of NCJW, said the program was “very moving.” NCJW marched and advocated for the passage of the act and was present when it was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965.

NCJW and Bend the Arc are working to restore parts of the act that were struck down in a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision. Under the ruling, states whose voting laws were previously subject to federal review can now enact election laws without advance federal approval.

Kaufman said the significance of having an African-American president and a female African-American attorney general wasn’t lost on those present at the program.

Echoing the president’s remarks, she added, “There is probably no more important way you can ensure justice than to vote, to make sure that everyone can vote.”

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