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NJCRAC Position on Affirmative Action

Introduction

NJCRAC, now known as The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, is a non-profit organization that speaks on the behalf of national and local Jewish organizations across America. Its stated goals are to protect Jews in America, support Israel, and help promote a just society in America. In keeping with these goals, in 1975, NJCRAC adopted a position on affirmative action, which was later revised in 1981. An excerpt from the 1981 position can be found below.

National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC) Position on Affirmative Action (adopted June 1975) as amended January 1981, Excerpt

We recognize that past discrimination and other deprivations leave their mark on future generations; that, in the words of the late President Lyndon B. Johnson, “Until we overcome unequal history, we cannot overcome unequal opportunity.”…

A just society has an obligation to seek to overcome the evils of past discrimination and other deprivations—inferior education, lack of training, inadequate preparation—by affording special help to its victims, so as to hasten their productive participation in the society.

If it fails to do so, our society will harbor inequality for generations, with attendant increases in inter-group hostility. The security of Jews as a group will not be immune from those consequences.…

Merit and Qualification: We believe that individual merit is the touchstone of equality of opportunity. At the same time, we recognize that individual merit is not susceptible of precise mathematical definition and that test scores, however unbiased, are not the only relevant criteria for determining merit and qualifications are such factors as poverty, cultural deprivation, inadequate schooling, discrimination, or other deprivation in the individual’s experience, as well as such personal characteristics as motivation, determination, perseverance, and resourcefulness; and we believe that all such factors should be taken into account.

Quotas: Experience has shown that implementation of affirmative action programs has resulted in practices that are inconsistent with the principle of nondiscrimination and the goal of equal opportunity such programs are designed to achieve. We oppose such practices, foremost among which is the use of quotas and proportional representation in hiring, upgrading, and admission of members of minority groups.

We regard quotas as inconsistent with the principles of equality; and as harmful in the long run to all, including those groups, some individual members of which may benefit from specific quotas under specific circumstances at specific times.

Details

Excerpt from Chanes, Jerome A., “Affirmative Action: Jewish Ideals, Jewish Interests,” in Struggles in the Promised Land: Toward a History of Black-Jewish Relations in the United States. Jack Saltzman and Cornel West, eds. NY: Oxford University Press, 1997. p. 316. Permission to use granted by The Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Discussion Questions

  1. Review: Who wrote this document? When was it written?
  2. What audience was this document written for? How might that have influenced its content and format?
  3. What do you think the authors of this document meant by individual merit? What might be some examples of individual merit in your life?
  4. According to this document, what are the problems related to relying just on individual merit? Do you think NJCRAC supports taking other criteria into account? What evidence supports that? What might a college admissions policy that takes other criteria along with merit into account look like?
  5. How do the authors of this document feel about quotas? Why do they suggest that they feel this way? What might be other reasons besides the ones mentioned in this document that the authors and/or other Jews would not support quotas?
  6. Why do you think NJCRAC – a Jewish communal organization – took an official position on affirmative action? Do you think this is an issue of particular concern to the Jewish community? Why or why not?

Teaching Preparation

Your group will be teaching another group what you have learned about Jewish positions on affirmative action. Be prepared to share the following:

  1. Background about your document.
  2. An explanation of what the document is about (in your own words).
  3. The new tensions between Jews and African Americans that you see reflected in these documents. How Jews reacted.
  4. How this issue is or is not still relevant today, and why.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "NJCRAC Position on Affirmative Action." (Viewed on October 26, 2014) <http://jwa.org/node/12004/lightbox2>.

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