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A Message from Chair Charlotte A. Burrows for 2024 Jewish American Heritage Month

This year’s celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month takes place in an important anniversary year for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and our nation: the 60th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the enduring commitment to equal opportunity in the workplace embodied in Title VII of that law.  Among the many contributions of Jewish Americans to the civic and cultural fabric of our country, they have played a critical role in advancing protections for civil and human rights and bringing America closer to its highest ideals. That commitment to social justice is part of the rich heritage of Jewish Americans, across generations, and continues today.

When Rabbi Joachim Prinz, President of the American Jewish Congress, spoke at the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963, he described how Jewish Americans “bring to the great demonstrations in which thousands of us proudly participate a two-fold experience: one of the spirit and one of our history.” In the spiritual realm, he spoke about “our collective responsibility for the preservation of man’s dignity and integrity.”  In terms of history, Rabbi Prinz described the enslavement of Jewish people, a yearning for freedom, and a proclamation of emancipation that made their connection to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s a matter of “complete identification and solidarity born of our own painful historic experience.”

Jewish Americans were on the front lines of the civil rights movement and, in some cases, lost their lives in the fight for racial justice. In 1964, just days before President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, three civil rights workers—James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner—were murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi, where they had traveled to investigate the burning of a Black church. Goodman and Schwerner were Jewish, in their early 20s, and had traveled from New York to Mississippi to register Black voters.  Along with Chaney, they paid the ultimate price for a cause that was both deeply personal and morally just. All three received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, posthumously, in 2014.

At the EEOC, we honor the proud history of Jewish American civil rights leaders and stand in solidarity with the Jewish community during the alarming rise in antisemitism since the attacks of October 7, 2023, and during the ensuing conflict. The Commission has unanimously condemned and continues to combat violence, harassment, and acts of bias against Jewish Americans and published important and timely fact sheets on “What To Do If You Face Antisemitism at Work” and “Anti-Arab, Anti-Middle Eastern, Anti-Muslim, and Antisemitic Discrimination Are Illegal.”

The Commission’s words in that unanimous resolution remain true today and will continue to guide our work at the EEOC: “Millions of Jewish individuals have sought and found safety, peace, and prosperity in our pluralistic society and in turn have contributed to the flourishing of our country… Jewish persons, like all persons, should be treated with dignity and respect at work and in all other aspects of their lives.”


Charlotte A. Burrows (she/her/hers)


U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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