Joseph L. Rauh Jr., the activist lawyer known through the years for his eloquent and untiring advocacy of liberal causes, including home rule for Washington and civil rights for all Americans, was honored for his achievements last night by the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington.
The 74-year-old Rauh, who cut his political teeth during the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt, helped found the Americans for Democratic Action and served as an adviser to several presidents, received the council's Breslau- Goldman award.
The presentation, which recognizes contributions to civil rights and civil liberties, was made at the council's annual meeting, held at the Washington Hebrew Congregation on Macomb Street NW.
Over a long career, Rauh championed many causes that seemed at first to run counter to the political currents of his time. But as the years passed, he saw them win support and finally become law.
He is recognized as an author of the celebrated civil rights plank with which Hubert H. Humphrey created a storm of controversy at the Democratic National Convention in 1948.
That was a minority plank, but it served as the foundation for much of the transformation of American politics and the progress toward achieving equality under the law that followed.
A Washington resident, he fought since the 1940s for home rule, which was ultimately granted. He has continued to struggle for full voting representation for the District in Congress, which has not been granted.
As a skilled political strategist and longtime general counsel of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Rauh is credited with being a leader in the struggle to win passage of two of the landmark bills of the 1960s -- the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The award Rauh received last night has previously been presented to Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes and to Sen. Lowell P. Weicker (R-Conn.).
The honor to Rauh, a liberal activist, comes at a time when a rising tide of conservatism is perceived in American politics.
In his remarks to an audience of about 150, Rauh expressed a continuing commitment to the goals and ideals with which he has long been identified.
He chided segments of the Jewish community for opposition to affirmative action for blacks. Some Jewish and other groups have voiced opposition to using quotas to achieve affirmative action.
In addition, Rauh entered the controversy over minister Louis Farrakhan. He took issue with Jewish leaders who have publicly criticized blacks for failing to condemn remarks by Farrakhan that have been seen as anti-Semitic.
Rauh said Jews should no more expect black leaders to criticize Farrakhan in public than blacks should expect Jewish leaders to criticize other Jews.