defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...
Jews On First!
... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind
Compiled by JewsOnFirst.org, October 4, 2010
The controversy surrounding the proposed Park51 Cultural Center has sparked fervent
emotions and prompted much serious thought. (See our essay,
A Muslim Community Center? Why Not? and its Study Guide.) The debate has extended beyond
the question of whether and how a Muslim community center ought to be built in lower
Manhattan. Broad attacks have been launched against the validity of Islam as a religion
and the situation of Muslim-Americans has been made more precarious in ways that
many Jews have found to be all too familiar. In the course of our research on the
issue, we have found many articles and sermons to be very helpful in charting the
course of the controversy and in articulating principles that can help guide our
response, and we have compiled some of the most useful and uplifting examples for
you here. In particular, we are awed and heartened by the number and quality of
Yom Tov sermons that this discussion has inspired, and we are proud to share them
Rabbi Thomas Alpert, Temple Emanuel, (Marlborough, Massachusetts), September 18,
Rabbi Thomas Alpert reminds us of American Jewish history's story of exclusion and
how we overcame that past with help from good Christians. Now it is our duty to
stand with Muslims against those who might try to exclude Muslims. Click here.
Rabbi Aaron B. Bisno, Rodeph Shalom (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), September 18, 2010
Rabbi Aaron B. Bisno points to presence of ignorance and intolerance among all of
the monotheistic faiths and labels it, sin. Click
Rabbi Neil Borovitz, Temple Avodat Shalom (River Edge, New Jersey), September 10,
Rabbi Neil Borovitz’s Rosh HaShanah sermon calls us to our responsibilities as Jews
to refrain from bearing false witness, gossip or reckless accusations and to defend
other minorities, including Muslims, when they are targeted. Click here.
Rabbi Gary M. Bretton-Granator, World Union for Progressive Judaism, September 3,
Rabbi Gary M. Bretton-Granatoor, Vice President, World Union for Progressive Judaism
on why comparisons between the proposed community center and the ‘Auschwitz Convent’
are inapt and why Jews should oppose Islamophobia. Click here.
Rabbi Michael A. Cahana, Congregation Beth Israel (Portland, Oregon), September
Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana spoke on how the imperative to remember the feelings of
the stranger, because Jews were strangers in Egypt reminds us to know the feelings
of a targeted religious minority in the USA, because Jews have been in that position.
Rabbi Hillel Cohn, Sun City Jewish Congregation, September 8, 2010
Rabbi Hillel Cohn’s Rosh HaShanah sermon calling for a year filled with good events
and good deeds, including deeds of solidarity and friendship with Muslim-Americans
in this time of tension. Click here.
Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels, Beth Shir Sholom (Santa Monica, California), September
Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels describes his journey to an appreciation of the shared
experience of holy places and holy memory.
Rabbi Sigma Faye Coran, Rockdale Temple (Cincinnati, Ohio), September 9, 2010
Rabbi Coran reminds us of the teaching that the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed
through baseless hatred. Click here.
Rabbi Denise Eger, Sermon delivered at Kol Ami (Los Angeles, California), August
Rabbi Denise Eger, President of the Southern California Board of Rabbis on how Rabbi
Hillel's injunction to refrain from treating others in ways we would find hateful
should guide our opposition to Islamophobia. Click here
Rabbi Anthony Fratello, Temple Shaarei Shalom (Boynton Beach, Florida), September
Rabbi Anthony Fratello on the imperative of upholding the First Amendment. Click here.
Rabbi Larry Freedman, Temple Beth Jacob (Newburgh, New York), September 5, 2010
Rabbi Larry Freedman offers a thorough airing of questions raised by the Park51
project and he responds with compassion and facts.
Rabbi Barbara Goldman-Wartell, Temple Concord (Binghamton, New York), September
Rabbi Barbara Goldman-Wartell’s Yom Kippur sermon on how the principles of civility
and the Golden Rule should guide our opposition to Islamophobia. Click here.
Rabbi David Holtz, Temple Beth Abraham (Tarrytown, New York), September 18, 2010
Rabbi David Holtz’s Yom Kippur sermon discussing the similarities between the hostilities
directed at Israel’s Women of the Wall, Muslim-Americans and early Jewish immigrants
to the United States. Click here.
Rabbi Mark Kaiserman, Temple Emanu-El (Livingston, New Jersey), September 18, 2010
Rabbi Mark Kaiserman’s Yom Kippur sermon reminds us that, just as we would oppose
the demonizing of all Jews or Christians because of the violent extremists among
us, so too should we resist demonizing all Muslims, and he urges us to get to know
our Muslim compatriots. Click here.
Rabbi Justin Kerber, Temple Emanuel (St. Louis, Missouri), August 13, 2010
Rabbi Justin Kerber, in an open letter to Abe Foxman, urges the Anti-Defamation
League to reconsider its opposition to the planned community center, reminding Mr.
Foxman that the League was formed to combat discrimination. Click here.
Rabbi Mark J. Miller, Congregation Beth Israel (Houston, Texas), September 3, 2010
Rabbi Mark J. Miller’s Rosh Hashanah sermon on the benefit of meeting neighbors
with open hands. Click here.
Rabbi Eric Polokoff, B'nai Israel (Southbury, Connecticut), September 17, 2010
Rabbi Eric Polokoff's Yom Kippur sermon on why support for the State of Israel and
the people Israel in Diaspora both depend on our ability to combat stereotypes and
senseless hatred and, in particular, to build ties of friendship with our neighbors,
including those who practice Islam. Click here.
Rabbi Jason Rosenberg, Congregation Beth Am (Tampa, Florida), September 18, 2010
Rabbi Jason Rosenberg raises an alarm against the vocal minority who are spreading
anti-Muslim hatred and urges Jews to remember our teachings which counsel reconciliation
and hospitality to neighbors. Click here.
Rabbi Joel R. Schwartzman, Congregation B'nai Chaim (Morrison, Colorado), August
Rabbi Joel R. Schwartzman calls upon his congregation to respect the Constitution
and the Torah's call for respecting the widow, the stranger and the outsider. Click here.
Rabbi Samuel M. Stahl, Beth-El (San Antonio, Texas), September 18, 2010
Rabbi Samuel M. Stahl points to scapegoating and irrational fear driving the antipathy
to Islam. Rabbi Stahl reminds his congregants that it is in our own interest as
Jews to fight the anti-Islamic menace. Bigotry against any group is not only morally
repugnant but is also bad for Jews. Click here.
Rabbi Micah Streiffer, Temple Beth El (Charlotte, North Carolina), September 18,
Rabbi Micah Streiffer’s Yom Kippur sermon on the command to love the stranger and
our obligation to treat Muslim-Americans as we would be treated. Click here.
Rabbi Howard Voss-Altman, Temple B'nai Tikvah (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) September
Recalling earlier hostility toward Canadian Jews, Rabbi Howard Voss-Altman invokes
current friendships among Muslims and Jews in Calgary as well as the acculturation
process of the immigrant experience, to call for greater understanding and acceptance
by each community for the other. Click here.
Rabbi Don Weber, Temple Rodesh Torah Newsletter (Marlboro, New Jersey), October
Rabbi Don Weber reminds us of the anti-Jewish calumnies spread in the 1930s and
compares them with current anti-Muslim talking points.
Rabbi David N. Young, Temple Sinai (North Miami Beach, Florida), September 17, 2010
Rabbi David N. Young's Kol Nidre sermon, written as a letter to a Muslim colleague,
on the themes of teshuvah (repentence or return) and the reconciliation of
Isaac and Ishmael. Click here.
Justus N. Baird, Huffington Post, May 28, 2010
Rabbi Justus Baird on how the proposed community center can bring healing to Ground
Zero. Click here.
Ben Barber, Providence Journal, September 17, 2010
Ben Barber shares personal experiences of kindness while traveling in Islamic countries.
Dr. (Rabbi) Michael Berenbaum, The Jewish Journal, September 16, 2010
I am not sure whether I qualify as a progressive, but I may know something about
Auschwitz and its controversies and also about museums and their task of memorialization.
So permit me to respond to Dennis Prager. Click here.
James Besser, The Jewish Week, September 15, 2010
How did this controversy play out in the Jewish community? Click here.
Rabbi Jonathan Biatch and Dr. Charles Cohen, Wisconsin State Journal, September
Rabbi Jonathan Biatch and Dr. Charles Cohen, on the confluence of Ramadan and Rosh
HaShanah reminds us of how Jews have been singled out and isolated with terrible
results and urges that we not condemn a religion for the actions of some of its
adherents. Click here.
Sara J. Bloomfield, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Press Release, September
Dr. Sara Bloomfield presents a brief analysis of book burning (symbolic violence)
by organized mass movements versus the actions of small angry groups. We must pay
attention, but not panic, argues Bloomfield. Click here.
Dr. (Rabbi) David Ellenson and Rabbi Robert Levine, Washington Post (blog), August
Dr. David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
and Rabbi Robert Levine of Congregation Rodeph Sholom on why Jews should support
the proposed center and the political context of the controversy, Click here.
Justin Elliott, Salon.com, August 16, 2010
When and how did this controversy start? Click here.
Rob Eshman, The Jewish Journal, August 24, 2010
Rob Eshman, Editor of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles reports on the restoration
of a synagogue in Lebanon and a connection with Park51. Click here.
Dr. John Esposito, Huffington Post, August 10, 2010
Professor John L. Esposito, Professor of Religion and International Affairs and
of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University discusses the rise of Islamophobia in
the broader context of American politics. Click here.
Leonard Fein, The Forward, August 25, 2010
Leonard Fein on why Park51 should not be moved. Click here.
Rabbi Dan Fink, The Idaho Statesman, September 11, 2010
Rabbi Dan Fink urges Americans of all faiths to stand together in order to combat
extremism and, on that basis, supports Park51. Click
Rabbi Dan Fink urges Americans of all faiths to stand together in order to combat
extremism and, on that basis, supports Park51. Click here.
Aaron Eliot Freeman, The Elijah Files (Xlibris Corporation email@example.com), September 2010
For five-hundred years or more
Jew and Gentile lived in peace here.
To honor Jewish doctors,
Jewish poets and Jewish philosophers,
to honor the Jewish people,
here is a monument to Maimonides
There, bathed in light
from lacy stone windows,
the ancient synagogue stands.
The Jewish presence echoes
from one narrow alley
to another leading nowhere.
A hundred canaries sing.
Rising from wrought iron balconies,
red, pink, and lavender geraniums
cascade down whitewashed stucco walls.
are Jewish names
and Hebrew letters.
I can read that word! Shalom!
On a street named Judah Levi,
in a place called the Juderia,
where are the Jews?
Where are the Jews?
Reverend John Hubers, Des Moines Register, October 1, 2010
Reverend John Hubers points to a paradoxical incident that built respect between
Muslims and Christians. Click here.
Zeba Iqbal, Ameena Meer, Haroon Moghul and Hussein Rashid, Religion Dispatches,
September 9, 2010
Four Muslim Americans tell of their feels and experiences in America in this moment.
Rabbi Irwin Kula, Huffington Post, August 15, 2010
Rabbi Irwin Kula, President of CLAL, National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership
on how an Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan will exemplify American values
and help fight terrorism. Click here.
Pascal Levensohn, Pascal's View
Pascal Levensohn on Al-Andalus in Jewish memory. Click here.
Daniel Lubin, Tablet, August 19, 2010
Daniel Lubin points to similarities between anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim prejudice.
Rabbi Dow Marmur, August 23, 2010
Rabbi Dow Marmur, Rabbi Emeritus at Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple on the need to
build bridges between religious communities. Click here.
Evan McMorris-Santaro, TPM, September 1, 2010
Polling data traces the link between Islamophobia and partisan politics. Click here.
Feisal Abdul Rauf, The New York Times, September 9, 2010
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, spiritual leader of the Cordoba Initiative on why Park51
should go ahead. Click here.
Aziz abu Sarah, Aziz abu Sarah blog (English translation from Arabic AlQuds), September
Why did the American Jewish community support an Islamic Center? Click here.
Jonathan D. Sarna, The Forward, August 11, 2010
Historian Jonathan D. Sarna: When the debate was over synagogues. Click here.
David Shasha, Huffington Post, August 23, 2010
David Shasha provides a Sephardic perspective reflecting great respect for Muslims
and appreciation for Sephardic approaches to diversity. Click here.
Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, September 13, 2010
Jon Stewart documents the issues through comedy. Click here.
John C. Van Horne, Carpenters' Company, July 20, 1987
John C. Van Horne, librarian of the Library Company of Philadelphia, describes the
celebration called The Grand Federal Procession of 1788 pointing to the historic
equality among religions (affirmed in the First Amendment of 1791) through an account
of ministers, priests, and a rabbi marching arm-in-arm in celebration of religious
equality affirmed in the new Federal Constitution ratified in June of 1788. Click here.
Rabbi Bruce Warshal, Sun Sentinel, September 7, 2010
Rabbi Bruce Warshal, Publisher of the Florida Jewish Journal on the dangerous consequences
of judging all adherents to a religion by the actions of an extreme minority. Click
Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center, August 18, 2010
Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center on his collegial friendship with Imam Feisal
Abdul Rauf and the imperative to stand up to religious bigotry. Click here.
Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center, September 4, 2010
Rabbi Waskow followed up with an article on the threat to burn the Koran. Click here.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, Remarks to the Union for Reform Judaism Executive Committee (New
York, New York), September 14, 2010
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, continues to lead
in a pioneering effort to build cordial relations between American Jews and American
Muslims. Click here.
Rachel Zoll, Associated Press, September 4, 2010
Rachel Zoll, AP, traces the relationship between Islamophobia and current politics
and an MSNBC video with Essem Fathi and Mark Potok documents the human cost of anti-Muslim
attacks. Click here.