Park51: Sermons and Essential Observations

To Accompany A Muslim Community Center? Why Not?

Reflections on the controversy over the Muslim community center

Compiled by, 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 with you.


Building Shuls, Building Mosques, Rebuilding Foundations
A Sermon on the Park51 Controversy

Rabbi Thomas Alpert, Temple Emanuel, (Marlborough, Massachusetts), September 18, 2010

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.

Stand Up All of You : Do What is Right
A Response to Religious Ignorance and Intolerance

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 here.

A Day of Hope

Rabbi Neil Borovitz, Temple Avodat Shalom (River Edge, New Jersey), September 10, 2010

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.

How many lies are contained in the phrase "A mosque at ground zero"?
Erev (On the eve of) Rosh HaShanah

Rabbi Gary M. Bretton-Granator, World Union for Progressive Judaism, September 3, 2010

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.

You Shall Not Wrong A Stranger

Rabbi Michael A. Cahana, Congregation Beth Israel (Portland, Oregon), September 9, 2010

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. Click here.

A New Year - New Opportunities

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.

A Holy Place

Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels, Beth Shir Sholom (Santa Monica, California), September 9, 2010

Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels describes his journey to an appreciation of the shared experience of holy places and holy memory. Click here.

Baseless Hate—Unconditional Love

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.

Walking Humbly, Seeking Justice, Living with Hope

Rabbi Denise Eger, Sermon delivered at Kol Ami (Los Angeles, California), August 20, 2010

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

The First Amendment and You

Rabbi Anthony Fratello, Temple Shaarei Shalom (Boynton Beach, Florida), September 9, 2010

Rabbi Anthony Fratello on the imperative of upholding the First Amendment. Click here.

On Mosques, Philosophers and what really bothers us

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. Click here.

Civility, the Golden Rule and Praying with our Feet

Rabbi Barbara Goldman-Wartell, Temple Concord (Binghamton, New York), September 18, 2010

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.

The Mosque At Ground Zero

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.

Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist

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.

To Bigotry No Sanction - Anti-Defamation League and Cordoba Center

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.

The “Ground Zero Mosque” and Rosh Hashanah

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.

Kol Nidre 5771: Why Israel Is Important To Us

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.

Mosques and Islam, Hatred and Kindness

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.

The Islamic Center and The American Heart

Rabbi Joel R. Schwartzman, Congregation B'nai Chaim (Morrison, Colorado), August 21, 2010

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.

At the crossroads

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.

Standing Up for What’s Right: A Jewish Response to Islamophobia in America

Rabbi Micah Streiffer, Temple Beth El (Charlotte, North Carolina), September 18, 2010

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.

Come, Let Us Learn from Each Other

Rabbi Howard Voss-Altman, Temple B'nai Tikvah (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) September 17, 2010

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.

We must never forget that we were strangers in the land of Egypt

Rabbi Don Weber, Temple Rodesh Torah Newsletter (Marlboro, New Jersey), October 2010

Rabbi Don Weber reminds us of the anti-Jewish calumnies spread in the 1930s and compares them with current anti-Muslim talking points. Click here.

Reacting to Islamophobia in America: An Open Letter to Imam Sofian Abdelaziz Zakkout

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.

Essential Observations

Hey, That's Sacred Ground: Let's Talk About Where to Build that Mosque

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.

Rediscovering Islam’s Kindness

Ben Barber, Providence Journal, September 17, 2010

Ben Barber shares personal experiences of kindness while traveling in Islamic countries. Click here.

Dennis Prager's False Debate

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.

Mosque Conflict Seen Sharpening Jewish Divisions
Nascent effort to combat anti-Islam sentiment running into strong headwind

James Besser, The Jewish Week, September 15, 2010

How did this controversy play out in the Jewish community? Click here.

We Observe a Unique Confluence of Sacred Days

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch and Dr. Charles Cohen, Wisconsin State Journal, September 5, 2010

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.

Threats to Burn the Koran: The Nazi Book Burnings and Their Lessons for Today

Sara J. Bloomfield, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Press Release, September 9, 2010

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.

Why Jews should support mosque near Ground Zero

Dr. (Rabbi) David Ellenson and Rabbi Robert Levine, Washington Post (blog), August 6, 2010

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.

How the "ground zero mosque" fear mongering began
A viciously anti-Muslim blogger, the New York Post and the right-wing media machine: How it all went down

Justin Elliott,, August 16, 2010

When and how did this controversy start? Click here.

From Beirut to Manhattan

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.

Islamophobia: A Threat to American Values?

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.

At Ground Zero, a Fight We’re All Losing

Leonard Fein, The Forward, August 25, 2010

Leonard Fein on why Park51 should not be moved. Click here.

On faith: Moving past fear to build sanctuaries of faith

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 here.

On faith: Moving past fear to build sanctuaries of faith

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 here.

Cordoba, '94

Aaron Eliot Freeman, The Elijah Files (Xlibris Corporation, 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.


Right there!

I can read that word! Shalom!

Shalom, peace.

On a street named Judah Levi,

in a place called the Juderia,

where are the Jews?

Where are the Jews?


Knowledge, interaction can change our perception of Muslims

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.

“You’ve Never Met a Muslim”
Four New Yorkers on what it means to be a Muslim now

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. Click here.

Reflections on President Obama's Remarks Supporting the Islamic Cultural Center in Lower Manhattan

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.

Revisiting Medieval Spain: What Ever Happened to Luis de Torres?

Pascal Levensohn, Pascal's View

Pascal Levensohn on Al-Andalus in Jewish memory. Click here.

The New Anti-Semitism
Recent attacks on Islam in the United States echo old slurs against Jews

Daniel Lubin, Tablet, August 19, 2010

Daniel Lubin points to similarities between anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim prejudice. Click here.

Take risks to build 9/11 bridges

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.

Grand Old Islamophobes? Polls Show Widespread Republican Concerns Over Muslims -- And Obama

Evan McMorris-Santaro, TPM, September 1, 2010

Polling data traces the link between Islamophobia and partisan politics. Click here.

Building on Faith

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.

Why American Jews Support an Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan?

Aziz abu Sarah, Aziz abu Sarah blog (English translation from Arabic AlQuds), September 24, 2010

Why did the American Jewish community support an Islamic Center? Click here.

When Shuls Were Banned in America

Jonathan D. Sarna, The Forward, August 11, 2010

Historian Jonathan D. Sarna: When the debate was over synagogues. Click here.

'Ground Zero Mosque' Controversy and the Pitfalls of the Interfaith Dialogue Movement

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.

The Federal Procession of 1788

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.

Shame on America, Jews and the ADL

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 here.

Muslim-rooted Center in Lower Manhattan: Is it Right? Is it Wise?

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.

5 Steps to Burning Books

Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center, September 4, 2010

Rabbi Waskow followed up with an article on the threat to burn the Koran. Click here.

Silence is not an Option: Jews Ought to Support Construction of Muslim Community Center

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.

For U.S. Muslims, a 9/11 anniversary like no other
They're trying to counter furor over New York Islamic center proposal

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.

TOPIC: Religious Bullying > Anti-Muslim Bullying