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Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Posted: August 3, 2010 09:54 AM

For months New York City has been in the midst of a boiling controversy over plans to build a peace-committed mosque and Islamic cultural center two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. Last week, the Anti-Defamation League threw the national Jewish community into this debate by opposing the construction of the planned mosque.

The Shalom Center, after consultations with a remarkable array of rabbis and other Jewish leaders from a broad spectrum of Jewish life, supports the building of the mosque and strongly disagrees with the ADL's position.

Our statement follows:

As Jews committed to religious freedom, to honest dialogue, to peacemaking, and to the celebration of the One God, we strongly support the plans of the Cordoba Initiative to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center at the tip of Manhattan, near the site of the World Trade Centers destroyed on 9/11/01.

The Cordoba Initiative took that name precisely to celebrate the history of that city and neighboring areas of Andalusia in what is now Spain, where for centuries Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived together not only in mutual tolerance but in mutual harmony.

The leaders of the Cordoba Initiative, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, have written and spoken innumerable times about the importance of interfaith dialogue and shared work for peace among the Abrahamic communities.

They have planned the mosque not simply because they have a "right" to build there, but because they want it to be a beacon of Muslim peacemaking in direct critique of the terrorist violence that destroyed the Twin Towers on 9/11/01.

To affirm that we support the building of the Cordoba Initiative cultural center and mosque, we invite all Jews of good will who can physically gather at noon on Thursday, August 5, at its intended site at 45 Park Place, to join voices in a serious and devoted vigil. (Take #1 subway to Park Place.)

At the same time, we think it necessary to make clear our deep distress at the decision of the Anti-Defamation League to oppose these plans.

Though the ADL has often done good work, in this specific case -- whatever its intention -- it has undermined those very adherents of Islam who uphold the Quran's teachings of peace, who condemn terrorism, and who share with some Jews, some Christians, and some others a commitment to peaceful dialogue. The ADL's action disparages Islam's commitment to the Unity of God. And it risks encouraging hatred for all of Islam by Jews and others in American society.

This behavior by the ADL cannot be justified on the basis of the hostile reactions of some New Yorkers -- a minority of the nearby neighborhood -- while the neighborhood community council and hundreds of family members of the dead of 9/11 have endorsed the mosque. The ADL's action may indeed help to fire up exactly those unthinking emotions filled with rage and ignorance.

So we also invite Jews to call the Anti-Defamation League to join in briefly, politely, and firmly asking the ADL to change its position. Its phone number is 212/885-7700. To reach the office of Abraham Foxman, its director, press "1" and then enter "Fox."

And to join in signing this statement, please click here.

This call was initiated by 30 Jewish leaders, including rabbis from a very broad spectrum of Jewish life -- Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform, and Renewal. They include Rebecca Alpert (Temple University), Dennis Beck-Berman, Leila Gal Berner, Amy Eilberg (Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, St. Paul, MN), Michael Feinberg, Laura Geller (Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills), Everett Gendler (Emeritus, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA; Emeritus, Temple Emanuel, Lowell, MA), Roberto D. Graetz (Temple Isaiah, Lafayette,CA), Margaret Holub, Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Joyce Galaski, Marc Gopin, Peter Knobel, Mordechai, Liebling, Ellen Lippmann (Kolot Chayeinu), Or Rose, Brant Rosen, Jeff Roth, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Gerald Serotta, David Shneyer, Burton L. Visotzky (Jewish Theological Seminary), Brian Walt (Taanit Tzedek-Jewish Fast for Gaza), Arthur Waskow (The Shalom Center), Sheila Peltz Weinberg (Institute for Jewish Spirituality), Simkha Weintraub, Cherie Brown (National Coalition-Building Inst), Jeffrey Dekro, Arlene Goldbard (Shalom Center president), Cindy Greenberg (Shalom Center board and Kolot Chayeinu president), Judith Plaskow, Jane Ramsey, and Prof. Russell G. Pearce (Fordham University School of Law). (All affiliations are noted for identification only.)

You can also see all this information on our website's home page, in the entry called "Take Action."

With blessings of shalom, salaam, shantih --peace,
Arthur