Stop the Gun Violence

The Gun Violence has got to stop.  The latest cold blooded murders of the 2 Roanoke, Virginia reporters is yet another heartbreaking example of why we must assert more control of the selling and ownership of guns in this country.  It is out of hand.  From Charleston, to Aurora,  Trayvon Martin, and Sandy Hook the murders of so many people by disturbed individuals who have access to guns is alarming.  That is why I am proud to be President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and why I am proud we are dedicated to doing something about this in our country. Won’t you  join with us? 

CCAR Resolution on Gun Violence

August 11, 2015

WHEREAS some 34,000 Americans die as a result of gun violence every year; and

WHEREAS statistics strongly affirm that gun laws, when properly enforced, reduce gun violence; and

WHEREAS some 60% of guns that are used in crimes can be traced to 1% of the gun stores in America; and

WHEREAS gun manufacturers have the ability to hold those “bad apple” dealers accountable for their sales practices, record keeping, employee training and cooperation with law enforcement; and

WHEREAS personalized, or “smart gun” technology can prevent accidental shootings, prevent law enforcement agents from being shot with their own service weapon, and make stolen shipments of guns useless to those who steal them; and

WHEREAS after the Sandy Hook school shooting, President Obama vowed to use “all the powers of this office” to reduce gun violence in America; and

WHEREAS there are powerful national legislative and non-legislative campaigns to reduce gun violence in America; and

WHEREAS, in a 2000 resolution, the CCAR took a strong stand in favor of gun control[i]; and

WHEREAS Reform rabbis embrace a responsibility to challenge America’s conscience and to heed the biblical injunction that we must not stand idly by the blood of our neighbor[ii]; and

WHEREAS this responsibility calls upon us to embark on a moral offensive by sending a message to our elected officials that we care deeply about gun violence and will hold them accountable and by leading our congregations and institutions to become actively involved in this cause in our communities; therefore

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Central Conference of American Rabbis:

  1. Commits to deepening our gun violence prevention advocacy effort; and
  2. Urges the members of the congregations and communities we serve to demand that their Representatives and Senators enact effective gun violence prevention legislation; and
  3. Endorses broad dissemination of the Religious Action Center’s Community Resource Guide to implement the Reform Movement’s strategy for addressing gun violence prevention advocacy; and
  4. Calls upon our mayors, police chiefs, sheriffs, county executives, governors, and federal government, who collectively purchase some 40% of the guns sold in the United States each year, to use that purchasing power to press gun manufacturers to create safer dealer networks and safer gun technology through the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation’s Do Not Stand Idly By campaign; and
  5. Encourages CCAR members to become involved in broad anti-violence coalitions in their local communities to press for effective gun violence prevention at all levels.

[i] Resolution on Ending Gun Violence, adopted at the 111th Convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; March, 2000.

[ii] Leviticus 19:16

The Reform Movement Position on The Iran Deal

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A Message from the Reform Movement
August 19, 2015 | 4 Elul 5775

REFORM JEWISH MOVEMENT RESPONSE TO IRAN DEAL:
ADDRESS IMPORTANT CONCERNS, FOCUS ON THE DAY AFTER

Whether the JCPOA is approved or defeated, there will be a day after. It is essential that this debate not be allowed to create a lasting rift between Israel and the U.S., between North American Jews and Israelis, or among American Jews.
 

Following extensive consultations with experts from across the political spectrum in both the United States and Israel, and thoughtful conversation with North American Reform Jewish leaders, the Reform Jewish Movement today issued a leadership statement on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). 

The statement – released today by the leaders of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and ARZA – concludes that “there is simply no clarity that would support taking a position ‘for’ or ‘against’ the JCPOA itself.” Rather, the statement emphasizes, “Our focus must be on two questions: First, how is it possible to address our concerns about the JCPOA? Second, if the agreement is finalized, what happens the day after? Specifically, how can we work to support the strongest possible U.S.-Israel relationship going forward?”

Looking toward the “day after,” the leadership statement noted that “Whether the JCPOA is approved or defeated, there will be a day after. It is essential that this debate not be allowed to create a lasting rift between Israel and the U.S., between North American Jews and Israelis, or among American Jews.”

The statement also addressed the tone of the debate, saying “We call upon the Israeli leadership, the U.S. Administration and members of Congress, and those on all sides of this debate to tamp down their rhetoric. If the debate is allowed to weaken the U.S.-Israel alliance, or further sharpen partisan divides over what it means to be ‘pro-Israel,’ Israel will be less secure.” 

The full statement follows.
 



NEW YORK, NY, August 19, 2015 – Our tradition teaches us never to wage war without first seeking vigorously the possibility of peace (Deut. 20:10). In that spirit, we applaud the diplomatic efforts of the Obama Administration to keep Iran from acquiring or developing nuclear weapons. We thank President Obama for his commitment to diplomacy, and we express our gratitude to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for keeping the world focused on the danger posed by Iran.

The end product of the Administration’s diplomatic efforts – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – is challenging to analyze. Some argue that it offers the most promising path forward to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state. Others argue that while the agreement has serious flaws, the consequences of rejecting it create far more perils and damage than implementing it would. Still others argue that it does not do enough to prevent and/or contain the danger that a nuclear Iran would pose. We recognize that these arguments have merit: The JCPOA does present a way forward, there are real dangers to rejecting it, and it does not foreclose Iran’s ability to become a nuclear weapons threshold state. 

The Reform Movement is large and diverse. Within the Movement, reasonable people – patriotic Americans and passionate Zionists – have expressed different and valid positions on this agreement, articulating the many arguments made by others as well. 

Our focus must be on two questions: First, how is it possible to address our concerns about the JCPOA? Second, if the agreement is finalized, what happens the day after? Specifically, how can we work to support the strongest possible U.S.-Israel relationship going forward? 

At this time, there is no unity of opinion among the Reform Movement leadership – lay and rabbinic alike – just as there is not unity among our membership as to the JCPOA itself; but there is unity as to the important questions and concerns we pose in this statement.  Thus, there is simply no clarity that would support taking a position “for” or “against” the JCPOA itself. 

The Vital Strategic Importance of the U.S.-Israel Alliance 

The U.S.-Israel relationship is of historic and strategic importance. It is based on shared values and common concerns. The health of that relationship must never be jeopardized or allowed to become a partisan political issue. Now, more than ever, it is critical to solidify the unique relationship between the U.S. and Israel. The words of Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin ring in our ears: “There are three tenets to Israeli foreign policy, which are the strategic alliance with the United States, the strategic alliance with the United States, and the strategic alliance with the United States.” 

We are deeply concerned about the tension, and the harsh rhetoric, in the discourse between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. We fervently hope that both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu will take concrete steps, transcending politics, to repair the rifts that impede this relationship between longstanding and essential allies. We say this sincerely believing that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu are fully committed to the unique U.S.-Israel relationship and with appreciation for the President’s many efforts to support Israel. 

It is important to emphasize that as American Jews, we are concerned about this agreement not only as Jews, but also as Americans. Iran’s regime poses a serious security threat to the people and nations of the region who continue to suffer from Iran’s support for violence and terror, including the State of Israel. 

Our Concerns 

We have had numerous conversations with and briefings from experts on global security and diplomacy, military experts from the U.S. and Israel, Republican and Democratic elected officials, and Israeli political leaders from the left, center, and right.  Those extensive consultations leave us with five principal areas of concern: deterrence, Iran’s support of terror, inspections, human rights and religious freedom, and the United States’ standing in the world. 

Deterrence : We call on President Obama to issue an unequivocal statement that at no point will the U.S. accept a nuclear-armed Iran. The Administration must state clearly that in the short term, and more importantly, 15 years from now when key provisions of the JCPOA expire, the U.S. will take no option off the table when it comes to preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons capability. We also call on the U.S. to provide Israel with the support necessary, including advanced weaponry and the means to deliver it, to further deter Iran, protect Israel’s security, and maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge. This could take the form of a new defense alliance between the U.S. and Israel similar to NATO.  These steps are necessary both because of the prospect of Iran developing or obtaining nuclear weapons, and the possibility of increased military activity in the region, which is an inherent and likely consequence of the inevitable lifting of sanctions that any agreement containing Iran’s development of nuclear weapons would entail. 

Iran‘s Support of Terror: Iran’s longstanding and persistent threats against Israel, the U.S. and others, as well as its record of support for international terror organizations including Hamas and Hezbollah, are not addressed by this agreement. We urge the Administration to work with our European allies to ensure that harsh international sanctions will be adopted if Iran leverages its newfound resources to further fund terror activity. The U.S. should also commit to leading a broader international effort designed to eliminate Iran’s support of international terror. 

Inspections: We share those grave concerns that arise out of the fact that Iran’s nuclear sites are currently closed to international inspection and that, even if approved, Iran may violate key provisions of the agreement thwarting inspections. Thus we call upon the Administration to commit to imposing significant additional consequences if Iran challenges the inspections regime, in addition to the “snap back” sanctions that will be imposed on Iran should it violate key provisions of the JCPOA. Doing so will ensure that Iran recognizes that there will be penalties for any violations of the agreement, even if claimed to be “minor.” 

Human Rights and Religious Freedom: Iran remains one of the world’s great violators of human rights and religious freedom. The Administration has committed to keeping the sanctions related to human rights fully intact after this agreement and must further commit to marshaling international pressure on Iran to make improvements in expanding human rights, religious freedom and the development of democratic structures. 

The United States’ Standing in the World: After years leading negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran, U.S. credibility on the world stage and/or in the Middle East has been weakened in recent months as the American political process has unfolded. It is critical that the U.S. maintain leverage to address future international challenges in a manner that protects and advances national interests and especially promotes peace in the Middle East. We recognize that the broad international sanctions currently imposed on Iran, and which played a key role bringing Iran to the negotiating table, are in the process of collapsing with the U.N. Security Council, the Russians, Chinese, and certain Europeans moving to lift their sanctions even as we speak today. The U.S. influence and support of Israel is crucial to maintain peace in the Middle East and a safe Israel. 

The Day After 

Whether the JCPOA is approved or defeated, there will be a day after. 

It is essential that this debate not be allowed to create a lasting rift between Israel and the U.S., between North American Jews and Israelis, or among American Jews. We are concerned, as well, with the possibility that some will use the debate as fuel for anti-Semitic views. 

We call upon the Israeli leadership, the U.S. Administration and members of Congress, and those on all sides of this debate to tamp down their rhetoric. If the debate is allowed to weaken the U.S.-Israel alliance, or further sharpen partisan divides over what it means to be “pro-Israel,” Israel will be less secure. And on the day after the vote, as on the day before, Israel will need the United States’ continued military and political support, bilaterally, in the United Nations, and more broadly on the world stage. 

The Need for Civility and Open Debate 

Our Movement believes in vigorous debate. But that discourse must be civil and constructive, which has too often not been the case. There must be an open and welcoming tent as we continue to debate not only the future of this agreement, but also the very nature of what it means to be pro-Israel. Our Movement is deeply pro-Israel, though we express that core conviction in many different ways. No one should be compelled to defend his or her Zionism or support for Israel as we express legitimate views, both pro and con, about this most difficult issue. 

When our people gather in a little less than a month for the High Holy Days, members who support the deal will pray alongside those who do not. If the harsh judgments and rhetoric continue between Washington and Jerusalem – and within our American Jewish community – we will be deprived of a deep commonality that binds our people together. Calling those who oppose the deal “war mongers” shuts shown constructive debate; calling those who support the deal “enablers of a second Holocaust” ends thoughtful discourse. 

With such significant stakes, thoughtful debate is not only warranted but also essential. That is what our tradition calls a machloket l’shem shamayim, “a debate for the sake of heaven.” 

Conclusion 

We offer these thoughts with the words of the prophet Isaiah (2:4) echoing in our hearts and in our minds: “They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” 

These coming weeks provide the Administration with an opportunity to address the JCPOA’s serious limitations, and for all parties to this discussion – the Administration, members of Congress and the opponents of the deal in the United States and Israel – to establish a tone of civility and respect on these critical matters. 

As always, we pray for peace. We pray that 5776 and the years to follow are a time of peace for all people.

###

Union for Reform Judaism

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, and Stephen M. Sacks, Chair of the Board

Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Steve Fox, CEO, and Rabbi Denise L. Eger, President

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director, and Jennifer Kaufman, Chair, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism

Association of Reform Zionists of America

Rabbi Joshua Weinberg, President, and Rabbi Bennett Miller, Chair

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Standing on Holy Ground

As you know I traveled to Selma, Alabama to participate in the NAACP’s Journey for Justice representing the Central Conference of Reform Rabbis.  I was profoundly moved by my experience marching with the Torah across the Edmund Pettis Bridge.  I have written my additional thoughts. Published by the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. Here is the link:

Standing on holy ground.

Louganis on the Wheaties Box

Greg Louganis was and is the World’s greatest Diver.  An Olympian that captured gold medals in both 1984 and 1988, Greg was one of the first openly gay athletes.  Because of his sexuality he was denied many of the perks that other Olympians received including many endorsements and perhaps one of the most coveted of American athletic triumph-appearing on the General Mills  Wheaties cereal Box.  It was good enough for decathlete, Bruce Jenner, Swimmers-Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps, Gymnasts Mary Lou Retton and Kari Strug, Golfer, Tiger Wood, and too many football, baseball and basketball athletes to name.  But not Greg Louganis.

I have had the honor of meeting and talking with Greg on many occasions.  He is active in the LA LGBT community and is always gracious, kind and thoughtful.  He truly is a champion.

Not all mistakes can be rectified. But this one can.  It’s not too late to put Greg Louganis on the Wheaties box.

If you are interested in signing a petition to get Greg on the Wheaties box then click here 

And let’s help fix a historical insult and error in judgement.  Louganis is a great Olympian. He deserves this honor!

Speaking on the Journey to Justice

These were my comments at the NAACP Rally at the beginning of the Journey for Justice. This is a 40 day+ march from Selma, Alabama to Washington, D.C.  The Central Conference of American Rabbis is partnering with the NAACP and other African American Civil Rights groups to call attention to the systemic racism in our society.  The Journey for Justice is focusing on restoring the Civil Rights Voting Act, jobs and education, the scourge of mass incarceration, police brutality and equality and liberty for all Americans.

Good morning. I am here on our holiest day of the week the Sabbath  representing the over 2300 Reform Rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.  As President of the oldest and largest rabbinical organization in N. America, we who have come to pray and walk alongside our brothers and sisters commit not only to talking the talk of justice and righteousness but walking the walk. More than 150 rabbis from all over our country will join in this journey each day. We will be carrying with us a sacred scroll of Torah, the five Books of Moses that inspires our commitment to justice and equality and liberty.

As Rabbis of the CCAR, We pledge this day to stand with and work with and learn from you To renew the historic Jewish – African American relationships and coalition that once worked together with ease. This is a new beginning.

We Rabbis pledge to work with you end the culture of racism in our country. We pledge to work wholeheartedly to end mass incarceration in our country We pledge to work tirelessly with you  to give every child the education she deserves, we pledge to work to root out gun violence in every neighborhood and to fight for economic justice for every person and to secure voting rights for every American citizens.

God of all bless those who March today and for the next 40 days.  May our feet be swift, our dedication to your ideals of Tzedek u mishpat righteousness and justice be strong and lift us on Eagles wings as you once did for the children of Israel so that we can bring about the glorious day when all shall eat at the table of liberty and the true Promise of America.

#justice summer #tzedeksummer @NAACP @cornellwbrooks

On the horrific stabbings at Jerusalem Pride

On the horrific stabbings at Jerusalem Pride today by the same evildoer who did it 10 years ago: “This violence aimed at LGBTQ people is a sin. This is baseless hatred, not religion. The responsibility for the stabbings aimed at the life of every LGBTQ person is on the shoulders of Ultra Orthodox Jewish leaders and any religious person that teaches that persecution is acceptable in God’s eyes. My prayer today, as the leader of Congregation Kol Ami in Los Angeles where all are welcome, is for God to heal those wounded in today’s stabbings and that the perpetrator be stopped from harming anyone ever again. May the God of justice be reflected in all our lives” – Rabbi Denise L. Eger