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News and Op/Ed

The Rabbis Respond
The Jewish Alliance For Justice & Peace organized the petition. 

400 urge Bush to take a cautious stand concerning Hamas.

Nearly four hundred rabbis from across the country and the denominational spectrum of American Judaism sent a letter Friday to President Bush, urging him to "maintain a cautious approach to the new Palestinian government,  so as to preserve the future possibility of bringing Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, which is the only path to achieve true peace and security for both peoples." 34 Philadelphia area Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform and Renewal rabbis signed on to the letter.

The letter, whose lead signers include prominent national pulpit, academic, and organizational rabbis, urges the President to pursue policies of constructive engagement of moderate Palestinians and sustained humanitarian aid.

While letter does not address specific legislation, it comes at a time when Congress is considering imposing severe sanctions and restrictions on the Palestinian Authority in response to Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections. If enacted, these restrictions would remain in place indefinitely regardless of the make-up of the Palestinian legislature in the future, thereby tying the United States' hands as a broker of future negotiations.

These rabbis from across the country and the spectrum of American Judaism have united to promote the constructive engagement of moderate Palestinians and continued humanitarian aid "as the best response to Hamas' electoral victory," says Rabbi John Friedman of Durham, North Carolina, who chairs the Rabbinic Cabinet of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, which organized the letter. "The letter challenges the perception that American Jews uniformly believe that the best way to protect Israel's security interests and combat Hamas' extremism us through the complete isolation of the Palestinian government."

"It is critical that the US find ways to constructively engage Palestinians, such as President Abbas who 
seek peace with Israel,' adds Rabbi Amy Small. "Treating all Palestinian as though they are members of Hamas plays into the hands of the extremists and marginalizes the moderates," she says. 

The rabbis specifically address the need for sustained humanitarian aid, as a tangible means to
try to mitigate the radicalization of the Palestinian population. "The immediate and short-term needs
of the Palestinian people are pressing. We know that the deterioration in their plight only increases
support for extremism, which in turn endangers Israel."

"To remove humanitarian aid from the Palestinian civilians who so desperately need it is morally wrong
and politically unwise. It is abundantly clear that the dire conditions of the Palestinian population are 
responsible for Hamas' victory in the first place," says signatory Rabbi Rolando Matalon, Senior Rabbi of Congregation B'nai Jeshrun of New York City. "It is possible to ensure that humanitarian funds do not reach the hands of those who engage in terror," he adds."

Letter to President

Dear Mr. President:

As leaders of the American Jewish community, we are deeply troubled by the recent victory of Hamas in the Palestinian legislative elections. Hamas's charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and Hamas has repeatedly perpetrated horrific acts of terror and violence that target innocent civilians. Yet in this challenging hour, we urge you to maintain a cautious approach to the new Palestinian government, so as to preserve the future possibility of bringing Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, which is the only path to achieve true peace and security for both peoples.

As you formulate U.S. policy towards these ends, we urge you to keep the following points in mind:

  1. According to international observers, the Palestinians conducted a free, fair, and democratic election, something that is still too rare in this region.
  2. Nevertheless, for the new Hamas-led Palestinian government to achieve international recognition and standing, it must "recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace," just as you specified in your State of the Union address.
  3. Despite Hamas's victory, recent polls indicate that the majority of Palestinians remains committed to a peace agreement with Israel. With this in mind, we urge constructive engagement with the new Palestinian government, in ways that bolster moderates such as President Mahmoud Abbas and sustain the ceasefire that has allowed for relative calm over the past year.
  4. The immediate and short-term needs of the Palestinian people are pressing. We know that the deterioration in their plight only increases support for extremism, which, in turn, endangers Israel. Continued funding for indirect assistance to the Palestinian people via NGO's, with the appropriate conditions to ensure that it does not reach the hands of terrorists, is essential. 

During this period of deep concern for the future of Israel, we call on you to maintain determination in the face of those who deny Israel's right to exist and, at the same time, to leave open the door for those Palestinians who are committed to working for a negotiated, two-state resolution of this conflict.

Local Signatories 

Delaware: Rabbi Peter Grumbacher (Wilmington, DE) 

New Jersey: Rabbi Amy Small (Chatham, NJ), Rabbi Barry Schwartz (Cherry Hill, NJ) , 
Rabbi Alana Wasserman (Cherry Hill, NJ), Rabbi Akiba Lubow (Cranford, NJ) 
Rabbi Mark Kaiserman (Livingston, NJ), Rabbi Donald Weber (Marlboro, NJ) 
Rabbi Noach Shapiro (Montclair, NJ), Rabbi Elliott Tepperman (Montclair, NJ) 
Rabbi Bennett Miller (New Brunswick, NJ), Rabbi Adam Feldman (Princeton, NJ) 
Rabbi William Plevan (Princeton, NJ), Rabbi Neal Borovitz (River Edge, NJ) 
Rabbi Daniel Cohen (South Orange, NJ), Rabbi Stuart Gershon (Summit, NJ) 
Rabbi Lawrence Troster (Teaneck, NJ) , Rabbi Michael Fessler (Washington Township, NJ) 

Pennsylvania: Rabbi Andrew Sklarz (Abington, PA), Rabbi Art Donsky (Allison Park, PA) 
Rabbi Myriam Klotz (Bala Cynwyd, PA), Rabbi Gary Pokras (Doylestown, PA) 
Rabbi Fredi Cooper (Elkins Park, PA), Rabbi Meryl Crean (Elkins Park, PA) 
Rabbi Simeon Maslin (Elkins Park, PA), Rabbi Serena Fujita (Lewisburg, PA) 
Rabbi Robert Tabak (Melrose Park, PA), Rabbi Sigal Brier (Newtown, PA) 
Rabbi Alan LaPayover (Penn Valley, PA), Rabbi Eliseo Rozenwasser (Penn Valley, PA) 
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert (Philadelphia, PA), Rabbi Marjorie Berman (Philadelphia, PA) 
Rabbi Phyllis Berman (Philadelphia, PA), Rabbi Dayle Friedman (Philadelphia, PA) 
Rabbi Shai Gluskin (Philadelphia, PA), Rabbi Leonard Gordon (Philadelphia, PA) 
Rabbi Julie Greenberg (Philadelphia, PA), Rabbi Erin Hirsh (Philadelphia, PA) 
Rabbi Linda Holtzman (Philadelphia, PA), Rabbi Michael Holzman (Philadelphia, PA) 
Rabbi Yael Levy (Philadelphia, PA), Rabbi Mordechai Liebling (Philadelphia, PA) 
Rabbi Steven Pik Nathan (Philadelphia, PA), Rabbi Amber Powers (Philadelphia, PA) 
Rabbi Jacob Staub (Philadelphia, PA), Rabbi George Stern (Philadelphia, PA) 
Rabbi Jeff Sultar (Philadelphia, PA), Rabbi Arthur Waskow (Philadelphia, PA) 
Rabbi Avi Winokur (Philadelphia, PA), Rabbi Shawn Zevit (Philadelphia, PA) 
Rabbi Leah Richman (Pottsville, PA), Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer (Wyncote, PA) 
Rabbi Henry Cohen (Wynnewood, PA), Rabbi David Straus (Wynnewood, PA) 
Rabbi Irwin Goldenberg (York, PA)