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Text of Speech 

Leader of North America’s Largest Jewish Denomination Asks Muslims to Join in Dialogue
Rabbi Eric Yoffie Speaks at Opening Session of Islamic Society of North America Convention


Chicago, IL., August 31—The leader of the largest Jewish religious movement in North America today spoke to the largest convention of adherents of Islam, attacking those in politics, the media and religious life who demonize Muslims. Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, called for open dialogue between Muslims and Jews and an end to racial profiling. He also emphasized the dangers of extremism and asked American Muslims to assist in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“There is no shortage of voices prepared to tell us that fanaticism and intolerance are fundamental to Islamic religion, and that violence and even suicide bombing have deep Koranic roots,” Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, told the more than 30,000 people meeting here in Chicago for the 44th annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America. And “there is no lack of so-called experts who are eager to seize on any troubling statement by any Muslim thinker and pin it on Islam as a whole,” he said.

Citing the statements of Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham, Dennis Prager and U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, Yoffie said, “The time has come to stand up to the opportunists in our midst – the media figures, religious leaders, and politicians who demonize Muslims and bash Islam, exploiting the fears of their fellow citizens for their own purposes.”

Announcing that the leadership of the ISNA and the Union for Reform Judaism are planning a joint dialogue and education program for synagogues and mosques, Yoffie said it is time to “put aside what the media says is wrong with Islam and to hear from Muslims themselves about what is right with Islam.”

Yoffie, who a year ago accepted the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s invitation to speak to the students and faculty of Liberty University, accepted the ISNA’s invitation because he felt it important to open dialogue between the two groups so they can inspire and strengthen one another to fight fanatics and work to promote the values of justice and love that are common to both faiths. He also recognizes the urgent need to speak out for the rights of Muslims in North America and against the abusive and discriminatory treatment that many receive in the name of security.

In closing, Yoffie asked the ISNA members to help solve the Middle East crisis by working together to realize the day when a democratic Palestine will exist, side by side, in peace and security, with the democratic State of Israel. To do so, he suggested ISNA join the Union for Reform Judaism in urging the US government to commit to an active, high level engagement in the process; work to portray the conflict in political rather than religious terms, and, most importantly, speak out against those who justify killing and terror in God’s name.

“No cause in the world, and surely no religious cause, can ever justify murdering the innocent or targeting the uninvolved,” Yoffie said. “You cannot honor a religion of peace through violence; you cannot honor God if you do not honor the image of God in every human being; and you cannot get to heaven by creating hell on earth.

“If we can agree on nothing else, let us agree on this, and let us remain united on this point, come what may.”


The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues. Union services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C.
For more information on Rabbi Yoffie, see www.urj.org/yoffie
For more information on the ISNA, see www.isna.net
 
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