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October 10, 2015 | 27th Tishrei 5776

Reform Jewish Movement Welcomes Approval of Cordoba House Mosque and Community Center

Yoffie and Saperstein: "The principle of religious freedom on which the United States was founded has demonstrated that our nation is strengthened by the faith of its citizens and the houses of worship in which they gather."

NEW YORK, August 4, 2010 – In response to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee's unanimous vote allowing the building of the Cordoba House mosque and community center, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

We welcome the planned construction of the Cordoba House mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan. Although we fully recognize the strong sentiments that have characterized the debate over the center, we strongly believe that Cordoba House's presence will reflect our nation's historic commitment to religious liberty. After consulting with rabbinic and lay leaders of our New York area synagogues we express our belief that the decision to allow the Cordoba House to move forward best embodies our values and the interests of the New York community. We affirm our abiding commitment to the principle of religious freedom that ensures that houses of worship not be subject to discrimination and to the principle of religious equality that ensures the right of the Muslim community to locate and build its houses of worship like Jewish, Christian or other houses of worship. We hope that our congregations will work with the leadership of the center on issues of common importance.

We commend Mayor Bloomberg, who has always supported the rights of the Jewish community as he has those of all religious communities, for advocating the position that the New York community will be enriched by this Center and for his view that New York should not embody in its actions any form of religious intolerance or discrimination. We commend as well the decision yesterday of the Landmarks Preservation Committee paving the way for construction.

The principle of religious freedom on which the United States was founded has demonstrated that our nation is strengthened by the faith of its citizens and the houses of worship in which they gather. The Cordoba House will now join the countless churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples that populate our landscape and enrich the spiritual lives of their congregants.




The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis. Visit for more.


Elizabeth Connolly

August 6, 2010
07:17 AM

Thank you

Thank you for this statement. As I followed this controversy I wondered about the URJ's position and am happy and proud to see this affirmation of tolerance and non-discrimination.



August 6, 2010
08:15 AM

All the ugly rhetoric and prejudice displayed by this issue was very disturbing. But I knew I could count on Rabbis Yoffie & Saperstein to be voices for justice. Thank you for all the work you do!!


Irv Silberman

August 6, 2010
09:01 AM


Is it "a house of worship" or is to be a common meeting place where all religions can meet and share values?
Realistically will Sunni Muslims meet with Shiite Muslims? Will Orthodox Jews meet with Reform Jews? The concept of commonality is pie in the sky. THere is much learning that must take place within the various religious communities.
THe construct is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I suggest that the money to be raised be used to educate the children of the Middle East.
Trade school programs will go further in bringing world peace then religious propaganda.


Jack Bonawitz

August 6, 2010
09:55 AM

Thank you for being consistent to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and of Reform Judaism. We cannot expect freedom if we deny it to others; we can't expect respect when we withhold it from others.

Reform Judaism can hold its head high.


Avi Deckard

August 6, 2010
11:06 AM


I'm not surprised that the Reform Union supports this. Typical.


Ed Fidelman

August 6, 2010
11:47 AM

The URJ and the RAC are making a big mistake. Pronouncements such as this represent the position of many in the leadership of URJ and RAC, but are contrary to many of us who belong to reform congregations. This was never a question of religious freedom. We all know that there is a legal right to build this Mosque. We can acknowledge that right and still object to the gross lack of sensitivity to the tens of thousands of Americans who lost family and friends in the 9/11 attack. This is a matter of poor judgement and lack of sensitivity and Yoffe and Saperstein could have framed their comments in support of the right, but opposed to the lack of good judgement in picking this location. In my opinion, it is a mis-statement that the Reform Movement welcomes this decision. I hope others of like mind will respond also.


Ann Li

August 6, 2010
12:07 PM

What with losing Jews to Interfaith marriages and the general trend to take Hebrew out of our prayer books, this approval of building a triumphant victory mosque near the grave site of so many Americans who died at the hands of Islam, a political movement, is enough to make me leave the Reform movement completely.


Ed Weissman

August 6, 2010
12:31 PM

A Dissenting Voice

While I respect Rabbis Yoffe and Saperstein in their opinion, I have to disagree.
The "free exercise " clause of the First Amendment does not give one the right to establish a house of worship wherever one wishes. Communities may not discriminate, but they do not have to give in to just any request.
The Muslim community in Lower Manhattan chose to show no sensitivity in choosing the location.

It seems to me that we are acting as if it is incumbent on us to prove that we are not bigots. It is not our obligation to bend over backwards in order to prove a negative.

I am not so blind as to think that building a Muslim center anywhere won't be met by some opposition. There are bigots among us. But the sites of the attacks on 9/11 are not simply locations; they are, in a real sense, memorials to those who died and a remembrance of why they died. The Cordoba House, no matter what the intentions of those who wish to build it, will be a constant reminder of the fact that adherents of a radical version of Islam caused those deaths.



August 6, 2010
12:42 PM

Thank you.

I have been appalled and scared by the intense hate and religious bigotry that this issue has brought to light. I was particularly shocked when I recently read the ADL's cowardly stance on this issue, and saddened that I could not immediately find a counter response to their remarks from another major Jewish organization. I strongly believe that as members of a minority group in the United States that has at many times faced persecution, Jews should be the first to speak out on behalf of other minorities in the United States when they face discrimination. As a Jew who grew up in the Reform movement, I am so proud that the URJ has taken this clear stance in support of religious freedom.


R. Chaikin

August 6, 2010
08:25 PM

A Hearty Approval

I commend both the Reform Movement and Rabbis Yoffie and Saperstein for publicly affirming support for the Cordoba Center. Is is a reflection of both the views of Reform Jews across New York and the country, as well as of the best values of our faith. As a New Yorker who was profoundly and personally affected by the attacks on September 11th, I view the embrace of a center whose aim is to foster tolerance, diversity and understanding as the best illustration of OUR victory in the face of terrorism. A strong showing that we will not be frightened into repudiating the basic principles on which we have built our country and our post-Holocost Jewish identity. How can we, who know too well the consequences of allowing restrictions to be placed on a specific group based on fear and misperception, allow it to happen to others in our own back yard? Preserving the religious liberty and free exercise of others only strengthens our own.


Will Fudeman

August 7, 2010
08:31 AM

Chair, Social Action Committee, Congregation Tikkun v'Or

Thank you to Rabbi Yoffie and Rabbi Saperstein for recognizing the rights
of all religious groups to create community centers anywhere in America.

The demonizing of Muslims and Islam based on the criminal
actions of extremists is wrong. I'm very pleased
to support the leadership of the Reform movement
in taking this stand for diversity, in the face of
fear and prejudice.



August 7, 2010
11:35 AM

With all due respect to the Rabbis and the other proponents of religous freedom and tolerance, will you please ask yourselves this question; if more than 58% of New Yorkers and more than 70% of the entire country are against the building of this Mosque at Ground Zero, does that mean that 58% (and growing) and 70% (and growing) are religious bigots and racists? I submit to you, it has nothing to do with either of those evils. It has everything to do with healing the wounds of widows and orphans. The Muslim Community should be "tolerant and sympathetic" to these wounds. The Muslim Community should recognize the pain they are causing and do the "honorable" thing by moving the Mosque to another location. I am not a Jew, but I would ask the Rabbis if URJ had proposed the building of a Synagogue at Ground Zero, and there was this huge outcry from New Yorkers and the entire country, would you build the Synagogue anyway (with the blessings of the Mayor, other politicians and a few other groups)? My guess is that you would not. You would not because, you would not want to be part of the second wave of pain that will surely fall upon the families, firefighters, police officers, first responders and the rest of the nation, if this building is raised thirteen stories over their heads.


Charlotte Feldman

August 7, 2010
01:11 PM


I am still wading through all the information about the building of a mosque or Islamic center structure on or near the site of the 9/11 bombing, so I will not form my opinion immediately.

I recall that in real estate, the three most important considerations for purchase or construction of a structure are 1) location;2) location; 3) location. The proposed location of this or any other structure in close proximity to a site of a national tragedy is fraught with pitfalls. Leaving aside for a moment, the right to build on this site, the effect of any such structure which might cause pain to countless people should be carefully examined. The American Muslim community is not exactly awash in positive public approval right now.

This whole incident reminds me of the convent in Germany that was to be built on the site of Auschwitz concentration camp. There may have been some good intention but the result was or would have been an abomination.

And, is it true that the dedication of this structure is planned for September 11th in the year of its completion?


Gil Kempenich

August 9, 2010
11:05 AM

I agree wholeheartedly with the comments of those who objected, on the basis that 1) the building of this mosque lacks sensitivity to friends and family of those who lost their life at Ground Zero, and 2) that Rabbis Yoffe and Sapperstein offer no acknowledgment of that. Ethical values on the one hand; sensitivity on the other. I regret that the URJ and RAC chose to consider only one. And... the URJ and RAC do not in this action speak for me, and certainly not for thousands of others.


Ellie Sussman

August 9, 2010
11:31 AM

I am so strongly against the building of a Mosque near the Ground Zero area. I realize that not all Islam's were to blame for that horrible deed but it shows a complete lack of sensitity by those building and those approving of the building of a Mosque in that particular area. NYC is a large area, surely they could build it in a less sensitive, hurtful area. Unfortunately, I see no way of stopping this plan from going forward but as a Reform Jewish member I wanted to voice my strong feelings against this site being used for a Mosque.


Tony Gaenslen

August 9, 2010
11:45 AM

Co - President, Reform Congregation Tikkun v'Or

I'm proud of URJ and Rabbis Yoffie and Saperstein for their courageous stand in favor of Cordoba House. Reaching out to others, we build the bonds that in time will lead to peace



August 9, 2010
03:26 PM

Remember when the Catholic Church built a convent next to Auschwitz? 'Nuff said.



August 9, 2010
09:50 PM

Cordoba House Mosque

For once I wish the URJ would show some guts instead of it's constant bowing and scraping to the slightest show of strength.
M'dear religious reform elitest leaders are correct about the rights to build a mosque but it is beyond me that URJ cannot also state the obvious; building this mosque and muslim community center is an incredibly insensitve and disrespectful plan.....URJ supports government health care but expresses no concerns about the governement forcing citizens to purchase a service/product and penalize them if they don't. Why isn't that attack on individual freedom as important to our URJ? I love Judaism, practice reform Judaism but my stomach churns every time I read these
disturbing URJ statements knowing my membership payments supports the political agenda of this leadership.


Jay Frank

August 10, 2010
07:35 AM

Originally posted by Anonymous User:
With all due respect to the Rabbis and the other proponents of religous freedom and tolerance, will you please ask yourselves this question; if more than 58% of New Yorkers and more than 70% of the entire country are against the building of this Mosque at Ground Zero, does that mean that 58% (and growing) and 70% (and growing) are religious bigots and racists? I submit to you, ...

I wonder if there was ever a time or place where "more than 70% on [an] entire country" was against a Jewish presence, or integrated restrooms, or the right to abortion, or ...

This is an egregious and shameful argument, and I am deeply appreciative of the courage demonstrated by the URJ/RAC leadership.



August 10, 2010
08:54 AM

Oh, and when the American Nazi Party decided to march thru Skokie? As I recall, no one was debating their First Amendment rights, but rather THE LOCATION!!



August 10, 2010
01:03 PM


I agree with the OP. Bending the rules in order to demonize a generalized Muslim population, of Americans no less, is a dangerous standard that most detractors will only appreciate when it's their turn to be told that they cannot build something. We cannot reach out when we turn our backs to Muslims who appreciate the western lifestyle and the religious freedom we offer. We cannot demand that they appreciate us while we actively try to purge them from our ranks. It is sad that so many, previously demonized people who one would think might understand this process a little bit, have conditioned themselves to acclimate the taste of bigotry so easily.



August 11, 2010
06:02 PM

How does one become so naive?
There is nothing apparently illegal about this project, to be located just down the street from the Museum of Jewish Heritage, which honors victims of the Holocaust, and around the corner from St. Peter's Church, the oldest Catholic church in New York.

That being said, it is immoral, historically reprehensible, provocative, and just plain wrong. It almost seems that it is being done intentionally to bait the American people into taking drastic action. Maybe they will get their wish....

All supporters of the "welcome" should watch this film


Rick Alovis

August 14, 2010
09:46 AM

While Not Easy, Religious Freedom Makes Us A Great Nation

As Jews, we know first hand the cold hand of intolerance. Before our country even had a name, we were that place where religious groups could escape to in order to practice their religion. Our founding fathers based their bold experiment, on Freedom, especially religious freedom. It's not easy, but each time we stand by those freedoms laid out in our constitution, we don't become more divided, we become stronger. Of course I understand the strong feelings on both sides of this issue, but thats the time when we need to go back and ask who we are as a nation. Every Church, Temple, Synagogue, and Mosque has a right to practice their religion. Thats in the very fabric of our country, and in a large part what makes us a great nation.


Errol Seltzer

August 15, 2010
10:03 AM

As a Reform Jew this issue is very confusing to me. I do not think any of us fully understand the ramifications of this building. Perhaps, we in the Jewish community need to learn more before making any opinions that may effect the outcome of this situation. Ideally, I understand the rights of these builders. However, as an intergrated Jew, I also understand the pain suffered by all Americans on 9/11. I do wish the leaders of this project would denounce Hamas and all terriorism before we move any further. I also wish that politically questionable organizations like J-Street would be shouted out by mainstreamed Jews. Right or wrong, I can respect the ADL's and URJ's cautious stances. However, the "J-Streets" of the world are not looking at this as an isolated expression of religious freedom. Rather (I think), they are using it as a pawn to further their very questionable mission. Extremism on the right or left are equally dangerous. We of the "middle" need to make sure America knows that J-Street does not represent us.



August 15, 2010
01:51 PM

I understand both sides, but...

I am relieved that the Reform representatives have made a case for the building of the Mosque.

Although I completely understand why it is controversial, I also see where the site makes sense. It is in close proximity to an existing mosque; it is not on the 9/11 site itself but in a commercial area adjacent; and the founders are wishing to build a bridge between religions and cultures in order to avoid a repeat of the 9/11 tragedy. Had the building been proposed by someone of the extremist mindset, I would have a completely different opinion.

Having said that, it will be up to the founders/directors of this facility to make good on their promises of community outreach and tolerance. It will be up to our community leaders to make sure we extend our hands as well. If we want peace to have a chance, we have to be willing to take a risk. There is - certainly - at least a perceived risk here. Risk that the extremists will view this as a victory. Risk that those who found this facility will not do what they are saying, but turn out to be of the extremist mindset. Risk that feelings will be hurt, or that wedges will be driven instead of bridges. Yes, there is risk. However, all good gambles have risk, and the risk is not all on the side of supporting this construction. If opposition to this mosque continued, we were also risking stereotyping an entire religion based on the actions of a few. Risking missing an opportunity to give the Islamic community a way to add to our community, instead of just being viewed as a threat. Risking becoming what we fear others to be - intolerant, controlling... risking becoming the very people who attacked us out of fear and hate.


John GRUBER Bakersfield cA

August 15, 2010
07:22 PM

If this mosque is to go forward,build other adjacent institutions of religious freedom at the site along side magnificent Cathedral, Synagogoe with Jewish Center of learning,Bahai, Morman and Buddist Temples, and any other religious group wishing to use voluntary raised funds to open on the nine-eleven day of completion of their facility. Call the area "Remembrance Park". And let the world remember what truly happened that day. I think our children will be smart enough to understand our message.


Marie Kritzer

August 15, 2010
08:41 PM


I object to the building of this mosque at this location. The Cordoba Community should exist, but not in this location. I find it reprehensible that this community impose their legal will rather than act honorably and ethically.


elya naxon

August 16, 2010
01:19 PM

Of course I applaud the declaration of each religious group to express its own beliefs.

What I question and have not seen any reference to this, is where is the MONEY coming from.. If this is another attempt by the Saudi's to influence the course of Islam, then I have second thoughts. Any money raised outside of the legitimate Muslim community in this country should be looked askance. Is this center Sunni or any other denomination of Muslim... are there political threads to other organizations?
Since we all ascribe to the first amendment, perhaps the builders of the mosque will agree to some transparency to assuage the fears of the citizens of the U.S



August 16, 2010
05:20 PM

If American textbooks did a better job of presenting Islam as the mainstream religion that it is, perhaps the discomfort with their houses of worship might be avoided. Do we think that there were no victims of this tragedy that were of Muslim faith? Let's not forget that the NYC workforce in NYC is multicultural and multi-religious, and that many of the worker victims of this tragedy were unidentified and uncounted because they were undocumented illegals. Let's really try to see things from all of their perspectives.

I'm proud that our leadership in the Reform movement can see beyond these vague terms like "disrespect to victims and thiere families" and adhere to the principles we come from our rich Torah traditions. The ramifications of opposing this Islamic center are moral and ethical ones. We know all too well what happens when mainstream forces declare a group to be undesirable.



August 17, 2010
05:33 PM

I was hoping URJ would give the rest of us the opportunity to join our voices with Rabbi Yoffie. Much like you give us a link when there is a natural disaster, why not a link where we can make it clear that Jews will not tolerate ANY religious discrimination.



August 18, 2010
03:50 AM

How the Muslims percieve this decision

In centuries to come, when future generations look back and they see a
mosque at ground zero in NY, it will be just like the mosque over the
temple mound in Jerusalem or the countless others around the world - a symbol to Islamic extremists of victory for the Muslims over the infidels. There is only 1 reason they insist on building mosques on these sites and it has nothing to so with religious freedom.



August 20, 2010
08:22 AM

This statement makes me proud to be a Reform Jew.


Edward Steiner

August 24, 2010
12:45 AM

Once again the leftist leadership of the Reform movements gets it wrong. This has nothing to do with religious freedom.
It has to do with what is right and moral. Of course they have the right to build their mosque, but doing so will be extremely insensitive and offensive to the great majority of Americans. They know this, why else do they want to dedicate it on September 11, 2011; and why do they refuse to meet with Governor Patterson to discuss an alternate site. Their motive is to stick their thumb in our eyes, and people like like Bloomberg and Yoffee are only too glad to open their eyes wide open to make it easy.



August 26, 2010
08:17 PM

Alllll right!!!!! I am so happy to see this article! I have been so upset and angry due to this wave of bigotry, hatred, and ignorance. I take this very seriously. We can't be quiet while our Muslim neighbors are targeted by so much bigotry.


Laura Bancos

August 30, 2010
06:39 PM

Private citizen

I am not Jewish and I strongly oppose the Cordoba House in that location. This is NOT about freedom of religion - no one is opposing their religious practices. This is about a people wanting to impose their freedom of expression over my own, in my own backyard. Why shall I pay deference to a religious group when others are not afforded the same treatment?

Would Saudi Arabia allow the building of a church adjacent to Mecca? Would the Jewish community agree to the building of a museum dedicated to Nazi socialism adjacent to a concentration camp? I think not.

M. Kaddafi was this weekend in Rome and said that Islam was already well established in Europe. All that was necessary to make Europe an Islamic continent was for Turkey to become a member of the EU. As a well known imam in London said, "we will win with your rights, but we will govern you with ours.”

If the American Jewish community believes that by building the Cordoba House in NYC is going to "start something new" amidst Muslim nations that will prevent future attacks on Israel, I think they are sorely mistaken.

Shame on Mayor Blumberg, and shame on those that support the adding of salt to our injury. We will remember and act accordingly.


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