NEW YORK, NY, September 15, 2010 - As public debate continues surrounding the building of the Cordoba House community center and mosque in New York City, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, urged leaders of reform congregations to address Muslim-Jewish relations in their communities.
Yoffie suggested in a message today that congregational leaders visit URJ's Resource Page on Muslim-Jewish Dialogue for tools to tackle these timely issues in their communities. Resources on the website include adult education materials on Islam; a guide to Muslim-Jewish dialogue (created in partnership with the Islamic Society of North America); a curricular guide and fact sheet on Park 51; noteworthy practices at congregations; and news postings.
Expanding on an earlier statement of support for the building of the community center and mosque, Rabbi Yoffie spoke to the Union's Executive Committee this past weekend (Read Rabbi Yoffie's full speech here.)
"Feelings run very deep on this issue," he said, and recognized that not all members of the Reform movement share the same opinions on this matter.
"With these divisions in mind, let us see if we can move away from the heated emotions that have characterized the debate and let us analyze closely the various arguments being put forward."
Rabbi Yoffie goes on to refute arguments against the building of Cordoba House one-by-one and concludes that Reform Jews, "need to affirm that we will not tolerate efforts to keep Muslims out of our neighborhoods... If we were silent here, we would be casting aside those fundamental values of tolerance, compassion, understanding, and religious freedom that we have affirmed again and again from our earliest days as Reform Jews.
"I am proud to say, however, that we in the Reform Movement have not been silent, and our rabbis and congregations have not been silent... As Jews, we sympathize with the victims of terror, and we fight religious fanaticism wherever it is found, but we remember, now and always, both the lessons of our own history and what this great country is all about."
Yoffie closed his remarks by wishing all "a sweet new year filled with thoughtful dialogue."