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October 20, 2014 | 26th Tishrei 5775

Reaching Out To Arab And Muslim Neighbors

Adopted by the Executive Board of the
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
March, 2004


Since September 11, 2001, we have seen dramatic and unprecedented civil liberties and human rights abuses in the USA, including ethnic profiling, detentions without charges or probable cause, and the exploitation of immigration laws to bring heavy penalties for small, technical violations. We stand with government in all its appropriate efforts to protect national security and prevent future terrorist attacks.

However, when their efforts infringe on civil rights, those efforts must be subject to review. We fear that certain extreme abuses of law enforcement authority may even be counterproductive in fighting the ongoing war on terror. Winning the war on terror will require stopping these excessive abuses and focusing on working with those members of our community who could help bring terrorists to justice and stem the tide of terrorism.

There is an opportunity, at this moment in the US, to build grassroots support to slow and, where possible, reverse the erosion of constitutional freedoms. It will require courage, sacrifice, and mutual respect, but this kind of effort is necessary for the security and liberty of our communities and nations. Our Arab and Muslim neighbors -- if we reach out to them -- can be uniquely powerful and effective allies in the ongoing fight to secure our nations against terrorist threats.

As Jews, we realize that we have a particularly important and indeed difficult role to play in this effort. Interfaith and interethnic dialogue in any scenario is a sensitive and complicated endeavor. This is especially true among Jewish and Muslim and Arab communities, where dialogue efforts may be encumbered by the spiritual and emotional tension surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But all of us in the Jewish community must remember that, with regard to our Muslim neighbors, there is more in our history and theology to unite us than divide us, and we have more to gain from building partnerships than from ignoring each other or, worse yet, from breaking ties or allowing hostility to foment. We must not forget that we are all God's children, all inheritors of the Abrahamic tradition.

Such dialogue and relationship building is not without its challenges; it will be arduous, perhaps even painful at times. Some Muslim and Arab leaders hold views that make partnering with them particularly problematic. But that should not be allowed to obscure the fact that there are members of the Muslim and Arab communities ready to meet us in the middle for an honest dialogue. There is enough at stake that we must be willing to extend our hands and hearts to them in an honest gesture of goodwill, cooperation, and respect. And if not now, when?

THEREFORE, The Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism resolves to:

  1. Urge our communities to work in broad, multiethnic coalitions to advocate for constitutional and civil liberties protections at the national, state, and local levels; and

  2. Call upon congregants, clergy, and lay leaders to reach out to Muslim and Arab neighbors -- religious and community groups -- to build coalitions of tolerance and mutual understanding and to engage in interreligious and political dialogue with Arab and Muslim communities.


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