A letter to our fellow Jews on equality and liberal values

A letter to our fellow Jews on equality and liberal values

The American Jewish community is facing a challenge to the liberal principles that have long defined Jewish civic life and America’s democratic tradition.

Among our country’s blessings is an unparalleled protection of freedom of expression. This freedom is among the essential tools by which American minorities––including Jews––have made progress in advancing the causes of equality and justice.

Today this freedom is being threatened. An ideology is taking hold across the country that insists there is only one way to look at the problems we face, and those who disagree must be silenced.

This suppression of dissent violates the core Jewish value of open discourse. Jewish tradition cherishes debate, respects disagreement, and values questions as well as answers. In ancient times, the Beit Midrash––the House of Study––encouraged
passionate argument “for the sake of heaven.”

Jewish tradition has also long insisted that we only judge and be judged by our own deeds. “A son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and a father shall not bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself,
and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20). The dominant social justice ideology, however, holds that individuals bear collective moral guilt or innocence based on the current conception of group identity.

Because this dominant narrative creates a worldview in which groups are only oppressors or oppressed, it encourages pernicious notions of “Jewish privilege,” even implicating Jews in “white supremacy.” This presents many Jews with an impossible set of political choices.

On issues of racial justice, powerful groups in the Jewish world have foreclosed the usual deliberative process. Rarely do Jewish organizations encourage discussions that include differing perspectives, even from within the Black community. In some cases,
Jewish leaders have even denounced Jews for expressing unpopular opinions.

America was born with what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. termed a “birth defect,” continuing the institution of slavery decades after the nation’s founding. Through Reconstruction and Jim Crow, America continually failed to live up to its ideals, engaging in
rampant discrimination and the disenfranchisement of Black Americans. Despite substantial progress since the civil rights movement of the 1960s, much remains to be done to right the profound injustices of America’s legacy of racism.

In the wake of George Floyd’s killing, many Americans, including American Jews, redoubled efforts to create a more just society. But the way to fight racism is not to do away with essential tools. The way to fight racism isn’t to cease discussion and debate.
To do so is antithetical to American ideals and antithetical to Judaism. The way to fight racism is to insist on our common humanity––and to engage in dialogue, including with those who dissent. That is what Judaism demands.

We members of the Jewish community add our voices to the growing chorus supporting our liberal principles, opposing the imposition of ideology, encouraging open discussions of challenging topics, and committing to achieving a more just America.

Original Signatories

Bion Bartning | Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR)
Emily Barton | Des Moines
David L. Bernstein | Founder, Jewish Institute for Liberal Values
David E. Bernstein | University Professor, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
Daniel Bouskila | Rabbi, Sephardic Educational Center
D. Malcolm Carson | Pacifica, California
Mona Charen | Policy Editor, The Bulwark
Eliot Cohen | Dean, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
(for identification purposes only)
Mark Dratch | Executive Vice President, Rabbinical Council of America, New York, NY
Joel Finkelstein | Director Network Contagion Research Institute
Blake Flayton | Co-founder, New Zionist Congress
Daniel Gordis | Shalem College; Jerusalem, Israel
Jonathan Greenberg | Jack Miller Family Foundation
Jonathan Haidt | New York University - Stern School of Business
Samantha Harris | Samantha K. Harris, Esq., Philadelphia, Pa.
Moshe Hauer | Executive Vice President, Orthodox Union
David Ingber | Founder and Senior Rabbi, Romemu
Lee Jussim | Distinguished Professor of Psychology
David Kaufman | Rabbi, Des Moines, Iowa
James Kirchick | Writer
Ben Kramer | Rabbi, Moriah Congregation, Deerfield, Illinois
Josh Kraushaar | Annandale, VA
Liel Leibovitz | Editor at Large, Tablet Magazine, New York, NY
Yuval Levin | American Enterprise Institute
Holli Levitsky | Los Angeles, CA
Nicole Levitt | Domestic Violence Attorney Philadelphia, PA
Bethany Mandel | Editor, Ricochet and Columnist, Forward; Silver Spring, MD
Seth Mandel | Executive Editor, Washington Examiner magazine
Daniel Newman | Jewish Institute for Liberal Values, Columbus, OH
Monica Osborne | Writer and Scholar of Jewish Studies
Pamela Paresky | Psychologist
Steven Pinker | Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Scott Roland | Rabbi, Scott B. Roland, Beachwood, Ohio
Thane Rosenbaum | Distinguished University Professor, Touro College, New York, NY
Dave Rubin | The Rubin Report
Jeffrey Salkin | Rabbi, Temple Israel, West Palm Beach, FL
Hal Schevitz | Rabbi, Congregation Or Atid, Henrico, VA
Ira Sheskin | Hollywood, FL
Maxim D. Shrayer | Brookline & South Chatham, MA
Abigail Shrier | Independent Journalist
Joshua Snitzer | Student Leader
Christina Hoff Sommers | Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute
Bret Stephens | Op-ed columnist, The New York Times
Nadine Strossen | John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law Emerita, New York Law School - New York, NY
Izabella Tabarovsky | Scholar, writer/journalist
Gil Troy | Distinguished Scholar of North American History, McGill University
Aaron Weil | Executive director and CEO Central Florida Hillel, Orlando Fla
Eric Weinstein Ph.D. | Host of The Portal Podcast / Managing Director, Thiel Capital
Bari Weiss | Los Angeles
David Wolpe | Sinai Temple, Los Angeles
Cathy Young | Arc Digital

Concerned Friends of The American Jewish Community (Signatories)

Adv. Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Former Member of Knesset
Michael Oren | Former ambassador, MK, Deputy Minister, Jewish Journalist/Writer
Natan Sharansky | Former Head of the Jewish Agency

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1,031 signatures = 103% of goal

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