Memo to the Anti-Defamation League: These Jews Don't Share Your Position

We believe the ADL's decision to oppose the building of the Islamic Community Center near Ground Zero is wrong, and that it goes against the ADL's description of itself as an organization that fights "all forms of bigotry."
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The following letter is from a group of concerned Jews, connected by their community, responding to the Anti-Defamation League's Statement on the Islamic Community Center Near Ground Zero.

Dear Mr. Foxman,

Last week the New York Times reported on the Anti-Defamation League's decision to oppose the building of the Islamic Community Center, the Cordoba House, near Ground Zero. You were quoted comparing the anguish of the 9/11 victims' families to that of Holocaust survivors and their relatives. "Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted," you said.

We can relate to these "irrational" feelings. We are a diverse group of Jews, many of us from New York. Many of our families lost members to the Holocaust. Some of us are lucky enough to still be able to spend time with parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts who made it through the Nazi death camps. We remember how uneasy many Jews felt about the Christian crosses placed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, a situation with many parallels to that of the Cordoba House.

And yet we believe that your position on the Cordoba House is wrong and that it goes against the ADL's description of itself as an organization that fights "all forms of bigotry."

Cordoba House is not a mosque, it is an Islamic Community Center, similar to a Jewish Community Center, with a board comprised of members of different faiths. The center is not "at" Ground Zero, as certain politicians looking to exploit this divisive situation have stated. It is well-documented that the Cordoba initiative and its head, Imam Faisal Abdul Raouf, have done much to promote tolerance and interfaith relations. This, we feel, is something to celebrate. Seeking transparency from it is fine and right, but saying, as the ADL does, that "questions have been raised" about its sources of funding or its ideology is a form of scaremongering that obscures the issue. We should welcome a Muslim leader who has worked hard to overcome hatred.

There are other reasons not to oppose the project. We agree with you that some victims of 9/11 are entitled to "irrational" feelings as a result of their loss. But being less tolerant will not help us heal, and it is not wise for America to alienate millions of its own citizens, let alone the hundreds of millions of Muslims in countries that Americans visit around the world. Remember, there were Muslim victims on 9/11, too, Muslims that worked in the World Trade Center, or were part of the rescue crews that bravely entered the buildings that day.

Previously, the ADL has won respect for its historical defense of the freedoms of others, and helped make more widely known the Jewish commitment to tikkun olam. We fear that your position on the Cordoba House project will tarnish that reputation.

This issue is emotional and complex. No matter what happens with the Cordoba House now, feelings are going to be hurt. But a fundamental principle of tolerance is at stake -- one we look to the ADL to uphold. Tolerance for one means tolerance for all, or else we slip down a dangerous slope.

We urge the ADL to change its position, and we urge everyone who agrees with us to sign the online petition that was started by J Street.

Endorsed by,

Sandi DuBowski, filmmaker

Eli Pariser, organizer

Nicola Behrman, writer

Robert Russell, artist

Francine Hermelin, author/entrepreneur & resident of Lower Manhattan

Julie Hermelin, filmmaker

Tarah Malhotra Feinberg, creative director

Elisha Levin, publicist

Douglas Rushkoff, author

Maya Benton, art curator

Jen Cohen, cantor

Ethan Sandler, writer/performer/producer

Rabbi David Adelson, East End Temple, New York

Michaela Watkins, performer/writer (and cousin of WTC victim)

Rachel Sklar, writer/social entrepreneur

Scott Belsky, author, entrepreneur

Adi Cohen, human rights activist

Mark Hanis, human rights activist

Kristopher Brown, attorney

Simon Glickman, writer/editor

Charles London, author

Juliet Simmons, creative director

Gideon Lichfield, journalist

Molly Rosen, writer

Stephen Elliott, author

Scott Goodstein, writer & activist

Rebecca Goldfarb, artist

Adam Werbach, environmental activist

Stacy Horne, producer

Davy Rothbart, writer/filmmaker

Jessica Tully, artist

Alan Light, writer/editor

Alana Klein, law professor

Adam Dorn, musician

Ari Wallach, social agenda strategist

Gillian Laub, photographer

Rachel Weinstein, activist and educator

Aaron Davidman, playwright

Audra Lehman, M.D.

William Wimsatt, social entrepreneur

Jeremy Goldberg, digital media entrepreneur

Joanna Rudnick, documentary filmmaker

Justin Ruben, organizer

Mireille Silcoff, writer/editor

Jeremiah Lockwood, musician

Amichai Lau-Lavie, rabbi

Ilyse Hogue, organizer

Josh Kun, professor

Josh Spear, digital strategist

Joshuah Bearman, writer

Eric Heiman, Design professor, writer

Jason Turbow, author/journalist

Zach Arrick, banker

Alan Light, writer/editor

Eugene Mirman, comedian

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