Aug 31, 2010

Rabbi Sharon Brous in washingtonpost.com: "Supporting the mosque is the American (and Jewish) thing to do"

Rabbi Sharon Brous in washingtonpost.com: "Supporting the mosque is the American (and Jewish) thing to do"

President Obama, after saying that building a mosque at Ground Zero fit our "commitment to religious freedom,"backtracked, saying he wasn't commenting on the 'wisdom' of building it so close to 'hallowed ground.' 
 
A Fox News poll showed that while 61 percent of Americans believe that Cordoba House has a constitutional right to build near Ground Zero, 64 percent believe it is not appropriate to do so.

Does Obama's hedging show a lack of ethical convictions? Does Hamas' endorsement change the debate? What is behind public opposition to the site? Can you believe in religious freedom but not believe the mosque is appropriate?

Last week a group of protesters came to chant "God Hates You" outside the Jewish Community Center where I work, with children waving signs that read GOD HATES JEWS, RABBIS RAPE CHILDREN, YOUR RABBI IS A WHORE, and, of course, GOD HATES FAGS. This was their yearly blitz of Jewish Los Angeles - they targeted a number of synagogues and institutions to make sure that we, and every passerby, knew just how angry God was with us. My colleagues and I had mixed reactions as we stood at the window watching them sing and sway with their signs and their hatred. Most said: they're crazy. Let's get back to work -- we can't be distracted by their idiocy. But I found myself unable to take my eyes off them. Their rant was against Jews and gays, but it was hard not to think of the hysteria over the Cordoba House and the way that civil discourse these days has become so uncivil - so defined by hatred and fear rather than reason and empathy.

President Obama should not have backpedalled. And politicians and faith leaders should not equivocate. For survivors and families of victims, opposition to the Islamic Center is a reflection of grief, pain and fear. But for many others, opposition is rooted in the conviction - stated or unstated -- that all Muslims are responsible for the tragedy and horror of 9/11 and therefore must be held accountable. No amount of interfaith dialogue and cooperation will credential Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan against those who want to believe that, because of the direction in which they pray, they must be preparing to build a terror outpost smack in the center of lower Manhattan. Collective responsibility is a dangerous game, one I don't think any of us want to play -- whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, American. One of the great outcomes of the Enlightenment was the recognition that, despite our ongoing communal connections, we are all ultimately responsible for ourselves as individuals. For Jews, though we say kol yisrael arevim zeh b'zeh -- all Jews are responsible for one another -- we know that we are not all (God forbid) Baruch Goldstein nor are we Bernie Madoff. To condemn an entire people because of the offenses of the few would leave us all with very few friends.

Those who love America must speak about this Center without ambivalence. It hardly helps us in the real fight against Al Qaeda when we alienate Muslims who seek to build communities of freedom, dignity and peace. It is unwise, it is unfair, and it is unAmerican. Mayor Bloomberg said that we would be "untrue to the best part of ourselves - and who we are as Americans - if we said 'no' to a mosque in Lower Manhattan... We would betray our values - and play into our enemies' hands - if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else." And he was right. Period.

I was part of a small group of clergy brought down to the ruins at Ground Zero a couple of nights after 9/11 while the fires were still burning. We were there to offer support to the rescue workers and to bear witness to the horror. I remember wondering: what would it take to redeem this broken place? To bring some healing to this shattered landscape? How will we ever recover what we have lost here? Now it strikes me that perhaps the best way to bring healing and peace to New York City, to our country and to the world, is through supporting initiatives that are dedicated to interfaith cooperation and a politics of reason and empathy rather than hatred and fear. An Islamic Center that is designed to build bridges of religious tolerance and understanding is precisely what we need.

BY SHARON BROUS  |  AUGUST 20, 2010; 7:10 PM ET


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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  ||  Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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