Jewish Groups Welcome the National September 11 Memorial Museum, Call on the Museum to Ensure Dignity and Respect for All

For Immediate Release      

Contact: Donna Nevel 917-570-4371 denevel@gmail.com

Jewish Groups Welcome the National September 11 Memorial Museum, Call on the Museum to Ensure Dignity and Respect for All

May 20, 2014   At 6:00 P.M. tomorrow, Wednesday, May 21, the day on which the National September 11 Memorial Museum officially opens its doors to the public, several Jewish organizations and allies will gather for a vigil in front of the Museum (Liberty Street) to call upon it to edit its six-minute video, The Rise of Al Qaeda, so that it avoids language that helps create a climate in which hatred, discrimination, and violence thrive.

According to Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organizer of the vigil, “We know that the National September 11Memorial Museum will play a unique and invaluable role in educating the public about September 11.  But we are concerned that many people who come from all over the world, and who are not well informed about Muslims and Islam, will come away with inaccuracies and misconceptions. That would do an injustice to the Muslim community and to all our communities.”

The Jewish groups gathering in front of the Museum honor the memory of those who perished on that date and also call upon the Museum to take seriously the concerns expressed by its own multi-faith advisory council, scholars, leading Muslim American and Arab American organizations, and community leaders. According to a letter signed by 400 scholars world-wide, “Labels to describe organizations such as al-Qaeda are heavily disputed among academics, and in a public environment, without proper explanation and historical context, these terms could easily mislead and assign collective responsibility to Muslims and Islam.”

As Marjorie Dove Kent from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, another of the vigil’s co-sponsoring groups, made clear, “The video’s current script will reinforce a dangerous falsehood at the heart of a post-September 11 narrative: that all Muslims are responsible for the attacks on September 11. Connecting Islam as a religion with the September 11 attackers has helped drive a national backlash against Muslims and those assumed to be Muslims—Arab Americans, Sikhs and other South Asians.”  This backlash has included individual anti-Muslim hate crimes and government policies and actions, such as the New York Police Department (NYPD) program that has targeted Muslims because of their religion, not because of indicators of criminal activity—a program that, according to a prominent NYPD official, “never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation.”

“Jews have long resisted the idea of ‘collective guilt’ as applied to Jews,” said Dorothy Zellner of Jews Say No!, another one of the organizing groups. “Editing this video for fairness will prevent the acts of a small group from being associated with an entire worldreligion. We are standing here today as Jews, together with our allies, to reflect our profound commitment to dignity and respect for all.”

The vigil is co-sponsored by several Jewish organizations–Jews Say No!, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace—New York, Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace—Westchester.

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Please join us on May 21 for a vigil in front of the National September 11 Memorial Museum

Please join us from 6:00 til 7:30 PM on Wednesday, May 21st
in front of the National September 11 Memorial Museum
Liberty Street

On Wednesday, May 21, the National September 11 Memorial Museum, which will play a unique role in educating the public about September 11, will open.

As we honor the memory of those who perished on 9/11, please join us to call upon the Museum to edit a six-minute video, The Rise of Al Qaeda, that contains disturbing terminology linking Islam with terrorism and that fails to contextualize al-Qaeda. We call upon the Museum to take seriously the concerns expressed by its multi-faith advisory council, scholars world-wide, leading Muslim American and Arab American organizations, and community leaders. The video’s current script will reinforce a dangerous falsehood at the heart of a post-September 11 narrative: that all Muslims are responsible for the attacks on September 11.

The conflation of Islam with the September 11 attackers has helped drive a national anti-Muslim backlash, including actions by government officials.

The communities being directly impacted by the distortions in this video—Muslims, Arab Americans, Sikhs, and other South Asians—are not asking for special treatment, but rather fairness and clarity in order to ensure that the acts of a small group are not conflated with or attached to an entire world religion. Let us stand together with dignity and respect for all.

This will be a silent vigil to hand out our leaflets to passers-by as they enter the Museum. Signs will be provided.

Co-sponsored by: Jews Say No!, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace–New York, Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace–Westchester

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Jewish Groups Urge National September 11 Museum: Don’t Fuel Anti-Muslim Sentiment

For Immediate Release

Amy Helfant jewsagainstislamophobia@gmail.com
Donna Nevel 917-570-4371; denevel@gmail.com

Jewish Groups Urge National September 11 Museum: Don’t Fuel Anti-Muslim Sentiment

April 29, 2014 The Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition deplores the refusal of the National September 11 Memorial Museum to edit its video, “The Rise of Al Qaeda,” to address the concerns expressed by its multi-faith advisory council, leading American Muslim and Arab American organizations, and community leaders. Protests by those within these communities have highlighted, for example, both the use in the video of problematic terminology that links Islam with terrorism and the failure to contextualize al-Qaeda. As a result, the video’s current script will reinforce a dangerous falsehood at the heart of the post-September 11 narrative: that all Muslims are responsible for the attacks on September 11.

We have seen this misconception play out locally and across the country. Most notable in New York City was the virulent opposition in 2010 to the proposed building of Park51, a Muslim community center and mosque, several blocks from Ground Zero. Hatred and fear of all Muslims were clear in the chants and signs of protesters, the venom that filled the airwaves of the right-wing media, the statements of conservative politicians, the attacks on Muslims and Sikhs and their institutions, and the speeches and writing of anti-Muslim ideologues. The conflation of Islam with the radical beliefs of the September 11 attackers made possible the ugly confrontations and the media circus around Park51.

This conflation has helped drive an anti-Muslim backlash throughout the United States, with hate crimes against Muslims, and those assumed to be Muslims—Arabs, as well as Sikhs and other South Asians. But the backlash is reflected in far more than the attacks on individuals, mosques, and Sikh temples, or a compilation of hate crime statistics (gathered by government agencies that have themselves been busy spying on the Muslim community, planting informers in their institutions, and infiltrating their mosques). Most significantly, this backlash has been institutionalized, with the government funding the training of public security personnel by advocates of anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, Congressional hearings reinforcing the idea that American Muslims are a major threat to the country, and states passing laws, pushed by those who demonize Islam, against the mythical threat of “Sharia law” to the U.S. judicial system.

The Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition fully supports the Muslim community and others striving to create a country in which all people are respected and safe. We believe that all institutions—but especially those, like the National September 11 Memorial Museum, that receive government funding—have a responsibility to prevent misconceptions or propaganda that contribute to hatred, discrimination, and violence against members of any group. We are aware from our own history of the consequences of stereotyping, scapegoating, and dehumanizing people and believe it is imperative that the movie be edited. We hope that the Museum will reconsider its initial refusal to follow the recommendations of its own advisory council and respond to the issues raised by Muslim and Arab American leaders.

Jews Against Islamophobia (JAIC) is a coalition that consists of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), and Jews Say No! (JSN!). 

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Jewish Responses to Islamophobia and Anti-Arab Racism

For Immediate Release

Contact:  
Amy Helfant jaicpress@gmail.com
Donna Nevel  denevel@gmail.com

Jewish Responses to Islamophobia and Anti-Arab Racism

Nov. 20, 2013   Tomorrow, November 21st, at 7:30 PM, Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition (JAIC) will present a roundtable conversation on “Jewish Responses to Islamophobia and Anti-Arab Racism” at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, 57 Bethune Street, Manhattan.  The event is endorsed by Tikkun Magazine.

Panelists include Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah; Rabbi Guy Austrian of the Fort Tryon Jewish Center; Marjorie Dove Kent, executive director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice; and Donna Nevel, community psychologist and activist/writer on Islamophobia.  Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, will moderate.

“We are very excited to have this distinguished group of speakers, and we thank Rabbi Kleinbaum and the CBST community for hosting this event, “ said Vilkomerson, who also stressed that “we hope this crucial conversation will take place in Jewish community spaces across the city.”

According to civil rights lawyer Alan Levine of Jews Say No, “The conversation is an opportunity for us to challenge ourselves as a community about whether we are doing enough to battle Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism.  My generation grew up hearing about how the world stood by when we were being persecuted– with the current climate of anti-Muslim sentiment and action on the streets and by the NYPD, we are called upon to ask ourselves the question of where we stand during this time.”

The panelists and audience will engage with a range of issues, including:
• How can we partner with the Muslim community and others fighting Islamophobia and racism?
• How can we build support within the Jewish community, and why are these issues important to Jews?
• What strategies have we found effective in bringing about change?
• What challenges do we face?

This is the last in a three-part series hosted by JAIC. The first two parts, with speakers from the Muslim community as well as other impacted communities, were “Making the Connections, Organizing for Change: Anti-Muslim Hate Speech, Government Policies, Police Surveillance, and Stop and Frisk” and “Islamophobia, Empire & U.S. Politics: What Are Its Roots? How Do We Respond?”

The CBST sanctuary is wheelchair accessible.

The Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition is composed of Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, and Jews Say No!

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Letter to the Department of Justice requesting investigations into NYPD’s discriminatory surveillance of American Muslim communities

October 24, 2013

Jocelyn Samuels
Acting Assistant Attorney General
United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Office of the Assistant Attorney General, Main
Washington, D.C. 20530

Jonathan M. Smith
Chief, Special Litigation Section
United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Special Litigation Section
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Acting Assistant Attorney General Samuels and Section Chief Smith:

The undersigned civil rights, faith, community, and advocacy groups request that the Civil
Rights Division of the Department of Justice commence a prompt investigation under 42 U.S.C. § 14141 into the New York City Police Department’s (“NYPD”) discriminatory surveillance of American Muslim communities.

As shown by the NYPD’s own documents, for over a decade, the Department has engaged in unlawful religious profiling and suspicionless surveillance of Muslims in New York City (and beyond). This surveillance is based on the false and unconstitutional premise, reflected in the NYPD’s published “radicalization” theory, that Muslim religious belief, practices, and community engagement are grounds for law enforcement scrutiny. That is a premise rooted in ignorance and bias: it is wrong and unfairly stigmatizes Muslims, who are a law-abiding, diverse, and integral part of our nation and New York City. Unsurprisingly, the NYPD’s surveillance program has had far-reaching, deeply negative effects on Muslims’ constitutional rights by chilling speech and religious practice and harming religious goals and missions. It has frayed the social fabric of Muslim communities by breeding anxiety, distrust, and fear. The NYPD’s biased
policing practices hurt not only Muslims, but all communities who rightfully expect that law enforcement will serve and protect America’s diverse population equally, without discrimination.

Under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 § 210401, the United States Attorney General is authorized to conduct investigations concerning “a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers . . . that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” 42 U.S.C. § 14141(a). Where there is reasonable cause to believe that such a pattern or practice has occurred, the Attorney General may pursue equitable and declaratory relief in a civil action. Id. § 14141(b).1

A Department of Justice investigation is warranted here: the attached appendix details the NYPD’s unlawful policies and practices and their resulting harms to Muslims.

We respectfully request that the Civil Rights Division promptly investigate the NYPD’s
unconstitutional program of religious profiling and suspicionless surveillance of Muslims.

Sincerely,

National Organizations
Advocacy for Justice and Peace Committee of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
American Civil Liberties Union
American Humanist Association
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Arab American Institute
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Blacks in Law Enforcement of America
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
Center for Inquiry
Center for National Security Studies
Center for New Community
Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Defending Dissent Foundation
Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
Franciscan Action Network
Groundswell, Auburn Seminary
Hindu American Foundation
Hmong National Development, Inc.
Interfaith Alliance
International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD)
Justice Strategies
KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights
Muslim Advocates
Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA)
Muslim Public Affairs Council
NAACP
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF)
National Council of Jewish Women
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Immigration Project
National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC)
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good
People For the American Way Foundation
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Public Policy Advocacy Network of the Synod of the Northeast (Presbyterian Church USA)
Rights Working Group
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
The Sikh Coalition
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
United Church of Christ – Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
USPAK Foundation

State Organizations
A Better Way Foundation
American Center for Outreach
American Muslim Advisory Council (AMACTN)
Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS)
Arkansas Interfaith Alliance
Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago
Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission
CAIR – Michigan Chapter
CAIR-CT
Center for Intercultural Organizing
Civic Trust Public Lobbying Company
Council on American Islamic Relations-Texas, Dallas Fort Worth
Council on American-Islamic Relations in New Jersey
Council on American-Islamic Relations of Washington State (CAIR-WA)
Georgia Association of Muslim Lawyers
Interfaith Action for Human Rights
Muslim Bar Association of New York
New England Muslim Bar Association
New England Synod – ELCA
New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association
New York Civil Liberties Union
New York Immigration Coalition
North Carolina Justice Center
Raksha, Inc
South Asian Bar Association of Arizona
Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition
The Council on American Islamic Relations of New York (CAIR-NY)
VOCAL New York

Local Organizations
Access California Services
Adhikaar
Arab American Action Network (AAAN)
Arab American Association of New York
Arab Muslim American Federation – New York
ASHA for Women
Asian Law Alliance
Asian Pacific Community in Action
CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities
Capital Area Muslim Bar Association
Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities)
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR)
Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility Project
DRUM – Desis Rising Up & Moving
FIERCE
Interfaith Alliance, Long Island Chapter
Interfaith Center of New York
Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace
Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York
Jewish Voice for Peace – New York City Chapter
Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition
Jews for Racial & Economic Justice
Jews Say No!
Justice Committee
JVP-Westchester
Metropolitan New York Synod
Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood (MIB)
Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC)
Muslim Bar Association of Chicago
Muslim Bar Association of Southern California
Muslim Consultative Network
New York City Anti-Violence Project
New York Harm Reduction Educators (NYHRE)
One America
South Asian Bar Association of Northern California
The Arab American Family Support Center
The Interfaith Alliance – Long Island Chapter
The Interfaith Alliance of Rochester
The Legal Aid Society
The Public Science Project
Tulsa Interfaith Alliance
Turning Point for Women and Families
VOCAL-NY
Westchester Coalition Against Islamophobia
Westchester Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute for Nonviolence
Women In Islam, Inc.

See the full text of the letter, including citations, here: Letter to the DOJ requesting investigation into NYPD’s discriminatory surveillance program targeting American Muslim Communities [PDF link]

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Jewish Responses to Islamophobia and Anti-Arab Racism, November 21, 7:30pm

jaic-jewish_responses

 

We invite you to join us in a roundtable conversation about how we can strengthen our work as Jews committed to challenging Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism. We hope the conversation will help us think more deeply about how we can most effectively engage as partners and allies in one of the most pressing and important civil and human rights issues of our time.

Rabbi Guy Austrian
former Cooperberg-Rittmaster Rabbinical Intern at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah; currently rabbi of the Fort Tryon Jewish Center

Marjorie Dove Kent
director, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
Congregation Beit Simchat Torah

Donna Nevel
community psychologist and activist/writer on Islamophobia

Moderated by Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition and director, Jewish Voice for Peace

The roundtable speakers will open the discussion with questions such as:

• How can we be strong allies with the Muslim community and those fighting Islamophobia and racism?
• How can we engage with, and build support within the Jewish community around these critical issues?
• What strategies have we found effective in bringing about change?
• What challenges do we face in doing this work?

Thursday, November 21 7:30pm at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah 
57 Bethune Street, Manhattan
between Washington St & West Side Highway

Subways:
A, C, E, 14th St. L to Eighth Avenue
1 to 14th St & 7th Avenue

The sanctuary is wheelchair accessible (enter courtyard from Bank Street, proceed to main lobby, take elevator to 2nd floor, and ring doorbell). The bathrooms are not accessible.

All are welcome to join us.

This is the last in a three-part series hosted by JAIC. The first two parts, with speakers from the Muslim community as well as other impacted communities, were “Making the Connections, Organizing for Change: Anti-Muslim Hate Speech, Government Policies, Police Surveillance, and Stop and Frisk” and “Islamophobia, Empire & U.S. Politics: What Are Its Roots? How Do We Respond?”

This event is endorsed by Tikkun Magazine
Facebook link

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Jews Condemn New York City’s Latest Incidents of Racist Violence & Religious Bigotry

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Amy Helfant jaicpress@gmail.com
Donna Nevel denevel@gmail.com

Jews Condemn New York City’s Latest Incidents of Racist Violence & Religious Bigotry

September 26, 2013 Members of the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition were angered and saddened to learn of the vicious bias-related attacks on Saturday, September 21, in New York City, and join with all those who are fighting to ensure that we live in a city that is safe for all residents. Dr. Prabhjot Singh, a professor at Columbia University, and a companion, a fellow Sikh, were assaulted in upper Manhattan by about a dozen individuals who called them “Osama” and “terrorist” and broke Dr. Singh’s jaw. As part of his Sikh faith, Dr. Singh was wearing a turban. According to a new report, Turban Myths, put out by SALDEF (Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund) and Stanford University, 48% of Americans mis-identify urban wearers as Muslim, and over 20% of Sikh schoolchildren suffer violence as a “price for maintaining their Sikh identity.” As Dr. Singh commented two days after the attack, “Our turban and beard are a trigger for fear in the minds of many Americans” (NY Times, September 23, 2013). Additionally, an individual assaulted a New Jersey woman wearing a hijab and called her a “f**king terrorist,” as she attended a pro-democracy rally in Times Square.

Even as we deplore these vicious attacks on individuals, we view them not as isolated incidents but as part of a systemic assault on the rights and liberties of Muslim, South Asian, and other targeted communities in NYC. While the police are investigating the attack on the two Sikh men as a possible hate crime and have arrested the alleged perpetrator of the assault on the Muslim woman at the rally, the NYPD and public officials, along with right-wing media and a network of anti-Muslim ideologues, must share responsibility for fostering an anti-Muslim atmosphere that encourages people to view both Muslims and those mistaken for Muslims as terrorists. A police department that has guidelines associating those who wear a beard and other signifiers of religious observance with “terrorism,” and implicitly labels all Muslims as terrorist suspects by its surveillance of New York City’s entire Muslim community, sends a message of suspicion and bigotry that fuels such attacks.

We urge members of the Jewish community and all New Yorkers to speak out strongly in our schools, workplaces, community organizations and houses of worship against bigotry, wherever it may occur; and to demand strong responses and action from government leaders and representatives that must include, first and foremost, requiring that the NYPD abandon its anti-Muslim policies. We also encourage as many of us as possible to join community actions and responsesthat are called by our allies during this time. (Our website will list actions as we learn about them.) Attacks on individuals because they are “walking while Sikh” or “standing on the street while Muslim” are simply unacceptable in our city.

The Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition (JAIC) consists of three groups: Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and Jews Say No! (JSN!). http://www.jewsagainstislamophobia.org/

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Jewish New Year Call for Justice for Muslim Community: “Stop NYPD Surveillance!”

For Immediate Release
September 2, 2013

Contact:
Amy Helfant jaicpress@gmail.com
Donna Nevel denevel@gmail.com 

Jewish New Year Call for Justice for Muslim Community:
“Stop NYPD Surveillance!”

The Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition strongly condemns the policies and activities of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), which, the Associated Press has just revealed, designates mosques as “terrorism enterprises” in order to more easily spy on them and infiltrates Muslim community organizations. For years, the NYPD has targeted the Muslim community on the basis of religion. As we approach the Jewish High Holy Days season, we urge all Jews and Jewish institutions—and all New Yorkers—to join us in publicly and unequivocally opposing the NYPD’s unlawful surveillance program.

We were angered, but not surprised, to learn from the AP last week that the NYPD, which sent informants on a Muslim students’ rafting trip in 2008, also had placed informants in mosques: reporting that one mosque is building a gym (planning jujitsu classes), and one young Muslim leader, whose wedding the NYPD videotaped and infiltrated, was organizing camping and paintball trips. All these NYPD activities were part of the newly revealed Terrorism Enterprise Investigations (TEI), which can last for years.  According to the AP article, “the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating a terrorism enterprise.” This surveillance program operates in a discriminatory and abusive manner, like the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program, which, as a federal judge recently ruled, unconstitutionally violates the rights of people of color in New York City.

As with earlier NYPD and FBI programs, which focused on African American, anti-war, and other groups, the NYPD program also involves planting informants in the leadership of nonprofit groups. One group targeted by the NYPD is the Arab American Association of New York, a Brooklyn-based social service organization.  The NYPD’s effort to place informants on the boards of groups like AAANY violates the civil liberties of those targeted and threatens all of us who work in pro-justice organizations.

The Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition continues to fully support the Muslim community and all those opposing the NYPD’s unjust and unconstitutional attacks on Muslim individuals, religious institutions, and community groups.

The Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition (JAIC) consists of three groups: Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and Jews Say No! (JSN!). http://www.jewsagainstislamophobia.org/

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Jewish Coalition Reaffirms Commitment to Challenging Islamophobia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Amy Helfant jaicpress@gmail.com
Donna Nevel denevel@gmail.com

Jewish Coalition Reaffirms Commitment to Challenging Islamophobia

Sunday, April 14, 2013 The Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition (JAIC) strongly reaffirms its commitment to challenging Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism and calls on the rest of the Jewish community to do the same. While the Great Neck Synagogue has decided not to host Pamela Geller, JAIC is outraged by those synagogues and Jewish institutions that are now offering platforms for Geller’s hate speech. JAIC also condemns those who have been targeting individuals speaking out against hate speech.

“The kind of hate speech we see regularly in New York, coupled with government violations of the rights of the Muslim community, makes it a very unsafe environment for the Muslim community,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace and member of JAIC. “We need to continue to speak out unequivocally against it. Our community needs to take seriously the need to continue to challenge the systems and practices that enable Islamophobia to flourish.”

“As a Jew, when I hear about the NYPD surveillance program against the Muslim community and other ways the Muslim community has been targeted, I am reminded of the state-sponsored anti-Semitism that we endured at different times in our history,” said civil rights lawyer Alan Levine of JAIC. “It was intolerable then when it happened to the Jewish community. It’s intolerable now when it happens to the Muslim community.”

Marjorie Dove Kent, executive director of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, another member organization of the Coalition, said, “Islamophobic rhetoric supports and facilitates programs such as NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim communities. As the recent Mapping Muslims report documents, this program and ones like it have very real harmful effects on individuals and a chilling effect on people’s right to practice their religion and participate in democratic life.”

JAIC joins the Muslim community as it organizes against Islamophobia and racism and for justice and dignity for all communities.

The Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition is composed of Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and Jews Say No!.

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Great Neck Synagogue Should Condemn Anti-Muslim Bigotry

For Immediate Release
April 4, 2013

Contact:
Donna Nevel denevel@gmail.com
Amy Helfant jaicpress@gmail.com

JEWS AGAINST ISLAMOPHOBIA COALITION SAYS:GREAT NECK SYNAGOGUE SHOULD CONDEMN ANTI-MUSLIM BIGOTRY

During this Passover season, in which we celebrate freedom from slavery and oppression, the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition is especially outraged that the leaders of the Great Neck Synagogue have chosen Pamela Geller to speak at the synagogue on April 14, rather than condemn–loudly and unambiguously–her record of anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry.

The respected Southern Poverty Law Center lists Stop Islamization of America, a group co-founded by Geller, as a “hate group,” specifically because it repeatedly expounds a view of all Muslims as terrorists, potential terrorists, or terrorist sympathizers. The website of another Geller group, American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), publishes a broad array of anti-Islamic materials that are widely used by extremist right-wing organizations.

Through AFDI, Geller has posted hate ads in Westchester, New York City, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco that vilify an entire religion. Geller and her followers have orchestrated vicious campaigns against Muslims’ right to practice their religion, opposing the building of mosques and cultural centers and fomenting fear about the use of Sharia law. People across the country have joined the Muslim community to oppose these ads and these actions–to ensure that the rights of all our communities are fully protected and that no group is subjected to any form of harassment or racism.

Objecting to the invitation to Geller is not a First Amendment or censorship issue. Only the government can violate someone’s free speech rights. It is one thing to open one’s synagogue for dialogue reflecting different political viewpoints; it is quite another to welcome into it someone who spews racist hatred.

The willingness of an institution like the Great Neck Synagogue to welcome someone who promotes religious bigotry and racism—rather than to condemn such messages and acts—helps to fuel the hate-filled atmosphere in which such ideas thrive within and beyond the Jewish community. This atmosphere has contributed to physical and verbal attacks on Muslims and South Asians as well as to governmental violations of civil rights, such as the NYPD surveillance program against the Muslim community in the metropolitan area and beyond

We stand with all members of the Long Island community who have spoken out against such hatred, and we condemn the attacks that have been made against those who have stood up and called on the synagogue to cancel this invitation.

The Jews Against Islamophobia (JAIC) Coalition consists of three groups: Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and Jews Say No! (JSN!). http://www.jewsagainstislamophobia.org/

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