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Reform Jewish Leader Applauds Presidential Steps to Stop Torture and Close Guantanamo

Saperstein: “The decision to close Guantanamo and stop U.S- sponsored torture gives us hope that we are on a path to restoring principles of justice that have been set aside for far too long.”

Contact: Kate Bigam or Arielle Gingold
202.387.2800 |

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 22, 2009 – In response to President Barack Obama’s issuance today of three executive orders relating to the use of torture and the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement:

We welcome President Obama’s announcement today prohibiting all United States personnel from using torture and beginning the process of closing the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The Union for Reform Judaism, at its 2005 Biennial Convention, called for a cessation of the use of torture, and in 2008, the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism resolved to support necessary steps to closing Guantanamo Bay.

The decision to close Guantanamo and end U.S-sponsored torture gives us hope that we are on a path to restoring principles of justice that have been set aside for far too long. These Executive Orders send a clear statement of a return to the principles that have made the United States of America a beacon of freedom and democracy to the world.

Ending the use of interrogation methods that amount to torture will help our actions once again reflect the ideals on which our nation was founded. We must remain equally committed to providing law enforcement with the tools necessary to combat terrorism at home and abroad and to preserve the principles and ideals that the terrorists want to destroy.

We understand that the process of closing Guantanamo may be lengthy. The profound problems with Guantanamo do not erase the fact that many detainees are dangerous and wish our nation and its people harm. Yet these same detainees have been stuck in a legal no-man’s-land without the ability to challenge their detention through a writ of habeas corpus and without the right to be charged or hear the evidence against them. Many have been subjected to tortuous treatment that defiles both the victim and the perpetrator. No matter the circumstances, every individual, including the most dangerous detainee in our prisons, is created b’tselem elohim, in the image of God, and must be treated with dignity and respect.


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more  than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.

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