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Saperstein to McConnell: Denounce Pogrom Analogies

“[Mr. Blackwell’s] likening of Ms. Johnsen and Ms. Feldblum’s confirmations to the persistent and violent killing of Jews in Cossack-controlled Russia desecrates the memory of those who died in the pogroms”

Contact: Kate Bigam or Jessie Weiser
202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 19, 2010 – In response to anopinion piece published this week on Foxnews.com, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent a letter to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell asking him to distance himself and his party from the ideas espoused in the piece. Full text of the letter follows:

Dear Senator McConnell,

On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 900 congregations encompass nearly 1.5 million Reform Jews nationwide, I write to ask you to publicly distance yourself and the Senate Republican caucus from the Family Research Council Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment Ken Blackwell’s recent assertion that the confirmation of Dawn Johnsen to the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) would amount to a “programmatic pogrom” against Christians. 

The intimation that, with these confirmations, our government would become an oppressive and Christian-hating regime rather than a democracy that values freedom of religious expression is a blatant falsehood.  Mr. Blackwell’s use of rhetoric invoking the pogroms, the widespread destruction of countless Jewish lives in Eastern Europe, is aimed at quashing reasoned political discourse, suggesting that the confirmation of these qualified, respected nominees is beyond the pale of our normal politics.  His likening of Ms. Johnsen and Ms. Feldblum’s confirmations to the persistent and violent killing of Jews in Cossack-controlled Russia desecrates the memory of those who died in the pogroms. 

The Union for Reform Judaism has repeatedly expressed support for Ms. Johnsen, but obstruction has left her nomination in limbo for over a year.  This most-recent, offensive assault on Ms. Johnsen’s integrity must not deter the Senate from considering expediently her nomination and confirming this qualified and willing public servant. Similarly, while we have taken no position on the EEOC nomination, Ms. Feldblum is a respected legal scholar with whom we have worked very closely for years to protect religious freedom and shape religious exemptions in civil rights legislation—the exact opposite of Mr. Blackwell’s contention.

We urge you to speak out about Mr. Blackwell’s offensive comments, and to allow these nominees to proceed to the Senate floor for consideration.

Sincerely,

/s/

Rabbi David Saperstein
Director and Counsel

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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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