Statement of Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, on the Nuclear Reduction/Disarmament Project's Release of Its Joint Statement
June 21, 2000
In the Bible it was commanded that before the Israelite army could engage in warfare, the priests needed to read to the assembled the rules of what was ethically permitted in warfare and what was prohibited. That interaction between religion and the military created the first ethical strictures of warfare — the foundation of what later became known as "just war theory."
Today we religious and military leaders continue this tradition. We stand together in this House of God, informed by our values, learning from our respective expertise, aware of the horrible human cost of war and conflict, weary of the threat posed by nuclear proliferation — to call upon Congress, the President, the American military, and the American people to lead the way towards a process of nuclear reduction and disarmament.
I am here representing the Reform Jewish Movement with some 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,700 Reform Rabbis in 900 congregations in North America. For we Jews know, perhaps better than most, the danger of linking destructive technology with man's inhumanity to man.
As Samuel Pisar, the eloquent Holocaust survivor said in his extraordinary speech before the Israeli Knesset at the Second Gathering of Holocaust Survivors:
To us, the Holocaust is not only an indelible memory of horror; it is a permanent warning. For we have seen the end of creation. In the shadow of permanently flaming gas chambers, where Eichman's reality eclipsed Dante's vision of hell, we have witnessed a pilot project of the destruction of humanity, the death rattle of the entire species on the eve of the atomic age, of thermonuclear proliferation — the final solution.
Here, with the authority of the numbers engraved on our arms, we cry out the commandments of six million innocent souls, children, of whom I used to be one: never again! From where, if not from us, will come the warning that a new combination of technology and brutality can transform the planet into a crematorium? From where, if not from the bloodiest killing ground of all time, will come the hope that coexistence between so called "hereditary enemies" is possible - between Germans and Frenchmen, Chinese and Japanese, Americans and Russians; above all, coexistence between Arabs and Jews?
Towards that end, at this crucial crossroads of history, we join to call on the world to recognize that threats of violence too often leads to violence; and threats of cataclysmic violence may well lead to cataclysmic violence; that nuclear proliferation benefits no one; that we can, we will, and we must find other ways to protect ourselves, our nations and our future: for it is not sufficient to have a temporary peace in our time, but, instead, we must leave a stable, trusting, cooperative and peaceful world to our children. That is the vision that must mobilize every church, synagogue, and mosque towards sustained efforts to raise the moral conscience of their members and our nation; it is the vision that should link every true soldier and every religious person together. It is certainly the vision that brings us here today.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, representing its 895 congregations across North America, whose membership includes 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the 1700 rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.