We must work to create a society in which political differences are fought with words on the floors of Congress, state legislatures, courts and editorial pages, and not with guns and bombs.
WASHINGTON October 29, 1998—On behalf of the 875 congregations of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the 1,800 Rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the 1.5 million Reform Jews across the nation, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today participated in a Capital Hill rally with a broad array of religious and advocacy organizations to honor the memory of Dr. Barnett Slepian.
Mr. Pelavin released the following statement at the rally:
"Today, we remember the life of Barnett Slepian, a devoted father and husband, a compassionate physician and a man of moral conviction and courage. Last Friday, October 23rd, Dr. Slepian returned home from synagogue in Buffalo, New York—where he was commemorating the anniversary of his father's death—when he was fatally shot, standing in his home, with his wife, Lynn, and son, Andrew. The reason for this gruesome tragedy—Dr. Slepian, an obstetrician-gynecologist, legally performed abortions in a downtown Buffalo clinic for women who needed them, women who often had no other option available to them.
Dr. Slepian's assassination, tragically, is not an isolated act. We face what appears to be an organized campaign of violence and intimidation towards abortion providers and those who uphold a woman's right to choose. Dr. Slepian is only one of several doctors who have been shot for performing constitutionally-protected medical procedures. We must remember them and work even harder to stop those who would turn to violence and lawless action to express their political views.
As people of faith, we respond to the murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian with both prayer and the active pursuit of justice. We mourn the death of our fellow Jew, whose life was sacrificed because he sought to protect the lives of so many people, and we stop to think about what his death meant to those whose lives he touched daily. His family, friends, co-workers, and patients will forever be affected by this tragedy. Together, we express both our sympathy and our concern for their healing.
But it is not enough for us simply to remember and mourn. Like Dr. Slepian, we must have the moral courage to do what we know is right, even when facing threats from those who would have us do otherwise. We must have the fortitude to speak out, even when it would be easier to remain silent. We must work to create a society in which political differences are fought with words on the floors of Congress, state legislatures, courts and editorial pages, and not with guns and bombs.
This tragedy cannot be separated from the other acts of hate-motivated violence that have plagued our nation in recent months: Matthew Shepard, the gay college student in Wyoming, brutally murdered for no reason other than his sexual orientation and James Byrd, the African-American man in Texas, dragged behind a car and killed, simply because of the color of his skin. Jewish tradition is clear: We must not "sit idly by the blood of our neighbor" (Leviticus 19:16)—nor can we afford to watch this violence tear our nation apart.
Today, our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Slepian's wife, Lynn, and their four children. Let us pledge to do whatever we can in our lives, in our congregations and in our communities, to ensure that no family will have to suffer from such hatred and ignorance again."
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.