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Prominent Rabbi, NAACP National Board member, Responds To Anti-Semitic, Anti-Lieberman Statements of Fallas NAACP Leader

Saperstein: “Of course every community has within it individuals who are purveyors of prejudice. But we must never impute the extremist comments of the few to an entire community. That is exactly the type of prejudice that the NAACP and the Jewish community, in fact, work together every day to eradicate.”

WASHINGTON, August 9, 2000 - Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today reacted to anti-Semitic comments made by the President of the Dallas Chapter of the NAACP concerning Senator Joseph Lieberman’s selection as the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential nominee. Rabbi Saperstein, who also serves as a member of the NAACP’s National Board of Directors, noted that, “For Jews across this nation, the sense of new possibilities, of barriers being removed, is palpable. African-Americans, too, realize that, as Rev. Jesse Jackson said to Senator Lieberman, ‘each time a barrier falls for one person, the doors of opportunity open wider for every American.’”

The full text of Rabbi Saperstein’s statement follows:

I am outraged, offended, and deeply disappointed by the comments made by Lee Alcorn of Dallas concerning the nomination of Joseph Lieberman as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee. (According to the Dallas Morning News, Mr. Alcorn told a Dallas radio show that he was “concerned about…any kind of Jewish candidate….” And that “I think we need to be very suspicious of any kind of partnerships between Jews at that level because we know that their interest primarily has to do with…money and these kind of things.”)

Much has been made of the fact that Mr. Alcorn is President of the Dallas Chapter of the NAACP. Yet nothing in the NAACP’s public life, or in my 14 years of experience on its National Board, reflects any sympathy for Mr. Alcorn’s offensive comments. Of course every community has within it individuals who are purveyors of prejudice. But we must never impute the extremist comments of the few to an entire community. That is exactly the type of prejudice that the NAACP and the Jewish community, in fact, work together every day to eradicate.

Although neither the NAACP nor my own organization supports or opposes candidates for public office, it is impossible not to be struck by the reaction in both the Jewish and African-American communities to the selection of the first-ever Jewish member of a major party ticket. For Jews across this nation, the sense of new possibilities, of barriers being removed, is palpable. African-Americans, too, realize that, as Rev. Jesse Jackson said to Senator Lieberman, “each time a barrier falls for one person, the doors of opportunity open wider for every American.”

I want to commend NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume for his prompt and forceful repudiation of Mr. Alcorn’s comments. As Mr. Mfume clearly realizes, the danger of remarks such as those made by Mr. Alcorn is that they will be used to divide our communities. Mr. Mfume’s comments - he called Mr. Alcorn’s remarks “repulsive, anti-Semitic, anti-NAACP, and anti-American” - reflect his own personal commitment to not allowing that to happen, as well as the NAACP’s continuing commitment to building an America in which racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice are increasingly rare.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations(UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis. .



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