Rabbi Jonah Pesner's Letter to Senators Regarding Dilawar Syed

July 12, 2021

Dear Senator,

I write on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the nation’s largest Jewish movement, encompassing more than 1.8 million congregants, 1,800 rabbis, and 850 synagogues.

The Union for Reform Judaism takes positions on executive branch nominees only in rare circumstances. While we take no position on the nomination of Dilawar Syed to be the Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and do not agree with him on all issues, we vehemently oppose any effort to use unfounded insinuations of antisemitism as grounds for opposition to his confirmation.

The United States’ commitment to principles of religious freedom has allowed people of faith to flourish in this nation in ways unmatched around the world. Nonetheless, as Jews, we have known the pain of spurious allegations of dual loyalty or being insufficiently “American.” In prior generations, such accusations limited professional achievements for too many American Jews. We are thus deeply pained by and utterly reject any effort to suggest that Mr. Syed’s association with Muslim civic organizations renders him suspect for confirmation to a senior position in the administration. 

Throughout his professional career and his public service, including chairing the Obama White House’s Initiative on AAPIs’ Economic Growth Committee, Mr. Syed has built several businesses, contributed to his community, and engaged with other across lines of faith. Mr. Syed has visited Israel with San Francisco’s Jewish Community Relations Council and met with Israeli government, community, and business leaders. During his confirmation hearing, he said unequivocally that he does not support the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement. Accusations of his antisemitism are simply baseless.

We also reject efforts to disparage Emgage, a respected Muslim organization, on whose board Mr. Syed served. Emgage does laudable work mobilizing the Muslim American community around civic engagement and expanding participation in the public square, a goal we share.

We urge you to reject any effort to use Mr. Syed’s Muslim faith, association with Emgage, or unjustified accusations of antisemitism as grounds for opposing his nomination.


Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner