November 3, 2016
The Honorable Ron Dermer
Embassy of Israel
3514 International Drive NW
Washington, DC 20008
Dear Ambassador Dermer,
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass more than 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis, I write to express concern over your decision to accept the 2016 Freedom Flame Award from the Center for Security Policy.
The Center for Security Policy (CSP), founded by Frank Gaffney, has become in recent years an organization that demonizes Muslims and Islam. CSP has publicly partnered with vocal white nationalist Jared Taylor. It has stoked alarmist anti-shariah sentiments by conducting a widely-discredited poll, the “results” of which suggested that American Muslims broadly support governance by shariah law. Mr. Gaffney has suggested that President Obama was not born in the United States, that Huma Abedin is a Muslim Brotherhood operative attempting to infiltrate the U.S. government, and that Saddam Hussein was behind the Oklahoma City bombing.
The Washington Post, the Anti-Defamation League, and other respected institutions have extensively profiled Frank Gaffney, CSP and their peddling of discredited Islamophobic conspiracy theories. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated the CSP a hate group and Mr. Gaffney an extremist due their activities targeting Muslims.
I need not remind you of the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people because of religious bigotry. Many of our parents and grandparents sought refuge in the U.S. and Israel from the religious persecution they faced in their countries of origin. Religious freedom is a founding principle of both Israel and the United States, and an attack on one faith group threatens people of all faiths. We are also reminded of the shared heritage of Judaism, Islam and Christianity as children of Abraham and as such we reject all attempts to sow division. If we strive to be our sibling’s keeper (Genesis, 4:9), we cannot remain silent or tacitly endorse anti-Muslim bigotry.
I respectfully urge you to turn down the CSP’s Freedom Flame award.
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner