Silence is Betrayal: Speak Out Against the Iraq War


We urge American Jewish leaders: SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE IRAQ WAR.

One generation ago, Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, "A time comes when silence is betrayal. That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam."

Today that time has come again. We ourselves must speak out, and we call on our Jewish leaders to speak out: Speak out against the march to a US war against Iraq.

We know that Iraq is not Vietnam. Iraq must not be allowed to pour death upon the world. But we also know that this war would endanger America and Israel and the entire world much more than Vietnam did, and that peaceful means are already at work toward peaceful ends.

Dr. King, April 4, 1967, precisely one year before he was murdered:

"I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

And Rabbi Heschel said: "For many years I lived by the conviction that my destiny is to serve in the realm of privacy... [But] in regard to cruelties committed in the name of a free society, some are guilty, while all are responsible. I did not feel guilty as an individual American for the bloodshed in Vietnam, but I felt deeply responsible. And so I decided to change my mode of living and to become active in the cause of peace in Vietnam."

Most of the American Jewish leadership has failed to speak out vigorously against the march to war, even though the war would damage Jewish interests and values.

  • It would endanger many Iraqi, American, Israeli, and other lives;
  • It would endanger Israel — would bring on, as US intelligence experts have confirmed, the sharpest danger of a last-ditch chemical/ biological attack upon the people of Israel;
  • It would take hundreds of billions of dollars from America's own people — from health care for our seniors, schools for our children, healing for the earth;
  • It would increase the unaccountable power of the oil companies and regimes that have provided money to both the Al Qaeda terrorists and the Bush Administration, that have corrupted American politics and robbed American stockholders, that poison the air and befoul the seas and scorch the earth;
  • It has already deeply wounded human rights and civil liberties not only for Arabs and Muslims in America but even for Persian Jewish immigrants who along with Muslims were rounded up, imprisoned, and threatened with deportation to the regimes they fled;
  • It has occasioned (as reported by the Washington Post, front page, December 26) the torture of US prisoners held overseas by the CIA.

Some leaders may personally approve the march toward war. Others may have opposed it in private but are under pressure from pro-war forces in the American and Israeli Jewish communities, and do not feel they have enough anti-war support to speak out.

In either case, it is urgent for us to make sure they understand how Jewish values and interests would be damaged by war, and urge them to speak out against it.

Thirty-five years ago, Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel were under enormous pressure to keep silent. They spoke out anyway. Today we firmly, gently, seriously do the same.

So let us speak out:

  • For continuing vigorous steps of unimpeded inspection to free the world from fear of Iraqi weaponry;
  • For a Marshall Plan with direct on-the-ground international supervision, providing food and medicine to free Iraqi children from disease and malnutrition;
  • For transferring one hundred billion dollars at once from the super-budget for this war, to meeting our needs at home;
  • For strengthening instead of slashing civil liberties, for halting the Bush Big Brother programs that shatter our rights and privacy, for restoring open government where the Bush Administration has already sealed the public out;
  • AGAINST worsening this crisis and endangering us all by a reckless, destructive attack upon Iraq.

And we ask our Jewish leadership to speak out. Please call or email at least one of these people —
Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice-president, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism , 212/533-7800

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (Reform), 212/ 650-4000

Hannah Rosenthal, Executive Director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, 212/684-6950

Stephen Hoffman, President/CEO, United Jewish Communities, 212/284-6500

Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, 212/319-6111

And also call your own rabbi or the director of your Hillel, JCC, AJC or JCRC.

Keep in mind that they are not the "enemy." If we are coming with a desire to settle the Iraqi-US conflict by peaceful means, then all the more — let us speak with them out of concern, rather than anger.

To quote Adrienne Rich:
What would it mean to live
in a city whose people were changing
each other's despair into hope? —
You yourself must change it ...
What would it mean to stand on the first
page of the end of despair?

To paraphrase the prophet Isaiah (62:1):
For Zion's sake, I will not hold my tongue,
For the children's sake I will not stand in silence,
For America's sake I will not hold back my wailing,
Until the vindication of humanity goes forth as brightness,
And healing for the earth as a shining torch.


Nancy Adess; Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak; Judith F. Beltz; Rab.Stu. Phyllis O. Berman; Cantor Charles Bernhardt; Dr. Shira Birnbaum; Rabbi Lewis E. Bogage; Sylvia Boorstein; Joyce Bressler; Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein; Cherie Brown; Rabbi David Brusin; Dr. Ronald and Sharon Burde; David & Carla Cohen; Staci Cotler; Ruth Crystal; James K. Cummings; Adam Diamond; Joan Ecklein, PhD; Rabbi Amy Eilberg; Deborah Elkin; Rabbi Rachel Esserman; Rabbi Michael E. Feinberg; Jim Feldman and Sharon Sigal; Rabbi Randy Fleisher; Roger Forman; Rabbi Hillel Gamoran; Gregg Garfin; Nan Gefen; Kenneth Giles; Rabbi Bob Gluck; Maggid Andy Gold; Dr. Jay Gold & Sabrina Harmon; Peter Goldberg; Naomi Goodman; Rabbi Maralee Gordon; Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb; Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater; Cynthia Greenberg; David Grinstein ; Rabbi Linda Holtzman; Amy Horwitz; Rabbi Sheldon R. Isenberg & Bahira Sugarman; Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs; Rabbinical Student Amita Jarmon; Jay P. Katz; Donna Katzin; Rabbi David L. Kline; Rabbi Douglas E. Krantz; Joyce Krensky & David Strauss; Chaia Lehrer; Rabbi Daniel Lehrman; Dr. Michael Levin; Rebekah Levin; Rabbi Yael Levy; Rabbi Mordechai Liebling; Theodore Lieverman; Rabbi Ellen Lippmann; Sharyn Loeb; Kay Magilavy; Rabbi Robert Marx; Steven David Masters; Rabbi Rolando Matalon; Melvin Metelits; Ruth Messinger; Deena Metzger; Ira W. Mintz; Lee Moore; James R. Moser; James Munves; Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark & Alisa Solomon; Michelle Newman; Susan B. Parsons; Sandra Polishuk; Murray Polner; Ruth Anna Putnam; Rabbi Michael A. Robinson; Leonard Rodberg; Deliah Rosel and Carroll Durand; Sumner M. Rosen; Penny Rosenwasser; Rabbi Jeff Roth; Barbara Sarah & Marty Laforse; William D. Savedoff & Anne-Marie Smith; Jonathan Savrin; Rabbi Richard Schachet; Joel and Laine Barbanell Schipper; Lisa B. Schwartz; Richard H. Schwartz; Rabbi Gerald Serotta; Jeffrey G Shapiro, Ph.D; Karen Shevet Dinah; Rabbi David Shneyer; Ralph Silber; Nili Simhai; Rabbi Jonathan P. Slater; Rosalind Spigel; Tony Stern; Stephen J. Strahs; Rab. Stu. Yaffa-Shira Sultan; Rabbi Larry Tabick; Phyllis B. Taylor; Silvia Tennenbaum; Elissa Tivona; Judith Tuller; Rabbi Arthur O. Waskow; Howard Waskow & Grey Wolfe; Abigail Weinberg; Rabbi Sheila Weinberg; Rabbi Zari Weiss; Alissa S. Wise; Rabbi Bridget Wynne; Richard E. Yaskin; June Zeitlin & Howard Chernick; Cathy Zheutlin; Rabbi Michael Ziegler; Laurie Zimmerman; Linda Zweig

Please help us speak out again and again — By filling out and mailing this coupon. Your gift is tax-deductible. Each dollar may reduce the amount you pay the Bush Administration to carry out this reckless, destructive war and to dismantle our social justice programs and environmental protections.


To: The Shalom Center, 6711 Lincoln Drive, Philadelphia PA 19119:

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