When Rabbis Attack: Standing Up for Charles Jacobs

June 13, 2010

The name Charles Jacobs should be a familiar one to readers of this blog. Charles Jacobs, founder of The David Project, co-founder of the Boston branch of CAMERA and the American Anti-Slavery Group, and now Americans for Peace and Tolerance. I would hazard to say, without any exaggeration at all, that Charles Jacobs has done as much or more for the Jewish People (and Western Values in general) off the pulpit than any other single person in New England.
Unfortunately for Charles, and more importantly, for us all, Charles Jacobs stepped on the toes of the Massachusetts left-wing Rabbinical establishment with his recent column: What’s up with Deval Patrick? In the column, Jacobs addresses the political controversy stirred up by Governor Deval Patrick’s recent visit to the Islamic Society of Boston Mosque. (More on that in the videos below.) Along the way, Jacobs called out some of the local religious leadership which has credulously run toward the cliff in allowing themselves to be used as a whitewash for some of the mosque’s radical connections, many of whom should well know better. Jacobs even had the temerity (honesty) to call Rabbi Eric Gurvis by name.
Read the linked column. What’s written about Gurvis may sting for the truth of it, but it can hardly be called a substance-less personal attack.
Not so the response it has garnered, however.
Not allowing any slight to go unpunished, seventy of Gurvis’ colleagues — most of them on the liberal left-wing of the Reform and Reconstructionist movements — have counterattacked with an open letter, printed in the same local paper that Jacobs’ column originally appeared in. I have pasted the letter and the complete list of signatories at the end of this post. Please review the list to see if your Rabbi is on it.
The Rabbis call the Jacobs column a “vicious, personal attack,” when it was anything but. In fact, it is these Rabbis who are guilty of committing a scurrilous personal attack on a man who has put more on the line for this community than most of them can ever hope to do in their lifetimes. Their letter is devoid of any response whatsoever to the substantive matters that Charles Jacobs has exposed. Their letter is a reply the nature of which ought to be beneath the dignity of Jewish clergy. They didn’t respond this way when it was brought to light that patrons of this mosque were preaching the worst kind of despicable Jew hatred. No, these “leaders” who have elevated “dialogue” and “interfaith relations” to the level of a fetish have reserved their worst invective for a man who dared simply to criticize one of their guild. They have utterly abdicated their responsibility to protect their own community in favor of good relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and a few friendly photo-ops, even stooping to the commandeering of Torah verse as a bludgeon, a blackjack employed in the service of their personal vendetta.
Where have they been as the Wahhabis have built the east coasts’ largest Mosque? Silent. Hiding. Complicit. And they dare attack the one man — more leader than any of them — who was willing to put himself and his own reputation on the line when none of them would? Shame on them. The fact is they know they’ve lost authority, though their own inaction, to this unordained layman…and it galls them.
They have so badly forgotten that their primary responsibility to the rest of us is not comity at all costs, but to speak the truth and stand for our community, that they have cast their sense of propriety to the wind and shamed themselves.
Again I ask, is your Rabbi on the list?
Here is everything you need to know. First, watch this excellent video of Charles discussing matters with Bill Whittle of PJTV. Jacobs is eloquent and measured throughout:

Second, here is that Americans for Peace and Tolerance video about the Patrick visit to the Mosque. This is that painful substance the Rabbis wish to ignore:

By the way, even the lefty Boston Phoenix assails the Patrick visit to the ISB in an excellent editorial entitled Mickey Mouse Multiculturalism
Now, here is that “Rabbinical” letter:

Rabbis come to the defense of a colleague under fire
We write in defense of our colleague Rabbi Eric Gurvis. Rabbi Gurvis leads Temple Shalom of Newton, is the past president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, Boston Area Reform Rabbis and currently serves as the president of the Newton Clergy Association. He is a distinguished teacher and respected community leader.
We were shocked and appalled by the vicious, personal attack written by Charles Jacobs and printed in
The Jewish A dvocate. We denounce this attack and call upon Mr. Jacobs to discontinue his destructive campaign against Boston’s Muslim community, which is based on innuendo, half-truths and unproven conspiracy theories. We call upon members of our community to reject the dangerous politics of division that Mr. Jacobs fosters.
Rabbi Gurvis stood with a number of us at a recent interfaith press conference, denouncing the inappropriate words of a gubernatorial candidate who implied that addressing a large group of Muslims was “pandering to terrorists.” Just as we rabbis would expect Christians and Muslims to stand with us Jews if we were unjustly held accountable for the actions of a handful of our people, Rabbi Gurvis stood with our Muslim neighbors. In fact, he pointed out that when Temple Shalom was defaced by a swastika, one of the first calls he received was from Bilal Kaleem from the Muslim American Society.
During these difficult times, Rabbi Gurvis, along with other courageous religious leaders, is attempting to foster a different kind of politics. We support his commitment to interfaith dialogue and cooperation. We stand together in our commitment to a community in which neighbors seek to know one another and join together for the common good.
We write these words following the week in which the Torah portion was Shelach Lecha. It tells the stories of the Israelite scouts who were overcome by fear. As a result, they “spread calumnies” among the entire Israelite camp, who in turn broke out into loud cries and weeping. Because they succumbed to their fears, G-d condemned this generation to die in the wilderness. We refuse to allow Mr. Jacobs to spread his calumnies and paralyze our community in fear.
We the undersigned rabbis support Rabbi Eric Gurvis and walk together in faith. (Institutional affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.)
Rabbi Thomas Alpert
Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld
(dean, Rabbinical School, Hebrew College)
Rabbi Stephen Arnold
Rabbi Lev Baesh (B’nai Or, Newton)
Rabbi Alfred Benjamin
(Rabbi, Temple Shalom, Milton)
Rabbi Joseph Berman
Rabbi Allison Berry (Temple Beth David, Canton)
Rabbi Herman Blumberg (Emeritus, Temple Shir
Tikva, Wayland)
Rabbi Carey Brown (Temple Isaiah, Lexington)
Rabbi Sharon Clevenger (The Rashi School,
Rabbi Joe Eiduson (Congregation B’nai Shalom,
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson (Temple Beth Avodah,
Newton Centre)
Rabbi John Franken (Temple Ohabei Shalom,
Rabbi David Freelund (Cape Cod Synagogue,
Rabbi Ronne Friedman (Temple Israel, Boston)
Rabbi Neal Gold (Temple Shir Tikva, Wayland)
Rabbi Robert Goldstein (Temple Emanuel
Rabbi David Gordis (past president, Hebrew
Rabbi Art Green (Hebrew College, Newton)
Rabbi Neil Hirsch (Temple Shalom, Newton)
Rabbi Boaz Heilman (Congregation B’nai Torah,
Rabbi Sandi Intraub (Chaplain Resident, Hebrew
SeniorLife )
Rabbi Howard Jaffe (Temple Isaiah, Lexington)
Rabbi Shira Joseph (Congregation Sha’aray
Shalom, Hingham)
Rabbi Dan Judson (Hebrew College, Newton)
Rabbi Randy Kafka (Temple Israel South Shore,
North Easton)
Rabbi Daniel Klein
Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein
Rabbi David Kline
Rabbi Stephanie Kolin (Temple Israel, Boston)
Rabbi Neil Kominsky (Emeritus, Temple Emanuel,
Rabbi Jonathan Kraus (Beth El Temple Center,
Rabbi Claudia Kreiman (Temple Beth Zion,
Rabbi Judith Kummer
Rabbi Stephen Landau (Congregation Tikvoh
Chadoshoh, West Hartford, Conn.)
Rabbi Karen Landy (Hebrew Senior Life, Dedham;
Havurat Shalom, Andover)
Rabbi David Lerner (Temple Emunah, Lexington)
Rabbi Michele Lenke (Temple Beth Shalom,
Rabbi Allan Lehmann (vice president,
Massachusetts Board of Rabbis)
Rabbi Greg Litcofsky (Temple Shir Tikva, Wayland)
Rabbi Natan Margalit (Hebrew College, Newton)
Rabbi Todd Markley (Temple Beth Shalom,
Rabbi Daniel Medwin
Rabbi Bernard Mehlman (Emeritus, Temple Israel,
Rabbi Rim Meirowitz (Temple Shir Tikvah,
Rabbi Joseph Meszler (Temple Sinai, Sharon)
Rabbi Laurence Milder (Congregation B’nai
Shalom, Westborough)
Rabbi James Morgan
Rabbi Jeremy Morrison (Temple Israel, Boston)
Rabbi Beth Naditch
Rabbi Michelle Pearlman (Temple Shalom,
Rabbi Barbara Penzner (Temple Hillel B’nai Torah,
West Roxbury)
Rabbi Jay Perlman (Temple Beth Shalom,
Rabbi Jonah Pesner (Director, Union for Reform
Judaism Just Congregations, Newton)
Rabbi Ellen Pildis (Jewish Studies Director,
The Rashi School, Newton)
Rabbi Elaine Pollack (Newton Lower Falls)
Rabbi David Reiner
Rabbi Victor Reinstein (Nehar Shalom Community
Synagogue, Jamaica Plain)
Rabbi Rachel Saphire (Temple Beth Elohim,
Rabbi Talya Weisbard Shalem
Rabbi Lawrence Silverman (Congregation Beth
Jacob, Plymouth)
Rabbi Jodi Seewald Smith (Temple Chayai
Shalom, Easton MA)
Rabbi Joel Sisenwine (Temple Beth Elohim,
RabbI Toba Spitzer (Congregation Dorshei Tzedek,
West Newton)
Rabbi Keith Stern (Temple Beth Avodah,
Newton Centre)
Rabbi David Thomas (Congregation Beth El of the
Sudbury River Valley, Sudbury, MA)
Rabbi Van Lanckton, (Temple B’nai Shalom,
Rabbi Andrew Vogel (Temple Sinai, Brookline)
Rabbi Moshe Waldoks (Temple Beth Zion, Brookline)
Rabbi Jeffrey Wildstein (Temple Beth David,
Rabbi David Wolfman (director, URJ National
Commission on Rabbinic-Congregational Relations)
Rabbi Julie Wolkoff
Rabbi Sara Zacharia (Hebrew College, Newton)
Rabbi Elaine Zecher (Temple Israel, Boston)
Rabbi Henry Zoob (Emeritus, Temple Beth David,
Hebrew College rabbinical students: Joel Baron, Rogerio Zingerevitz Cukierman, Tiffany Gordon, Margie Klein, Lev Meirowitz, Nelson, Suzie Schwartz, Lila Veissid and Judith Kates (professor)

Jacobs has issued his own response through APT (far more measured than mine, here):

In response to our video sounding the alarm about a Muslim American Society (MAS) imam who told followers to “pick up the gun and the sword,” as well as to our criticism of Rabbi Eric Gurvis for embracing the MAS leadership, a group of seventy New England rabbis published a letter denouncing me in the Jewish Advocate.
The letter ignored every concern we raised about the MAS – its Saudi funders, its extremist leaders, its connections to terror and hate speakers. Instead, the rabbis who wrote it, accused me falsely of waging a campaign to defame Boston’s Muslim community. These rabbis should have known, with minimal fact-checking, that I have been consistent in my positions: I believe the radical leaders of MAS Boston are first and foremost a threat to Boston’s historically moderate Muslim community. The best way to fight this threat is to support the true moderates and reformers of Islam. This is a major component of the Americans for Peace and Tolerance mission and activity. Yet the rabbis irresponsibly claimed that I am defaming all Boston Muslims. This kind of slander can play right into the hands of MAS radicals, who may use this letter to incite Muslims against Americans for Peace and Tolerance and me. Their letter is untrue, inappropriate, and unbecoming for Jewish leaders.
The letter also contains a bizarre interpretation of a Biblical story to justify the rabbis’ misguided attack. It is hard for me to believe that the signers actually read their own letter or thought through the weirdly constructed Biblical analogy. I think most signed on to support their colleague, Rabbi Gurvis. Others may have been motivated by progressive politics, political correctness, and the desire to show their universalism. None of the signed leaders approached Americans for Peace and Tolerance to get the facts about the MAS’s Imam Faarooq.
You can read the rabbis’ letter, which will appear in today’s Jewish Advocate, below [above -MS]. You might also want to review our video and my op-ed discussing the relationship between the Governor and the MAS, as well as criticizing Rabbi Gurvis’s support for the MAS.
As you know the Jewish community is under siege, and it is unfortunate that we are so divided. I hope you will take the time to call or write the rabbis who signed the letter and urge them to withdraw their names, to seek out the truth about the Muslim American Society and Imam Faarooq, and to join us in countering the radicalization of the Boston Muslim community…

Update: Another worthwhile response:

To the Editor, on your recent article, “Rabbis come to defense of a colleague under fire” (6/11 issue),
With all due respect, I invite the 70 rabbis who signed the open letter, “Rabbis come to defense of a colleague under fire,” (6/11 issue), to reexamine Charles Jacobs’ assertions in his article, “What’s up with Patrick?” Jacobs’ main point was not to discredit Rabbi Gurvis’ past service to the community or to wage a “destructive campaign against Boston’s Muslim community.” Rather, Jacob’s main point was to bring to light the danger of closing one’s eyes to these specific Roxbury Mosque leaders’ documented association with, and support of, global radical Islamic terror groups and indicted and jailed terrorists, such as Aafia Siddiqui. Jacobs does not base his assertions on innuendo or half-truths. Instead he has made available numerous FBI and court documents, public information, and videos, which everyone should read before criticizing Jacobs (see his website, www.peaceandtolerance.org). America is under attack both from within and without by radical Islamic terrorists whose goal is to destroy our lives and our freedom. We mustn’t falsely accuse or limit freedoms of any Muslim citizen simply because he/she is Muslim. But every political and community leader – indeed every citizen – must be on the alert for those who are found to support acts of terror and anti-Semitism, and be careful not to embrace them as our co-laborer of peace. Nor should we accept them as speaking on behalf of truly moderate Muslims who support every citizen’s security and liberty under the US Constitution.
Rev. Fumio Taku
Christians and Jews United for Israel