Leading Reform and Conservative rabbis joined six other religious leaders in a call on people of all faiths to speak out against extremists following recent attacks on ethnic and religious minorities.
Rabbi Burton Visotzky, director of the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary, called on all Jews “to address this tragedy, this shock” by visiting a Sikh temple on Sunday as a way to address the recent shootings that killed six people in Oak Creek, Wis.
The news conference Thursday morning was organized by Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with America’s Muslim: Upholding American Values. This group previously has denounced anti-Muslim sentiment, including the planned burning in Florida of the Koran.
Thursday’s briefing also addressed the recent burning of the Islamic Center of Joplin, Miss., and the opening Friday of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tenn., a project that has faced protests, the opposition by some top politicians in the state as well as bomb threats and vandalism.
“Group-based assaults are more than mere acts of violence,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director and counsel at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “They are nothing less than attacks on those values that are the pillars of our republic and the guarantors of our freedom. They are a betrayal of the promise of America,”
No one should be scared to practice his or her own religion, the speakers all agreed. They urged people to get to know their neighbors regardless of religious affiliations and to join together to denounce those who advocate violence.
“This is a time for public mourning and public lament,” said Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. “Now is the time to reject violence” and begin engaging with people of different faiths.
Visotzky said the best way to raise awareness about different religions is to educate from both the pulpit and the classroom. Saperstein added that everyone needs to play a role in building bridges and delegitimizing those who want to cause violence and death.
All religions must “stand in solidarity. An attack on one religion is an attack on all religions,” Saperstein said.
Also speaking to the media were Rev. Richard Cizik, president of The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good; Bishop Denis J. Maden, chair of the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America; Kathryn Lohre, president of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA; and Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.