Open Letter to the National Council of Young Israel on Pittsburgh
NOTE: We will be updating the signatures below every day. Please fill out this form if you would like your name listed on the below open letter.

Dear President Farley Weiss, Chairman of the Board Jeff Kopelman, and Executive Director Rabbi Marc Volk:

As American Jews who have benefitted from vibrant Orthodox institutions and organizations, we can no longer stay silent when they fail to live up to the fundamental moral, ethical and communal values and principles that guided, motivated and shaped our communities. It is, therefore, with tremendous sadness and remorse that Torah Trumps Hate, a growing organization of Torah-centered Jewish social activists, Hitoreri: an Orthodox Movement for Social Change, and Uri L'Tzedek must formally protest a recent statement from the National Council of Young Israel (NCYI).

In the aftermath of the terrible anti Semitic tragedy at the Tree of Life Synagogue in which eleven people died al kidush HaShem (sanctifying God’s name), the NCYI chose to issue a political statement of unabashed support for President Trump, saying that the Jewish people have never had “such a great champion in the White House.” It did so even as this president continues to fan the flames of Jew hatred in our country through classic anti Semitic code language and hate speech. Did the leadership of the NCYI hear “his constant unwavering voice in defense of the Jewish people and against anti-Semitism” when he declared regarding the white supremacists marching through the streets of Charlottesville shouting “Jews will not replace us” that “some are very fine people?” Or was it when his White House left out Jews in the official statement commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day?

The murderer at the Tree of Life synagogue told us why “all Jews must die.” He said it was because Jews support, promote and sustain refugees and immigrants, this as those very Jews were about to read Parshat Vayeira, where the Torah first emphasizes our Abrahamic commitment to welcoming the stranger. His reasoning and his words mirrored the very message this president has repeatedly emphasized as he rallies across the country against “globalists” and “immigrant hordes” whom he demeans as “invaders” that offend his view of “America First Nationalism.” Those are historical anti Semitic tropes that no responsible Jewish organization can condone.

Many of us were raised and educated in Young Israel shuls and communities. We were inspired by rabbis, teachers and spiritual leaders who shared with us our rich tradition of caring for the stranger, the poor, the mistreated and the vulnerable. They taught us that at the core of Judaism was the ethic of Abrahamic responsibility to our people, our country, our world and to mankind in general. They supported their messages through age old sources and teachings. These made us understand that Jewish values and ethics, not political self interest irrespective of fundamental Jewish beliefs, must always be our lodestar.

In honor of the eleven kedoshim who were brutally massacred while davening in shul, we remind our community of key fundamental values and insist that our institutions continue to emphasize these messages.

The great Orthodox theologian, Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, revered by our Young Israel rabbis and leadership, often reminded us of our Abrahamic responsibilities. He taught:

“The central experience in Abraham’s life was galut — homelessness, wandering without knowing the destination . . . . This passional experience taught Abraham and his descendants the art of involvement, of sharing in distress, of feeling for the stranger, of having compassion for the other. It trained Abraham to react quickly to suffering, to try to lighten the other’s burden as much as possible. No matter who the stranger was, what he stood for, and how primitive he was, the stranger had suffered. . . . We have mercy on all uprooted and defenseless human beings in exile . . . . We are burdened with an ethical norm to help because we remember how we felt when we were in distress.” (Abraham’s Journey pp. 196-97).

We call on the National Council of Young Israel to immediately retract its message of praise for a president who fans the flames of anti-Semitism and whose policies are anathema to Jewish values. It is time for the Orthodox Jewish community to reassert its place as the leaders and promoters of Abrahamic ethics.

(YI Member) = Current or Former YI Member


UPDATED: 11/4/18, 8:33pm

Ms. Jennifer Gordon (YI Member)
Sara Michelle Szpilzinger (YI Member)
Dr. Sarah Gross (YI Member)
Chana Stiefel (YI Member)
Diana Jacobs-Komisar (YI Member)
Distinguished Professor of Sociology Samuel Heilman (YI Member)
Rabbi Yaakov Komisar (YI Member)
Melissa Ciner (YI Member)
Ms. Bonni Kraus (YI Member)
Isaac Moses (YI Member)
Ms Joyce Joseph (YI Member)
Mrs. Elana Arroyo (YI Member)
Ketriellah Goldfeder (YI Member)
Dave Schwartz (YI Member)
Sheila Finkelstein (YI Member)
Deborah Schultz (YI Member)
Jonathan Ezor (YI Member)
David Zimbalist (YI Member)
Alexis Kaplan (YI Member)
David Iken (YI Member)
Jennifer Bader (YI Member)
Owen Rumelt (YI Member)
Rabbi Pinchas Giller (YI Member)
Zev Kessler (YI Member)
Jeff Weener (YI Member)
Morah Deborah Klapper (YI Member)
Dr. Jordana Rothschild (YI Member)
Dr. Joshua Wallenstein (YI Member)
Skylar Bader (YI Member)
Norah Mazar (YI Member)
Mrs. Meredith Schwartz (YI Member)
Dr. Miriam Udel (YI Member)
Gila Golder (YI Member)
Risa Mallin (YI Member)
Dr. Isadora Bielsky (YI Member)
Rabbi David Jaffe (YI Member)
Mark Goldberg (YI Member)
Harav Baruch Stone (YI Member)
Ilana Frankel (YI Member)
Rabbi Mordechai Rackover (YI Member)
Shanna Giora-Gorfajn (YI Member)
Mr Steven Schwartzberg (YI Member)
Cassie Seinuk (YI Member)
Lori Kipnes (YI Member)
Dafna Schindler (YI Member)
Avi Fuld (YI Member)
Dr Shira Danzig (YI Member)
Lauren Wohl (YI Member)
Marisa Gadlin (YI Member)
Ann Goldhirsch (YI Member)
Dr. Bela Chopp (YI Member)
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Chelst (YI Member)
Ms Janice Goldfein (YI Member)
Mrs. Lisa Weinstein (YI Member)
Meira Davidowitz (YI Member)
Jenna Berkowitz (YI Member)
Yoni Engelhart (YI Member)
Mrs Aliza Mayer (YI Member)
Professor Matt Sienkiewicz (YI Member)
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Carrie Benedon (YI Member)
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Jacob Ner-David (YI Member)
Dina Schwartzman (YI Member)
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Shari Katz (YI Member)
Stephanie Pastor (YI Member)
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Seth Weissman (YI Member)
Abby Hofstetter (YI Member)
Naomi Korn Gold (YI Member)
Raimi Tuchinsky Rosen (YI Member)
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Mindy M. Schimmel (YI Member)
Amiel Weinstock (YI Member)
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Evan Cohen
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Lisa Miller
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Katie Katz
Chaya Ovits
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Mordechai Ovits
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Nancy Edelman
Victoria Cook
Professor, Jewish Studies Joshua Shanes
Mr. Paul Mirbach
Leora Morgenstern
Benjamin Reiner
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Devorah Backman
Sara-Rivka Bass
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Elizabeth Mandel
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Ittai Hershman
David Zinberg
Jordan Hirsch
Holly Rotman-Zaid
Mrs Debra Miller-Eckstein
Professor Hannah Rothstein
Daniel Edelman
Yael Zinberg
Sara Raisner
Howard Sragow
Karen Eisenberg
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Jerry Kowalski
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