The following news release on anti-Semitic threats against Rabbi Waskow (for his criticism of the Catholic hierarchy’s attack on the religious freedom of Catholic nuns and American women) was sent to US media on June 19. The release includes statements in support of Rabbi Waskow by former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, Rabbi David Saperstein, & Gloria Steinem. Below is also the full correspondence between Mr. Donohue and Rabbi Waskow.
BILL DONOHUE MAKES ANTI-SEMITIC THREAT TO FEMINIST RABBI
Donohue misquotes Mayor Ed Koch, Koch calls threats “inappropriate”
Gloria Steinem and Rabbi David Saperstein respond
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Rabbi Arthur Waskow, 215/844-8494, firstname.lastname@example.org
PHILADELPHIA, PA — Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director of The Shalom Center, today called upon the Roman Catholic community to condemn anti-Jewish threats by Bill Donohue, the head of the Catholic League.
Mr. Donohue and Rabbi Waskow exchanged emails, in which Mr. Donohue wrote:
“Ed Koch, my friend, once said that Jews had better not make enemies of their Catholic friends since they have so few of them. Think about that the next time you feel compelled to attack my religion.”
Mr. Donohue initially wrote in response to an article in the Huffington Post, in which Rabbi Waskow criticized recent attacks by Vatican agencies and the US National Council of Catholic Bishops on the religious freedom of American nuns, and of any women who work for or study in Catholic-sponsored colleges and hospitals.
Read the article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-arthur-waskow/religious-freedom-under-attack-vatican-bishops-nuns_b_1584906.html
Asked about Mr. Donohue’s alleged quotation from him, former Mayor Ed Koch said:
“My comments have always been about fostering good feelings between Jews and Catholics toward mutual understanding of our shared interests. However, I certainly do not believe that Jews, or Catholics, should be threatened for making critical remarks, nor should my name be used when doing so. While I do have a high regard for Bill, his references to me and my remarks were inappropriate and different in substance and tone than what I said on an earlier occasion. My remarks did not and do not refer to the Rabbi’s comments.”
Rabbi Waskow said:
“Bill Keller of the New York Times reported on Monday morning, ‘The official church has moved far enough to the right that Donohue now speaks for its mainstream.’ Now we will find out whether that includes threatening Jews for disagreeing with the Church hierarchy.”
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center said:
“It is disheartening to read Bill Donohue of the Catholic League’s response to Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s trenchant criticism of the Catholic Church’s efforts to suppress the social justice endeavors of American nuns and the rights of American women to have access to reproductive health care including birth control. Donohue asserts that women employees of Catholic institutions seeking birth control coverage are “despotic” for asking that Catholic institutions allow them to obtain such health care, suggests women should leave their employment rather than fight for their rights, diverts the focus of the comments to unrelated subjects, and ends by using a quote from Ed Koch in a manner that can be read as threatening to American Jews who differ with the Church.
“Certainly, the importance of both the health care rights of women and the social justice passion of the Catholic nuns who serve on the front lines of our neediest citizens’ struggles for economic justice deserve a more respectful response.”
Gloria Steinem said:
“When the Vatican and the Catholic League attack nuns, they will find they have struck a rock. ‘By their works, ye shall know them’ — and we do. What I’m hearing from Catholics and non-Catholics alike is: We are all nuns now.”
Waskow continued, “As the Book of Esther hints, oppression of Jews and of women may spring from the same urge to dominate others. Both ‘anti’s’ are oppressive and dangerous. I hope the Catholic Church and all religious communities will end them both. I call on the Catholic Church to repudiate Mr. Donohue’s anti-Semitic threat.
“For 50 years I have held Pope John XXIII as one of my profound religious teachers, alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister. And today I celebrate the Catholicism of the American nuns and Catholic women who refuse to bow down to male oppression.”
Read the correspondence between Bill Donohue and Rabbi Waskow:
From: Catholic Lea g ue
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2012 16:15:48 -0400
Subject: Rabbi Waskow
Your latest snide attack on the Catholic Church (“Whose Religious Freedom Is Under Attack”) exhibits appalling ignorance. The issue is not contraception—it is the right of a religious institution not to be forced to pay for services it deems immoral. In other words, the First Amendment is in play. Indeed, the Obama administration is redefining what qualifies as a Catholic organization as any entity that hires and serves mostly people of its own religion. Would you prefer that we discriminate against non-Catholics in our social service agencies, hospitals and schools?
Moreover, since when is it the business of any religious leader to condemn the strictures of another religion? You are not only clueless about the situation concerning nuns, you have stuck your nose in where you don’t belong.
From: Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2012 18:30:59 -0400
To: Catholic League
Subject: Re: The Catholic League, Bishops, the Nuns, & Women
(In your letter (which I have included below), you say you are concerned about where my nose is.
Here is where my nose is, and where it belongs:
Tens of thousands of Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu women work for or study at various Catholic-sponsored universities and hospitals that involve and hire them — and that receive my/ our tax money. (They are quite different from fully religious Catholic institutions, like churches, dioceses, or the NCCB, that do NOT receive tax money.)
Many many of those women who are hired by or are students of these tax-supported non-religious institutions need contraception, but can’t afford it without insurance.
They are being pressured by — not your Church, since most of the nuns utterly disagree and they too are part of your Church, thanks be to God — but by your NCCB, to forego contraception because they can’t afford it without insurance.
And they are being pressured even though the President has agreed that the cost of that insurance will NOT come from the pockets of the Catholic hierarchy or these Catholic-sponsored institutions.
Those women are my business. All of them, including the Catholic women who in shaping their own religious consciences (did you know that women are capable of doing that?) have concluded that contraception is ethical and moral.
Would you also suggest I keep my long Jewish nose out of some Catholic priests’ rape of Catholic children and some Catholic bishops’ protection of those priests from the law, because I’m not a Catholic? Perhaps you would.
In any case, the last I heard, God is ONE, and I try to live by that principle. That means I am obligated to act when any person or institution (of any religion) is perpetrating injustice on anyone (of any religion).
Blessings to you of sharing, shalom, and salaam; of healing and wholeness —
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Ph. D.
All of those non-Catholics who work at Catholic centers are free to leave whenever they find our strictures disagreeable. What they are not free to do is to demand that Catholic institutions make reforms that suit them. The very demand is despotic.
You unwittingly make my point about the Obama administration: they are telling Catholic entities that they are not really Catholic if they hire and serve people of other faiths. In other words, if we discriminate, we’re okay. Amazing logic.
Contraception is free from Planned Parenthood for anyone who can’t afford it, so your position implodes.
Since you are interested in the subject of rape, I hope you are following the unbelievable explosion of child rape in the Orthodox Jewish community and the intimidation—by family members—of victims. The pressure put on the D.A. to deep six these rapes is sickening. You need to do something about this epidemic right now. Suggestion: follow the reforms of the Catholic Church and you won’t have these problems.
Ed Koch, my friend, once said that Jews had better not make enemies of their Catholic friends since they have so few of them. Think about that the next time you feel compelled to attack my religion.
P.S. I do not have a long nose