Nine Jewish Leaders Condemn "Hateful" E-mails Regarding Obama and Religion
"The leaders of nine Jewish groups released an open letter on Tuesday condemning what they called 'hateful e-mails' that they said spread lies about Senator Barack Obama’s religious beliefs and his intentions." As The New York Times (Jan. 18, 2008) explains, "[t]he anonymous e-mail messages have circulated for months, saying that Mr. Obama is a Muslim and carried a copy of the Koran when he was sworn in at the United States Senate." These statements are false. As the article notes, Obama is a Christian and a longtime member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.
These e-mails have been making the rounds generally but apparently the Jewish community is being targeted in particular:
The Jewish leaders seemed to be responding to reports that the e-mail was now being spread deliberately among Jews. In the letter, they said that the “hateful e-mails use falsehood and innuendo to mischaracterize Senator Barack Obama’s religious beliefs and who he is as a person,” and that they were an “attempt to drive a wedge between our community and a presidential candidate based on despicable and false attacks and innuendo based on religion.”
“Attempts of this sort to mislead and inflame voters should not be part of our political discourse and should be rebuffed by all who believe in our democracy,” the leaders said. “Jewish voters, like all voters, should support whichever candidate they believe would make the best president.”
The leaders said their organizations would not endorse or oppose any presidential candidate.
The letter was signed by William Daroff, vice president of United Jewish Communities; Nathan J. Diament, director of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League; Richard S. Gordon, president of the American Jewish Congress; David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee; Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Phyllis Snyder, president of the National Council of Jewish Women; and Hadar Susskind, Washington director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
The American Jewish Committee posted the full text of the letter. I've pasted it in below the fold.
The NYT article also notes that "[t]he letter was released as Mr. Obama posted a statement on his campaign Web site distancing himself from an award given by Trumpet Newsmagazine, published by his church in Chicago. Richard Cohen, a Washington Post columnist, said on Tuesday that the magazine had given an award last year to Louis Farrakhan, the longtime leader of the Nation of Islam." Here's Obama's statement on that issue:
"I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet Magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree."
Here's the full text of the letter from the Jewish leaders, courtesy of The American Jewish Committee:
As leaders of the Jewish community, none of whose organizations will endorse or oppose any candidate for President, we feel compelled to speak out against certain rhetoric and tactics in the current campaign that we find particularly abhorrent. Of particular concern, over the past several weeks, many in our community have received hateful emails that use falsehood and innuendo mischaracterizing Senator Barack Obama's religious beliefs and who he is as a person.
These tactics attempt to drive a wedge between our community and a presidential candidate based on despicable and false attacks based on religion. We reject these efforts to manipulate members of our community into supporting or opposing candidates.
Attempts of this sort to mislead and inflame voters should not be part of our political discourse and should be rebuffed by all who believe in our democracy. Jewish voters, like all voters, should support whichever candidate they believe would make the best president. We urge everyone to make that decision based on the factual records of these candidates, and nothing less.
January 16, 2008 | Permalink