Since September 2003, a small group of determined people of conscience and faith have held weekly nonviolent vigils outside Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, on the Jewish sabbath. Members of Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends stand vigilto protest and draw attention to the synagogue's open and unabashed support for apartheid Israel. As Rabbi Robert Dobrusin said in the Ann Arbor News on January 21, 2007: "Beth Israel Congregation affirms without any hesitation or equivocation the legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state ..." As with any other supremacist state, a "Jewish state" can never fully include, nor respect the rights of, non-Jews living under its rule, let alone the millions of Palestinian refugees whom Israel prevents from returning home.
We, the undersigned religious leaders, affirm the tactic of protesting outside a place of worship as appropriate and consistent with our prophetic and religious traditions. In the Christian tradition, Jesus chased moneychangers from the Temple. The prophet Jeremiah stood "in the gate of the LORD'S house" and rebuked Israel. The prophet Amos told Beth Israel (literally, "the House of Israel") in the Lord's name: "I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies"; he commanded them to "Take away from me the noise of your songs." Why? Because Israelites had turned "justice to wormwood" and brought "righteousness to the ground." And because they hated those who rightly criticized them, abhorring "the one who speaks the truth." As the late Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote, the prophets knew that "Worship preceded or followed by evil acts becomes an absurdity. The holy place is doomed when people indulge in unholy deeds."
Religious people cannot legitimately use their religiosity as a cloak to support evil or to shield themselves from deserved criticism. Publicly holding religious people and their leaders accountable to the high standards that faith and conscience demand is a praiseworthy undertaking. We pray for an end to the idolatry of political power and military might. We uphold Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends as an example for people in other communities. We pray and work for the peace and safety of Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends, the people of the Middle East, and all humanity -- God's children everywhere. Finally, we join in the call of the prophet Amos: "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
Notes: This is a nonsectarian petition, members of all religious communities may sign. Also, you do not have to be a member of the ordained clergy to sign it, lay religious leaders are welcome. We will not share your undisplayed information with anyone without your explicit permission. You do NOT have to make a donation to sign this petition.
More information about Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends:
"Sacred Ground: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in Ann Arbor" by James Militzer in the Ann Arbor Observer
"Michigan Jewish activists hold vigils outside conservative synagogue" by Henry Herskovitz in The Electronic Intifada
"Michigan's vigilant outcasts" by Paul Abowd in The Electronic Intifada
"A Midwest Jewish Activist Helps Fight Zionist Mind Control in America" by Betsy Mayfield in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
"Interview with Henry Herskovitz" by Homeless Dave on TeeterTalk
"Jewish activist banned from Yom Kippur services" by Ali Moossavi in The Arab American News