In the following post, I’ll discuss two documents, both published in the Boston newspaper, the Jewish Advocate. One, by Charles Jacobs, criticizes the Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick for his interaction with the Muslim American Society in Boston which ends with a short paragraph that mentions a Rabbi, whom Jacobs essentially accuses, along with Patrick of being (in my terminology), “dupes of demopaths.”
The Second is a response by a fairly long list of Rabbis and rabbinical students who find Jacobs criticism as unacceptable. This second piece offers a fascinating insight into the mind of earnest non-Muslims still deeply committed to believing that Islam (which sees them as infidels) is as capable of modern, tolerant reciprocity, just like most Christians and Jews in the USA.
And lest anyone consider me an essentialist for talking about Islam, let me anticipate myself by pointing out that these rabbis, not me and not Charles Jacobs, are the ones incapable of distinguishing various kinds of Islam, of essentializing Islam.
Just days before the Gaza flotilla, Jews were attending to a smaller but more proximate fight: State Treasurer Tim Cahill, who is campaigning as an independent for governor, charged that Deval Patrick’s May 22 visit to the Muslim American Society’s (MAS) Saudi-funded Roxbury mega-mosque was a case of “pandering” – and of not taking the threat of terrorism seriously.
In response, the MAS – which is called by federal prosecutors “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America” – gathered a few hundred people at the mosque and did what it does best when critics raise concerns about who are the trustees and what do mosque leaders teach Boston Muslims about Jews, gays, women, Christians and America. The mosque leaders ducked the questions and charged their critics with bigotry. The MAS lambasted Cahill.
As if on cue, media stenographers dutifully took down and reported the bigotry charge against Cahill as though it was obviously true. And, again as if on cue, prominently noted and photographed was kippah-wearing Rabbi Eric Gurvis, hugging Bilal Kaleem, who heads MAS.
The real story is what actually happened during the governor’s visit?
Inside the mosque, the MAS asked Patrick to consent to seven “recommendations.” With one reservation (it’s not only Muslims whose bosses need to know about their prayer times), the governor accepted all seven. Most controversial is that the MAS (“overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood,” please recall) handed over a $50,000 check to a member of state Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office to fund a program to train Massachusetts police officers in “sensitivity.”
Who handed over the check? Imam Abdullah Faarooq, who is a graduate of University of Massachusetts and an American convert to Islam. Faarooq is also a supporter of two Boston area radicals, one facing trial for and the other convicted of trying to kill Americans.
Aafia Siddiqui, a former member of Faarooq’s mosque, is now in jail for shooting FBI agents in Pakistan. Tarek Mehana, a young Muslim arrested in Sudbury in October, is alleged to have sought terrorist training in Yemen and plotted to machine gun shopping malls in New England. You can see Patrick embracing Faarooq at the mosque in a seven-minute video made by my group, Americans for Peace and Tolerance.
Also in our film is a sermon Faarooq delivered in a Brighton mosque in March. Faarooq teaches Boston Muslims that they are obliged by their religion to stand up for their co-religionists and urges them to support Siddiqui and Mehana. “If there’s anyone that should be brave, it must be us,” Faarooq said in the sermon. “You must grab onto this rope, grab onto the shovel, grab onto the gun and the sword. Don’t be afraid to step out into this world and do your job.”
Hmmm…. Will Massachusetts police be instructed to be more sensitive to Faarooq’s friends? (Martha, give back the check!)
So what’s with Patrick? A year ago, I gave him the stunning report in the Boston Phoenix, documenting the controversies over the near give-away of the public land to a controversial Muslim board of trustees. And I told him that the Jewish community was concerned. And Patrick lived in Sudan: He must know that the Muslim Brotherhood government there has slaughtered 2 million and enslaved hundreds of thousands of black Christians and animists in a self-declared jihad. He knows – or could easily know – that Faarooq denies that Arabs in Sudan enslaved blacks. And he could easily have been briefed by the heads of the Jewish organizations he works with here – the Jewish Community Relations Council and its parent Combined Jewish Philanthropies, both of which skipped the grand opening of the mosque precisely because of concerns they have about the mosque’s leaders and ideology. (It is, however, unclear if Patrick was ever briefed by Jewish leaders on their concerns.)
Can it be that Governor Patrick, untutored about the facts, is simply naive? Cahill reminded the public that Patrick “attributed the 9/11 bombings to a ‘failure of human understanding in America.’”
Finally, why does Rabbi Gurvis refuse to acknowledge what he has been shown in official documents: that the MAS is a Muslim Brotherhood organization; that the mosque was funded by Wahabbi Saudis, not known to fund moderate mosques; and that the MAS/ISB leaders have invited defamers of Jews and Christians to “educate” the historically moderate Boston Muslim community? Rabbi Gurvis knows all this. Maybe for him it’s “my Muslim friends, right or wrong.” Or maybe the rabbi’s need to demonstrate his moral superiority by caring for the “other” – no matter how radical or extreme – trumps any foreseeable consequences.
While this is not particularly kind to Gurvis, it certainly isn’t a diatribe. It asks some serious questions, and then wonders at why Gurvis – at least so far, in a particularly public participation in events – has yet to answer them, indeed, acts as if he were unaware of them. The two speculations are really one: Is Gurvis part of the “Muslims right or wrong” post-modern chorus.
Stay tuned. Long after the flotilla sinks from view, this will be with us.
Charles Jacobs is president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance.
For more insight into this matter, see the interview with Jacobs by Bill Little of PJTV.
Now let’s get to the response. On June 11, Garvis and some colleagues struck back at Jacobs in the Jewish Advocate.
We write in defense of our colleague, Rabbi Eric Gurvis. Rabbi Gurvis leads Temple Shalom of Newton, is the past president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis (MBR), Boston Area Reform Rabbis (BARR), and currently serves as the president of the Newton Clergy Association. He is a distinguished teacher and respected community leader.
We were shocked and appalled by the vicious, personal attack written by Mr. Charles Jacobs and printed in the Jewish Advocate.
Vicious, personal attack? Did I miss something?
I find this comment particularly revealing. In turning a substantive criticism – Rabbi Gurvis has seen the evidence and refuses to even acknowledge it, much less process it — into a vicious, personal attack, these rabbis have rallied to their colleagues defense, not as serious discussants, but as hysterics.
Reminds me of the famous scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail where the annoying peasant cries out “Help! Help! I’m being oppressed!”
But I digress. The real question is, why this violent response to criticism? Presumably, the liberal rabbis who signed this “defense” are all in favor of self-criticism. I haven’t read their writings, but I’m willing to bet my reputation as a student of the 21st century scene that many of them denounce the “Israel right or wrong crowd,” and believe strongly that Israel should “take the criticism” proffered by them and others.
So, presumably, that means they’re ready to take what they dish out, to receive rebuke as well as to administer it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be fair, right? So what’s the problem, and why the hysteria?
We get a clue from the next sentence.
We denounce this attack, and call upon Mr. Jacobs to discontinue his destructive campaign against Boston’s Muslim community, which is based on innuendo, half-truths, and unproven conspiracy theories. We call upon members of our community to reject the dangerous politics of division that Mr. Jacobs fosters.
Okay. So this is about their sense that Jacobs is pursuing a “dangerous politics of division” between the larger community and the Muslim minority in Boston. We’ll return to that fear later, but for now, let’s just pause on the language with which they rebut Jacobs’ claim that Gurvis knows all the details and refuses to accept them.
innuendo, half-truths, and unproven conspiracy theories
So what Jacobs considers a well-documented case that the founders, builders and leaders of the Boston Mega-mosque are radical Islamists, strikes these folks as “innuendo, half-truths, and unproven conspiracy theory.”
Any reader how cares to know more, must visit Americans for Peace and Tolerance and survey their documentation. The problem is substantive and substantial; so much so, that I have to wonder if many of the rabbis who signed have read anything, or they are merely standing up for their colleague.
In any case, to characterize the evidence as “innuendo and half-truths” suggests either a lack of familiarity or an inability to process data that makes one uncomfortable. These rabbis have hardly responded to the criticism offered in any serious manner.
Rabbi Gurvis stood with a number of us at a recent interfaith press conference, denouncing the inappropriate words of a gubernatorial candidate who implied that addressing a large group of Muslims was “pandering to terrorists.”
Whether or not this was a “large group of Muslims” is to be discussed. The implication is, this was representative of the Boston Muslim community and to characterize them as “terrorists” (or even in league with terrorists) is a divisive and harmful thing to say.
Here’s where the evidence comes in again. If the people Patrick met with were both a “large group” and had links to Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Wahhabi groups in Islam, then the conclusion is doubly alarming: the radical Islamists, those folks that Eric Holder and John Brennan don’t even think we should mention, much less analyze, are a “large group.” The idea that just because they seem numerous, we should then treat them as if they’re moderates strikes me as a category error that hopefully one weeds out of the reasoning processes of high schoolers.
Just as we rabbis would expect Christians and Muslims to stand with us Jews if we were unjustly held accountable for the actions of a handful of our people, Rabbi Gurvis stood with our Muslim neighbors. In fact, he pointed out that when Temple Shalom was defaced by a swastika, one of the first calls he received was from Bilal Kaleem from the Muslim American Society.
It’s no proof that Bilal Kaleem is not a demopath that he defends Rabbis who support his (demopathic) campaign. If he’s a real promoter of human rights and the rights of free speech, let him defend Zionists who are assaulted both verbally and physically by Muslims, indeed, by Muslims of his organization. If these rabbis think this is proof of Kaleem’s good faith, they’re like professors who give their students tests a fifth grader could pass and then shout from the rooftops about how good their student’s grades are.
During these difficult times, Rabbi Gurvis, along with other courageous religious leaders are attempting to foster a different kind of politics. We support his commitment to interfaith dialogue and cooperation. We stand together in our commitment to a community in which neighbors seek to know one another and join together for the common good.
This is interesting language. The rabbis speak as if such dialogues are, a priori “good.” Who could argue with such noble desires? Who could oppose such great-hearted goals?
They seem oblivious to the dangers of dialogues conducted by demopaths in search of weak spots in the defense systems of the democratic and tolerant societies they seek to undermine. They have no clue that they may be “the weakest link.”
We write these words following the week in which the Torah portion was Shelach Lecha. It tells the stories of the Israelite scouts who were overcome by fear. As a result, they “spread calumnies” among the entire Israelite camp who in turn broke out into loud cries and weeping. Because they succumbed to their fears, God condemned this generation to die in the wilderness. We refuse to allow Mr. Jacobs to spread his calumnies and paralyze our community in fear.
This is a breathtakingly self-serving and loopy interpretation of this biblical passage. A more appropriate reading would be that these men – Gurvis and his friends – have come back from the camp of the enemy and, rather than declare them too great for us to resist, declare them potential friends with whom, if we are nice enough, we can form a solid alliance. And indeed, behind their placatory urgings lies what I think best explains their hysterical reaction to Jacobs’ criticism.
They have read the material Jacobs makes available. They do know the enemy. And they are afraid of provoking him. Very afraid. Indeed, they illustrate the true meaning of Islamophobia – those so afraid of Islam they’re afraid to criticize it
They are grasshoppers in their own eyes, and they are grasshoppers in the eyes of Islamists who think in terms of 1.5 billion Muslims and 12 million Jews, in terms of an Intifada, a “shrugging or shaking off” of a fly (Israel) by a great beast (Islam). And so all they can do, like the 10 spies who return frightened from the land, is to spread the calumnies against those who are not intimidated. Thus Jacobs’ reasoned and documented criticism becomes…
shock[ing] and appall[ing]… vicious, personal attack… innuendo, half-truths, and unproven conspiracy theories…
If there’s a Joshua in this story, it’s Jacobs. As for the rabbis who signed this letter, they’re the ones who cry and whine about those who would confront a giant enemy. And here they are, in all their glory:
We the undersigned rabbis support Rabbi Eric Gurvis and walk together in faith.
Institutional affiliation for identification purposes only
Rabbi Thomas Alpert
Rabbi Stephen Arnold
Rabbi Lev Baesh (B’nai Or, Newton, MA)
Rabbi Alfred Benjamin (Rabbi, Temple Shalom, Milton, MA)
Rabbi Joseph Berman
Rabbi Allison Berry (Temple Beth David, Canton, MA)
Rabbi Herman Blumberg (Emeritus, Temple Shir Tikva, Wayland, MA)
Rabbi Carey Brown (Temple Isaiah, Lexington, MA)
Rabbi Sharon Clevenger (The Rashi School, Newton, MA)
Rabbi Joe Eiduson (Congregation B’nai Shalom, Westborough, MA)
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson (Temple Beth Avodah, Newton Centre, MA)
Rabbi John Franken (Temple Ohabei Shalom, Brookline)
Rabbi David Freelund (Cape Cod Synagogue, Hyannis, MA)
Rabbi Ronne Friedman (Temple Israel Boston)
Rabbi Neal Gold (Temple Shir Tikva, Wayland, MA)
Rabbi Robert Goldstein (Temple Emanuel Andover, MA)
Rabbi David Gordis
Rabbi Art Green (Hebrew College, Newton, MA)|
Rabbi Neil Hirsch (Temple Shalom, Newton, MA)
Rabbi Sandi Intraub (Chaplain Resident, Hebrew SeniorLife )
Rabbi Howard Jaffe (Temple Isaiah, Lexington, MA)
Rabbi Shira Joseph (Congregation Sha’aray Shalom, Hingham, MA)
Rabbi Dan Judson (Hebrew College, Newton, MA)
Rabbi Randy Kafka (Temple Israel South Shore, North Easton MA)
Rabbi Daniel Klein
Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein
Rabbi David Kline
Rabbi Stephanie Kolin (Temple Israel, Boston, MA)
Rabbi Neil Kominsky (Emeritus, Temple Emanuel, Lowell, MA)
Rabbi Jonathan Kraus (Beth El Temple Center, Belmont, MA)
Rabbi Claudia Kreiman (Temple Beth Zion, Brookline, MA)
Rabbi Judith Kummer
Rabbi Stephen Landau (Congregation Tikvoh Chadoshoh, West Hartford CT)
Rabbi Karen Landy (Hebrew Senior Life, Dedham, MA; Havurat Shalom, Andover, MA)
Rabbi Michele Lenke (Temple Beth Shalom, Needham, MA)
Rabbi Allan Lehmann (Vice President Massachusetts Board of Rabbis)
Rabbi Greg Litcofsky (Temple Shir Tikva, Wayland, MA)
Rabbi Natan Margalit ( Hebrew College, Newton, MA)
Rabbi Todd Markley (Temple Beth Shalom, Needham, MA)
Rabbi Daniel Medwin
Rabbi Bernard Mehlman (Emeritus, Temple Israel, Boston, MA)
Rabbi Rim Meirowitz (Temple Shir Tikvah, Winchester, MA)
Rabbi Joseph Meszler (Temple Sinai, Sharon, MA)
Rabbi Laurence Milder (Congregation B’nai Shalom, Westborough, MA)
Rabbi James Morgan
Rabbi Jeremy Morrison (Temple Israel, Boston, MA)
Rabbi Beth Naditch
Rabbi Michelle Pearlman (Temple Shalom, Newton, MA)
Rabbi Barbara Penzner (Temple Hillel B’nai Torah, West Roxbury, MA)
Rabbi Jay Perlman (Temple Beth Shalom, Needham, MA)
Rabbi Jonah Pesner (Director, URJ Just Congregations, Newton, MA)
Rabbi Ellen Pildis (Jewish Studies Director, The Rashi School, Newton, MA)
Rabbi Elaine Pollack (Newton Lower Falls, MA)
Rabbi Victor Reinstein (Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue, Jamaica Plain, MA)
Rabbi Rachel Saphire (Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley, MA)
Rabbi Talya Weisbard Shalem
Rabbi Lawrence Silverman (Congregation Beth Jacob, Plymouth, MA)
Rabbi Jodi Seewald Smith(Temple Chayai Shalom, Easton MA)
Joel Sisenwine (Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley, MA)
RabbI Toba Spitzer (Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, West Newton, MA)
Rabbi Keith Stern, (Temple Beth Avodah, Newton Centre, MA)
Rabbi David Thomas (Congregation Beth El of the Sudbury River Valley, Sudbury, MA
Rabbi Van Lanckton, (Temple B’nai Shalom, Braintree, MA)
Rabbi Andrew Vogel (Temple Sinai, Brookline, MA)
Rabbi Moshe Waldoks (Temple Beth Zion, Brookline, MA)
Rabbi Jeffrey Wildstein (Temple Beth David, Westwood, MA)
Rabbi Julie Wolkoff
Rabbi Sara Zacharia (Hebrew College, Newton, MA)
Rabbi Elaine Zecher (Temple Israel, Boston, MA)
Rabbi Henry Zoob (Emeritus, Temple Beth David, Westwood, MA)
Joel Baron (Rabbinical Student, Hebrew College, Newton, MA)
Rogerio Zingerevitz Cukierman (Rabbinical Student, Hebrew College, Newton, MA)
Margie Klein (Rabbinical Student, Hebrew College, Newton, MA)
Lev Meirowitz Nelson (Rabbinical Student, Hebrew College, Newton, MA)
Suzie Schwartz, (Rabbinical Student, Hebrew College, Newton, MA)
Lila Veissid (Rabbinical Student, Hebrew College, Newton, MA)
Professor Judith Kates (Hebrew College, Newton, MA)
If you know any of these men, write them a polite letter asking how they can dismiss the evidence and rail at a man who has good reason to sound the alarm.