Rabbis call for continuing steps toward shalom with Iran

Up till now, the American Jewish community has spoken in two voices on what to do about the negotiations between Iran and the Great Powers.

One voice has urged Congress to pass laws threatening even more draconian sanctions against Iran.

The other voice is silence.

But a third voice is coming into its own. It is the voice of Jewish clergy – now 120 strong and supported by hundreds of non-clerical active Jewish community leaders.

That voice, led by rabbis, calls for continuing steps toward shalom with Iran, rather than imposing harsher sanctions in the midst of effective negotiations. 120 rabbis, cantors and other clergy have signed the rabbinic statement "Step by Step toward Shalom with Iran.”
The statement sets forth a balanced path of shalom that protects the peace and security of Israel, the U.S. and Iran —  and is concerned with both immediate practical steps and the deepest of spiritual hopes.

It is especially important in that it draws on Jewish spiritual and religious sources, and presents a different face of the American Jewish community from that presented by some major Jewish organizations that are urging Congress to legislate threats of more draconian sanctions against Iran.

Luminaries of the Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal, Conservative, Modern Orthodox, and Humanist streams of Judaism have signed. Among them are Rabbis Leonard Beerman, Aryeh Cohen, Amy Eilberg, Sue Levi Elwell, Everett Gendler, Dan Goldblatt, Marc Gopin, David Gordis, Sharon Kleinbaum, Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Mordechai Liebling, Ellen Lippmann, Andrea London, Gerry Serotta, David Shneyer, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Jonathan Slater, Susan Talve, Arthur Waskow, and Sheila Weinberg, Cantor Steven Puzarne, and Rabbi/Kohenet Jill Hammer.

The full list of signers up to now is available here. The statement was initiated by The Shalom Center, working with eleven rabbis from  a spectrum arching across varied religious streams, ages, and genders.

The text  of the statement follows:

 Step by Step toward Shalom with Iran

 As Rabbis, Cantors, and other Clergy serving the American Jewish community, we are deeply committed, as Jewish tradition teaches –

§  to the shalom –-  peace, social justice, functioning democratic process, and ecological sanity –of the country where we live  – all of which would be damaged by still another unnecessary war;

§  to the shalom, peace and security, of the State of Israel, to its democratic character, and to its special relationship with the Jewish people;

§  to unequivocal action by all the Arab-majority and Muslim-majority states to make peace with Israel, and to Israel’s unequivocal action to make peace with all its neighbors, including an emergent Palestine;

§  to our respect and our prayers for salaam, peace and justice, among our cousins in the Abrahamic tradition, Arab and Muslim civilizations;

§  to the peace and prosperity of all the “70 nations” of the world;

§  and to the healing of our wounded planet.

For all these reasons, we welcome warmly the greatly increased possibility of a peaceful resolution of the conflicts among the US, Iran, Israel, and other nations.
We especially welcome the new attitudes toward the Jewish people and toward the nuclear issue set forth by the new President of Iran, and his assertion that Iran will never hold nuclear weapons. We also recall the repeated assertions and fatwas by Grand Ayatollah Khameini that for Iran to possess nuclear weapons would violate Islam.
We urge the US and Iran to move swiftly to agree on a step-by-step process of reducing and ultimately ending sanctions against Iran in accord with steps by Iran to make its nuclear research transparent and to allow verification that its research is directed wholly toward civilian uses of nuclear energy. We believe that such a step-by-step process is the best way to guarantee that both parties are fulfilling their commitments.
We urge Iran to make clear its full acceptance of Israel as a legitimate state in the fabric of international relations, protected like all other states from aggression and attack.
We urge the Government of Israel to welcome steps by Iran to make clear and verifiable its commitment to use nuclear energy and research for peaceful purposes only, not for pursuit of nuclear weaponry, and while this process is under way, we urge Israel to end hostile acts and statements toward Iran.  
We urge the peoples of the United States, Iran, and Israel to reject and oppose all statements and actions from whatever source that undermine the swift and thorough achievement of agreements to ensure the civilian nature of Iran’s nuclear program and to end sanctions against Iran.  
We urge the American people to recognize and do tshuvah (“turning” or “repentance”) for the ethical errors of our own government toward Iran – particularly, the U.S. government’s intervention in 1953 to overthrow the democratically elected reform government of Iran; U.S. actions to support the tyrannical regime of the Shah until the Iranian people overthrew it in 1979; and U.S. support for Iraq’s wars of aggression against Iran in the 1980s, including U.S. support for Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons to kill 100,000 Iranians.
We urge the Iranian people to do tshuvah for their government’s demonization of the United States and Israel, for its holding U.S. diplomats hostage for more than a year in 1979-1980, and for the support it seems to have covertly given for attacks on Israeli citizens.
We believe that this combination of governmental acts and public rethinking and re-feeling can move American society, the entire Middle East, and the world toward the shalom that Judaism yearns for.

Waskow founded (1983) and directs The Shalom Center. In March 2014 he will receive T’ruah’s first Lifetime Achievement Award as “Human Rights Hero.”