October 9, 2020
The Rabbinical Alliance of America — Igud HaRabbonim, representing over 950 American rabbis — calls upon members of the Jewish community to exercise respect and engage in civil discourse while protecting our religious liberty and our right to conduct public worship.
Over the past two weeks, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have singled out the Orthodox Jewish community and imposed draconian measures locking down Orthodox neighborhoods. Without attributing malice to the mayor and governor, who in the past have been strong partners with the Orthodox Jewish community, the Rabbinical Alliance of America supports those who are challenging these measures in the courts as discriminatory. New York is facing an unprecedented challenge. The government and community must work together to successfully maintain public health, both spiritual and physical. Public well-being includes engaging in business and commerce while taking proper precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing, and also includes the ability to engage in public worship and religious education while taking necessary precautions.
The Rabbinical Alliance of America calls on the mayor and the governor to work together in good faith with the Jewish community to reach solutions that will safeguard public well-being in its broadest sense. Synagogues and yeshiva schools must be allowed to remain open in a safe and healthy way. The Rabbinical Alliance of America also calls on the entire public to follow public health guidelines in order to prevent the spread of disease and save lives. There is no excuse for failing to follow the publicly mandated health precautions.
Over the past week, some members of the Jewish community protested the closing of synagogues and yeshiva schools by engaging in violence and unacceptable behavior that does not reflect the attitudes of most members of the Jewish community. The Rabbinical Alliance of America unequivocally supports the need for public worship and our constitutional right to assemble and to congregate in our synagogues, especially over the joyous holidays of Sukkos, Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Torah. However, protest must be done responsibly and peacefully. The behavior we have sadly and painfully witnessed, the language we have heard used, does not reflect a proper Torah attitude. We must rise to the challenge of demonstrating for our rights without resorting to violence or to dehumanizing or denigrating those we believe are depriving us of those rights. The Torah demands refinement of character.
As Jews, throughout our long history we have faced persecution and anti-Semitism. We celebrate the freedom and liberty that America offers our community and fiercely object when we risk losing them. We will not forfeit our right to openly and freely pray according to our sacred tradition and to educate our children as our religion demands. At the same token, we do not condone violence and reckless, disrespectful behavior toward the public or toward law enforcement officers and government officials. Such actions are counterproductive and will not successfully accomplish anything positive. We should never endanger law enforcement, nor create the impression that our community sanctions such harm. We, as a community, must commend law enforcement and appreciate how they place themselves in danger in order to protect our community. We pray they should safely return to their homes and loved ones each and every day.