[The following is a statement from my professional association, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. I fully support this position. Rabbi David Steinberg 8/31/10]
August 25, 2010 / 16 Elul 5770
“RRA STATEMENT on PARK 51”
The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) has watched the conversation unfold around Park51, the proposed community center in lower Manhattan, with deep concern. We fully recognize the strong sentiments that have been aroused, and the passionate expressions of grief that are still raw for many families. As Jews and as rabbis, however, we want to state unambiguously our commitment to the principle of the free exercise of religion, a principle that has allowed Jewish Americans to flourish in this country.
Park51 is a project that seeks to emulate communal institutional expressions of other religious traditions like the YMCA and the JCC which not only provide for their respective faith communities to come together for social and educational offerings, but more importantly, are open to the larger neighborhood regardless of religious affiliation. As Reconstructionist Jews, we understand that peoplehood is at the core of these institutions - reflecting that Americans of all faiths live in two civilizations simultaneously and Park51 is an opportunity for American Muslims to celebrate their history, traditions and heritage in the embrace of one of the highest American ideals, that of freedom of religion.
We commend Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama for their support of this project and urge them both to be strong and of good courage in the face of rising hate speech and condemnation of the voices of tolerance. We call on Jews of all denominations to oppose the dangerous rise in these debates and protests. At this time on the Jewish calendar of moral introspection and teshuvah (returning and repenting), we call on our rabbis to work with their communities to turn toward the kind of America we want to live in going forward, one whose deep commitment to religious pluralism will be strengthened, for Muslim Americans and for all of us.