27 Aug

Click here to view video

Statement of Conscience
Board of Directors
The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee
August 27, 2015

As the American People and Congress consider the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee Board of Directors is especially mindful of its unique, enduring responsibility to keep the Jewish community informed, united and focused on the security of Israel and Jewish people worldwide.

This Board of Directors represents the diversity of our Sarasota-Manatee Jewish community.  While opinions on the JCPOA differ, there is unanimity on what the end goals should be: preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and continuing its spread of terrorism throughout the world. Thus, the more difficult task has been to focus on the best specific path to achieve these goals.

We thank the Obama Administration for prioritizing the threat posed by an Iran with nuclear weapons, working diligently to craft an agreement and for forging a potent international sanctions coalition against Iran.

However, following a substantive and respectful discussion, our Board of Directors reiterated its core mission – saving Jewish lives – and to support Israel’s well-being and safeguard Jews everywhere, a majority opinion emerged and was adopted:  to call on Congress to oppose the JCPOA as currently submitted, and to ask legislators to continue working with the Administration to produce better solutions addressing Iran’s nuclear program.

We, proponents and opponents of the JCPOA, believe:

  1. As we are not nuclear scientists, military experts or international diplomats, we approach this complex issue with humility. In the words of the Administration, Iran is not trustworthy.

We hope the JCPOA’s terms on inspections and verification, the release of sanctions and frozen funds and the acceptance of Iran as a nuclear threshold power can be strengthened.

  1. Diplomacy strengthened by sanctions, rather than war, is the wisest course.

  1. Iran’s role as a leading state-sponsor of terrorism, both directly and through its proxies; its active efforts to destabilize neighboring countries; its theocratic antidemocratic regime; its abysmal human rights record; and its Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism cannot be tolerated and must be condemned, not rationalized nor minimized.

  1. It is long past time to place Iran where it belongs on the world’s political map: Isolated and ostracized until such time that its behavior warrants otherwise.

  1. Israel should not be singled out for criticism for opposing the JCPOA. Israel is the only country in the region that Iran regularly threatens with annihilation and faces the greatest risk of a nuclear Iran.

  1. Despite disagreements over how to best prevent a nuclear Iran, we will rely upon communal unity in the challenging days ahead when we may be called upon to, even more vigilantly, counter Iran’s abominable behavior. We must nurture, in a bi-partisan community-wide manner, the U.S.-Israel relationship.

  1. Jewish unity and respect for each person are preeminent Jewish values and we cherish them dearly. Before and after Congress votes, every Jewish opinion will always be precious and valued.

Listen to President Barack Obama’s Friday (2:10 p.m.) webcast on the Iran Nuclear Deal. Click here to register.



  1. Michael Sirchis August 27, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

    No disagreement re Iran’s activities. Focus on the nuclear weaponization issue and provide ideas to resolve deficiencies. Don’t echo Netanyahu and his gang, that this is a bad deal. Be constructive. Don’t have israel’s politicians seeking election results push our political agenda. Israel is not the shining example with its internal and external policies.

  2. Marvin Catler August 27, 2015 at 5:59 pm #

    You have failed to provide an alternative – added sanctions will not be agreed on by the parties involved. So you are simply left with Likud and Aipac – and they want WAR (and the West Bank!) Does the majority of your Board understand why the Republican Party in the House and the Senate are opposed to ANYTHING that President Obama favors?

  3. R. A. Cooper,MD August 27, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

    I strongly agree with the comments of both Mr. Sirchis and Mr. Catler. I look forward to listening to the President of the United States as should the Federation. The Federation should not be “taking sides”. Rational individuals should contact their representatives and suggest to them that this should not be another political standoff. R. Cooper, MD

  4. Stephen Cooper September 3, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

    I am Jewish, an American, and a Zionist. I have taught at the Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, and my Jewish roots extend back to my Yeshiva education in Brooklyn and Queens, New York. I will not be second to anyone in my hope that Israel survives. But sometimes people, and countries, need “tough love”. They need to be told that they do not have a direct line to the Almighty. Most Jews are for the deal, and that there appears to be not one Republican for the deal really means that they will do anything to prevent Obama from having a success. At least the Democrats (with diverse votes) are voting with their consciences, and not following a strict party line. That the Federation gave its statement before listening to Obama (the Federation statement came out on Thursday, and the Federation told everyone to listen to Obama on Friday) shows that the Federation is not living up to its exhortation to show “respect for each person” as the Federation states that these “are preeminent Jewish values and we cherish them dearly. Before and after Congress votes, every Jewish opinion will always be precious and valued.” It is clear that there was a forgone conclusion to the Federation’s viewpoint, as in the Sarasota-Manatee Jewish News that just came out there were two articles against the agreement. Couldn’t the editors, and the Federation, even publish some statements for the deal? What about publishing the open letter from 340 Rabbis? What about publishing Obama’s August 5 speech about the deal? What about having a public forum at the Federation where the issues can be discussed in public? What about showing some openness to diversity of opinion and not just let a secret vote by the Board and the Staff (or whoever makes the decision) be the way the Federation sets the rules. I think that the Federation has to take a close look at being transparent, democratic, open, and not subject to domination by a minority of the board and the staff.

  5. Stephen Cooper September 4, 2015 at 11:51 am #

    I think the entire SRQFED community should consider this article by Rabbi Lerner from Tikkun Magazine. Stephen Cooper (

    Netanyahu does not speak for us: Jewish liberals should fight the Cheney wing, stand up for Iran deal
    Some on American right and in Israel would rather see war with Iran. This would be disastrous and must be stopped
    We in the liberal and progressive wing of the Jewish world must loudly and publicly congratulate the negotiators who achieved a deal that will prevent Iran from developing the capacity to build nuclear weapons in the coming years, an agreement that also promises an end to economic sanctions. We are glad that adequate inspections and safeguards are part of this deal—no one would have trusted it otherwise.

    While Republicans rushed to denounce the deal, their response has been predictable and hollow, given their consistent policy of opposing anything that might give President Obama the appearance of having done something valuable. Their primary claim to credibility comes from identifying with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who immediately decried the agreement as “a historical mistake.” The right wing of the Jewish world is already organizing to oppose the nuclear deal, with the aid of a handful of billionaires who will fund a steady and public barrage of opposition. That is why it is important for Jewish liberals and progressives to speak as Jews to counter the right-wing assault.

    We at Tikkun hope to see the day when Iran’s oppressive and human-rights–violating government and mullah regime are nonviolently overthrown by democratic means and replaced with a government that no longer limits free speech, ends its oppression of women and Baha’i or other minority religions, and offers a path to peace and reconciliation with Israel. We also hope to see democracy, human rights and economic justice triumph throughout the world, not least in the U.S. and Israel. A deescalation of tensions with Iran could be a first step in demonstrating the viability of a nonviolent approach to political differences. But for this to come to fruition, it is incumbent upon Israel to help create an economically and politically viable Palestinian state, and on the US to stop responding to terrorists with terrorism of its own and instead replace its foreign policy of domination—through economics, cultural penetration, hard diplomacy, militarism, drones and torture—with a strategy of generosity. To aid this transition, the Network of Spiritual Progressives has proposed a Domestic and Global Marshall Plan (To read the plan, visit:

    But Israel is in no rush to give up its fantasy of dragging the U.S. into a war with Iran, particularly if Republicans gain the White House in 2016 and retain control of both Houses of the U.S. Congress.

    We understand why Israeli Jews, still living with the trauma of the Holocaust and with an ultra-right-wing government that has consistently manipulated those fears to maintain its power and control over the Palestinian people of the West Bank and Gaza, are opposing this plan. It is hard for many Jews, still recovering from trauma, to believe that peace could actually be achieved by creating a demilitarized Palestinian state along the lines suggested in my book “Embracing Israel/Palestine.” But creating a homeland for the Palestinian refugees living in misery in refugee camps around the Arab world would in fact enhance the security of Israeli Jews.

    If Israel approached this task with a spirit of generosity and repentance for its partial role in creating the Palestinian catastrophe (nakba), and if the U.S. were to launch a Domestic and Global Marshall Plan in order to replace its current strategy of achieving “homeland security” through domination with a strategy of generosity toward the people of the world, starting with the Middle East, a path to peaceful reconciliation with Iran would open.

    Iran’s anti-Semitic prime minister is long gone, and the majority of the Iranian people have historically been among the most welcoming toward Jews. The mullahs’ calls to end the Zionist state, unsupported by the majority of Iranians, are less a statement of foreign policy than an expression of anger and despair over the international community’s inability to push Israel to do right by the Palestinian people. These calls might disappear if Israel ceased its covert assaults on Iranian scientists and Iranian technological developments. And if the U.S. appeared less as a threat and more as a generous benefactor, peaceful forces in Iran would be dramatically empowered to overthrow the mullahs’ oppressive regime.

    American Jews are faced with this sad fact: There are some in Israel and some in the right wing of the American political arena who would prefer to see war with Iran, a war that would be as disastrous for the Middle East and for the U.S. as the Iraq war that those same hawks led us into in the past. Many Americans would perceive this as “a Jewish war” or “a war fought for Israel.” This could lead to a global resurgence of anti-Semitism far greater than that produced by Israel’s oppressive treatment of the Palestinian people. But there are those in Israel who actually welcome that anti-Semitism, believing that this would relegitimate what right-wing Zionists believe to be the urgent necessity for all Jews to move to Israel, to be free of this long historical legacy of Jew-hatred.

    Anti-Semitism is never legitimate, no matter how provocative Israel’s actions. Although Israel claims to speak for all Jews around the world, and although a significant section of the American Jewish community maintains blind loyalty to the Israeli government, the Israeli right wing does not and cannot represent all Jews. That’s why we at Tikkun, a voice of liberal and progressive Jews in the U.S., encourage our fellow American Jews to speak clearly and forcefully to the people of Israel, to urge them to stop their government from manipulating the American Congress and the American people or otherwise attempting to thwart this agreement with Iran.

    We have great compassion for our fellow Jews who still live with the traumatizing impact of the Jewish past, but it is time to stop letting those fears push us into behaviors contrary to our long Jewish tradition of seeking peace and reconciliation rather than resolving conflicts through force, violence and war. The way to be real allies to Israel and the Jewish people is to help our most hopeful and generous selves predominate over the fearful nightmares of the past, so that we don’t unconsciously collude in re-creating the very things we most fear. An Israel already armed to the teeth with the strongest army in the Middle East and more than 200 nuclear weapons doesn’t need cheerleading for militarism, but strong support to become known as one of the most generous and caring-for-the-other societies in the world.

    It would be a great tragedy if U.S. Jews aligned themselves with Republican hawks to prevent ratification of this international agreement with Iran, thus setting up the conditions for an Israeli attack on Iran or other provocations that might lead Iran to respond militarily. The perception of the Jewish people as leading allies with the militarists in the U.S. would be a gift to the real anti-Semites and a reason why many more young Jews would flee an identification with Judaism and the Jewish community. For those of us who are proud of the loving and peace-oriented elements in the Jewish tradition, and for our non-Jewish allies who do not want to see the Jews once again demeaned and isolated, it is time to stand up and be heard. We must loudly and clearly defend this nuclear agreement and the values that lie behind it. Doing so is good for the Jews, good for the U.S., and good for strengthening the part in almost everyone on the planet that wants a world of peace, kindness and nonviolence.

    Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine, chair of the interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue-Without Walls in San Francisco and Berkeley, California. He welcomes your responses and invites you to join with him by joining the Network of Spiritual Progressives (membership in which also brings you a subscription to Tikkun Magazine).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: