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A Word from Rabbi Schulman - 8/28/15

I cannot recall a single issue within the American Jewish community that has

been more divisive than the nuclear agreement negotiated with Iran this past

July. As I shared a few weeks ago, advocacy groups such as the American Israel

Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as well as J Street have been lobbying hard to

persuade members of Congress either to vote in favor or in opposition of the


I have been a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis since my

ordination over three decades ago. The CCAR has on many occasions taken

very public stances advocating particular positions. However, on this specific

issue of the Iran nuclear agreement, the CCAR leadership, recognizing the

passionate positions taken on both sides of the issue by its member, decided that

as a body, the CCAR could not take a position since there is no broad based

consensus within our organization.

Nonetheless, this does not preclude each rabbi choosing to express his or her

own perspective. I have chosen to do so when some weeks ago I was

approached by a respected senior colleague to sign my name to a document

addressed to members of Congress created by Ameinu. “Ameinu, Hebrew for

‘Our People,’ is a national, multi-generational community of progressive Jews in

North America. “

I read the letter carefully, and though I did not completely concur with every

single word, I overwhelmingly agreed with its major points. I believe that the

nuclear agreement with Iran is of paramount importance for our country, for

Israel, and for the world. To remain silent on this issue would be for me a

grievous act of cowardice.

I chose to add my name as an endorser of the letter to Congress without having

any idea how many other rabbis had signed on. To me, the issue of numbers of

endorsees was irrelevant. It is a matter of principle whether you agree or not

with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Hewing to principles is

not about winning popularity contests.

Lastly, as a signatory of the Ameinu statement, I, along with the other signatories

are identified by the city in which we reside, but not by the congregations we

lead. I think that’s a significant point. On the one hand, I serve as rabbi of this

congregation. However, there has been no communal dialogue about this topic

at Temple Beth Torah – no educational seminar, no discussion by the board, no

consideration by a representative group of our congregation. To that end,

therefore, as a signatory of the Ameinu statement I am expressing my personal

perspective and not a communal one. The difference may seem slight, but it’s

significant nonetheless.

At last count, over 340 rabbis from all Jewish dominations have signed-on to this

statement. Below is the text of the document.

As always, you are invited to disagree or agree with my perspective. I always

welcome dialogue with members of our congregational community.

August 17, 2015

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives

Members of the U.S. Senate

As rabbis, we support the agreement between the United States, the United

Kingdom, France, Germany, China, Russia and Iran– The Joint Comprehensive

Plan of Action. We encourage the members of the Senate and the House of

Representatives to endorse this agreement.

The Obama administration has successfully brought together the major

international powers to confront Iran over its nuclear ambitions. The broad

international sanctions moved Iran to enter this historic agreement. Should this

agreement be rejected by the U.S. Congress, those sanctions will end. There will

be no new negotiations, as the other member countries are fully in favor of this

agreement and have no desire to re-negotiate.

We understand that while this agreement blocks Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb,

we recognize it does not deal with Iran’s support for terror, but that was never the

purpose of these talks. Now that a nuclear agreement has been reached, we call

on the United States and its international partners to strengthen their resolve and

dedicate additional resources to confront Iranian threats to Israel and other


Most especially, we are deeply concerned with the impression that the leadership

of the American Jewish community is united in opposition to the agreement. We,

along with many other Jewish leaders, fully support this historic nuclear accord.

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