Dear Representatives Bacon and Cuellar,
We are writing to express our opposition to your decision to establish the Congressional Caucus for the Advancement of Torah Values. While we appreciate your stated desire to fight antisemitism, this caucus is a misguided effort.
The very existence of a Congressional caucus designed to uphold or claim to speak in the name of “Torah values” is deeply concerning. A caucus in Congress should not take on itself defining what constitutes “Torah Values” in order to pursue a particular political agenda. And if the nature of this suggests that pursuing one set of religious values is the foundation of your legislative activity it raises significant concerns regarding the separation of church and state, which has been one of the keys to the long-term safety and security of the American Jewish community. The wisdom and the text of the Torah is sacred and important to the American Jewish community, but so is pluralism and respect for all faiths.
This might have been avoided if you had consulted with rabbis and Jewish leaders from many of the major institutions in American Jewish life. To have chosen a single rabbi from outside the country led to a skewed sense of our community’s needs and values. We hope that going forward, you will look to a diverse set of leaders from the American Jewish community on how best to support us in the fight against antisemitism.
In comments about this caucus, you have expressed your commitment to “to combating anti-Israel bigotry.” We are opposed to bigotry, “anti-Israel” or otherwise. But we are also concerned about the conflation of criticism of Israeli government policy with antisemitism. Along with many in the American Jewish community, we feel it is our duty to speak out against Israeli actions we find troubling. Just as criticizing American policy or actions does not make one anti-American, so too criticizing Israeli policy is neither anti-Israel nor antisemitic. The implication that antisemitism is akin to anti-Israel sentiment traffics in dangerous antisemitic tropes of dual loyalty and is detrimental to the effort to combat true antisemitism. We appreciate your efforts in support of the American Jewish community, but we urge you to disband this caucus and, in consultation with community leaders, find a more appropriate way to express your solidarity.
ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Americans for Peace Now
Partners for Progressive Israel
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
The Workers Circle