26 Former Jewish Leaders Call on Congress to Approve Iran Deal

Full page ad in New York Times is sure to spark controversy in Jewish communities and a vehement reply from deal’s critics.

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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People take part in the 51st annual Israel parade in Manhattan, New York May 31, 2015. Credit: Reuters
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

Some 26 senior American Jewish leaders have signed a public declaration calling on Congress to support the nuclear deal with Iran. Their statement, published in a full-page ad in Thursday’s New York Times, is meant to signal to Congress that the Iran nuclear deal enjoys substantial support in the Jewish community.

It is sure to spark a vehement reaction from other Jewish leaders, including AIPAC officials, who have been lobbying lawmakers to disapprove of the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Citing former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon’s view that the accord with Iran is “the best option” to deal with Iran’s nuclear problem, the ad's signers declare that the Iran nuclear deal “cuts off Iran’s ability to pursue a nuclear weapon.” While acknowledging that Iran remains “unflinchingly anti-Semitic and an unapologetic state-sponsor of terrorism” a nuclear armed Iran, the ad says, “would be even more dangerous.”

Full page NYT ad signed by 26 senior U.S. Jewish leaders expressing support for Iran deal Credit:

“While not perfect, this deal is the best available option to halt Iran’s nuclear program”, the ad notes.

Although most of the signatories to the petition are identified with the center or left, they brandish impressive credentials of past positions at the most senior levels of the American Jewish establishment.

Organizers of the statement said that it is meant to dispel any claim of monolithic Jewish opposition to the deal. The ad showed that the Obama administration’s deal with Tehran enjoys wide support among Jewish leaders as well as general Jewish public opinion, they said.

Perhaps the most provocative name of the list of signatories is that of Thomas Dine who served as AIPAC’s executive director for 13 years, from 1980-1993 and is widely credited with having built up the lobby to the powerhouse that it is today.

Other on the list include three past chairmen of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations - Alan Solow (2009-2011), Seymour Reich (1989-1990) and Theodore Mann (1979-1980); three past presidents of the American Jewish Committee - Robert Goodkind (2004-2007) Alfred Moses (1991-1994) and Robert Rifkind (1994-1998); five past residents of major Jewish Federations: Michael Adler, Miami, (2004-2006), Stanley Gold, Los Angeles (2008-2009), Alan Jaffe, New York, (1992-1995), Larry Zicklin, New York, (2001-2004) and Alan Solomont, Boston (2003-2005).

The list also includes past executives of the United Jewish Appeal: Marvin Lender, Chair (1990-1992) and Rabbi Brian Lurie, CEO, 1991-1996, who was later affiliated with the New Israel Fund; two religious leaders: Rabbi Eric Yoffie, former President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and Rabbi Itamar Schorsch, former Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS); billionaire philanthropist S. Daniel Abraham; Robert Arnow, former Chair of Ben Gurion University’s Board of Governors; former U.S. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, former U.S. Congressman Mel Levine of California and former Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida; two former chairs of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (1983-1986) and Lynn Lyss (1994-1996); Nancy Ratzan, former Chair of the National Council of Jewish Women (2008-2011); Greg Rosenbaum, current Chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council; and Mark Stanley of the Foundation for Jewish Culture.