WASHINGTON – Leading U.S. Jewish organizations have appealed directly to the bipartisan founders of the Congressional Caucus for the Advancement of Torah Values to express their opposition, calling it a misguided effort in the fight against antisemitism.
Nine organizations – ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, Partners for Progressive Israel, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, T'Ruah and The Workers Circle – urged Rep. Don Bacon, a Republican from Nebraska, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas, to disband their newly formed caucus and to consult with Jewish community leaders to find a more appropriate way to express solidarity.
Bacon and Cuellar, neither of whom are Jewish, announced the establishment of the caucus last week to "protect Torah values and freedom of religion, while fighting antisemitism and hatred,” noting it would be “committed to combating anti-Israel bigotry and protecting the Jewish community’s values and right to worship freely.”
The Jewish organizations decried the "deeply concerning" existence of a caucus designed to uphold or claim to speak in the name of “Torah values” and criticized the use of the term to pursue a political agenda. The caucus' self-described mission raises significant concerns regarding the separation of church and state – "one of the keys to the long-term safety and security of the American Jewish community," they added.
The organizations further expressed dismay that lawmakers had only consulted with Rabbi David Hofstedter, a Toronto-based rabbi who leads the Orthodox group Dirshu, rather than leaders from major American-Jewish institutions.
"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," they wrote. The groups also expressed concern with the lawmakers' stated commitment to "combating anti-Israel bigotry, noting the ever-present issue of conflating criticism of Israeli government policy with antisemitism."
"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," they wrote.
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The organizations' letter comes after several other prominent American-Jewish leaders have publicly expressed opposition. Jewish Democratic Council for America CEO Halie Soifer noted "there are many challenges facing Jewish Americans, including the insidious threat of antisemitism. With all due respect to our non-Jewish friends, the creation of this caucus is not the way to address them, nor is our 'Torah values' in need of your advancement."
Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance, further noted that "antisemitism has a significant impact on the lives of American Jews, contributing to a culture in which Jews are afraid to openly express their faith. In a nation founded by those seeking religious freedom, we cannot allow this phenomenon to become normalized. Unfortunately, this caucus does little to address the concerns of everyday American Jews. Rather, it politicizes our existence and erodes the longstanding wall of separation between government and religion, endangering the very people it claims to defend."