Rabbinic Letter in Support of Professor Michelle Alexander

Over 100 rabbis from across the liberal Jewish movements joined together to applaud Professor Michelle Alexander for writing “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine,” which was published in the New York Times on January 20. While we hold diverse opinions regarding the origins of and solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we are moved to speak publicly in support of Professor Alexander.

We have long been moved by Professor Alexander’s prophetic voice. We believe that her words are rooted in the same deep commitment to defending the rights and freedoms of oppressed communities, and we reject the charges of antisemitism that have been leveled against Professor Alexander by several Jewish leaders. 

Professor Alexander’s work has been crucial for many rabbis in shaping how we understand race in this country. Now, drawing from her immense scholarship she is challenging our community to protest Israel’s abuse of power towards the Palestinians. While that might feel uncomfortable for some of us, she has given our community a real gift by inviting us to examine our own prejudices and to break the silences we too often maintain.

The Rabbinic Letter in Support of Professor Michelle Alexander

Whoever is able to protest against the transgressors of his household but does not is held responsible for the sins of his household. Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the people of his community but does not he is held responsible for the transgressions of his community. Whoever is able to protest against the sins of the entire world but does not he is held responsible for the sins of the entire world. (Shabbat 54b)

We, the undersigned rabbis, applaud Professor Michelle Alexander for her courageous article in the New York Times, “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine.”

We hold diverse opinions regarding the origins of and solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we support a range of American, Israeli, and Palestinian organizations working for peace, justice, and equality. While Professor Alexander’s words were painful for some of us to read, we deeply appreciate her commitment to break her silence and to lift up the suffering of the Palestinian people.

Professor Alexander has been an important teacher for us. Her groundbreaking work, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, had a profound impact on our understanding of race and the criminal justice system and inspired us to recommit ourselves to the struggle for racial justice.

As rabbis deeply committed to the Jewish communities we serve, we reject accusations that her criticism of Israel is tantamount to antisemitism. On the contrary, calling on the State of Israel to uphold the core Jewish values of justice and dignity for all human beings is a sacred task.

Jewish tradition teaches that we have a responsibility to protest when we see injustice. We must not stand idly by. Professor Alexander’s prophetic voice reminds us that we must take our spiritual teachings and apply them to the world we live in. Just as we commit to speaking up for the rights of African Americans, so too will we commit to speaking up for the rights of Palestinians. We will not give in to those who attempt to silence us or our allies who advocate for peace, justice, and equality for the Palestinian people. We believe, as Dr. King taught, that “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.” We are grateful for Professor Alexander’s courage and we join her in refusing to be silent in the face of injustice. 

List of signers:

  1. Rabbi Leora Abelson
  2. Rabbi Alana Alpert
  3. Rabbi Doug Alpert
  4. Rabbi Rebecca Alpert
  5. Rabbi Caryn Aviv
  6. Rabbi Justus Baird
  7. Rabbinical Student Sarah Barasch
  8. Rabbi Benjamin Barnett
  9. Rabbi David Basior
  10. Rabbi David Dunn Bauer
  11. Rabbi Renee Bauer
  12. Rabbi Philip Bentley
  13. Rabbi Joseph Berman
  14. Rabbi Marjorie Berman
  15. Rabbi Phyllis Berman
  16. Rabbi Leila Gal Berner
  17. Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton
  18. Rabbi Caryn Broitman
  19. Rabbi Adam Chalom
  20. Rabbi Joshua Chasan
  21. Cantor Eric Cohen
  22. Rabbi Howard Cohen
  23. Rabbi Tamara Cohen
  24. Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels
  25. Rabbi David J. Cooper
  26. Rabbi Meryl Crean
  27. Rabbi Michael Davis
  28. Rabbi Diane Elliot
  29. Rabbi Barat Ellman
  30. Rabbi Andrew Ettin
  31. Cantor Shulamit Wise Fairman
  32. Rabbi Jeffrey Falick
  33. Rabbi Susan Falk
  34. Rabbi Charles Familant
  35. Rabbi Charles Feinberg
  36. Rabbi Michael Feinberg
  37. Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer
  38. Rabbi Betsy Forester
  39. Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari
  40. Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman
  41. Rabbi Everett Gendler
  42. Rabbi Shai Gluskin
  43. Rabbi Mónica Gomery
  44. Rabbi Laurie Green
  45. Rabbi Julie Greenberg
  46. Rabbi Suzanne Griffel
  47. Rabbi Seth Goldstein
  48. Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
  49. Rabbi Hillel Greene
  50. Rabbinical Student Lara Haft
  51. Rabbi Maurice Harris
  52. Rabbi Eli Herb
  53. Rabbi Jay Heyman
  54. Rabbi Linda Holtzman
  55. Rabbi Margaret Holub
  56. Rabbi Devorah Jacobson
  57. Rabbi Jay Kridel
  58. Rabbi Ellen Jaffe-Gill
  59. Rabbi Meredith Kahn
  60. Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman
  61. Rabbi Malka Binah Klein
  62. Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
  63. Rabbinical Student Alanna Kleinman
  64. Rabbi Julie Kozlow
  65. Rabbi Douglas Krantz
  66. Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer
  67. Rabbi Alan LaPayover
  68. Rabbi Arielle Lekach-Rosenberg
  69. Rabbi Michael Lerner
  70. Rabbi Mordechai Liebling
  71. Rabbi Ellen Lippmann
  72. Rabbi Jeffrey Marker
  73. Rabbi Rim Meirowitz
  74. Rabbi Abby Michaleski
  75. Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom
  76. Rabbi David Mivasair
  77. Rabbi Gray Myrseth
  78. Rabbi Dev Noily
  79. Rabbi Dan Nussbaum
  80. Rabbi Alexis Pearce
  81. Rabbi Lucia Pizarro
  82. Rabbi Jonah Rank
  83. Rabbi Victor Reinstein
  84. Rabbi Moti Rieber
  85. Rabbinical Student Mackenzie Reynolds
  86. Rabbi Margie Klein Ronkin
  87. Rabbi Brant Rosen
  88. Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg
  89. Rabbi Jeffrey Roth
  90. Rabbi Michael Rothbaum
  91. Rabbi Elisheva Salamo
  92. Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips
  93. Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb
  94. Rabbi Chaim Schneider
  95. Rabbi Arthur Segal
  96. Rabbi David Seidenberg
  97. Rabbi Mayer Selekman
  98. Rabbi Gerald Serotta
  99. Rabbi Jeremy Sher
  100. Rabbi Jessica K. Shimberg
  101. Rabbi David Shneyer
  102. Rabbi Mia Simring
  103. Rabbi Toba Spitzer
  104. Rabbi David Teutsch
  105. Rabbi Brian Walt
  106. Rabbi Arthur Waskow
  107. Rabbi Seth Wax
  108. Rabbi Elyse Wechterman
  109. Rabbi Sheila Weinberg
  110. Rabbi Simkha Y Weintraub
  111. Rabbi Lew Weiss
  112. Rabbi Ora Weiss
  113. Rabbi Ariann Weitzman
  114. Rabbi Michal Woll
  115. Rabbi Joseph Wolf
  116. Rabbinical Student May Ye
  117. Rabbi Shawn Zevit
  118. Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman
  119. Rabbi Michael Zimmerman

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