A Call to the Mayor from Jewish New Yorkers: New York City Needs Strong, Visible Condemnation of Islamophobia

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Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaking at Daily News Hometown Heroes in Transit Awards. Credit: Creative Commons/Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York


Below is a letter sent to Mayor de Blasio from a group of Jewish New Yorkers. Tikkun asked us to share the origins of this letter. Once it became clear that virulently Islamophobic ads were going up in New York City’s buses and subways, a number of people from the Jewish community came together to discuss what they could do. The group thought that it would be extremely important and feasible for the Mayor and City to make sure that every New Yorker who saw those ads would know that the city considered them bigoted and hateful, and that the City would respond with a message calling for respect and safety for all communities. The group also thought it was important for members of the Jewish community to stand together with the Muslim community. As you can see from the signatories, Jews from many different areas of Jewish and public life came together in the signing of this statement that was sent to New York City’s mayor.

Sept. 22, 2014 Jewish New Yorkers call upon the Mayor to respond to Islamophobic ads with visible messages of repudiation of such bigotry and a call for respect and safety for all communities. See letter and signatories below.
Dear Mayor de Blasio:
As you know, hateful, bigoted signs that denigrate Muslims will be posted this week in NYC subway stations and on public buses. The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), the sponsor of this ad, is one of three groups co-founded by Pamela Geller that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as anti-Muslim hate groups.
While a court has ruled that the First Amendment prevents the MTA from rejecting these virulently anti-Muslim ads, NYC has the right – indeed, the obligation – to denounce the message they promote and to ensure that all New Yorkers are treated with dignity and respect.

As members of the Jewish community, we understand from our own history how important it is to speak out and act when individuals promote bigotry and racial discrimination. That is particularly critical when a community, such as the Muslim community today, faces ongoing discrimination. The danger of individuals spewing hatred cannot be underestimated. It encourages others to think of Muslims as not deserving even the most basic civil rights and protections.
Mayor de Blasio, you were quoted in the Daily News as saying, “These ads are outrageous, inflammatory and wrong and have no place in NYC, or anywhere. These hateful messages serve only to divide and stigmatize when we should be coming together as one city.”
We applaud that statement. But we are calling upon you to do more.
We need NYC’s elected officials to denounce such messages in a way that reaches those who cannot avoid seeing them – as they ride the subway or buses to school and or work.
We call upon you to place these sentiments near every American Freedom Defense Initiative/Pamela Geller ad, so that they are visible wherever these ads are posted in the MTA system. These ads are pernicious. But bigotry will not prevail if our city drowns out the hate with a message of respect and safety for all communities.
We need such prominent public statements from you and other City officials to make clear that we stand together with the Muslim community against these extraordinarily vicious forms of hate speech and that we stand against Islamophobia and racism in every form.
Sincerely yours,
Anita Altman
Karen R. Adler
Peter Beinart
Esther Cohen
Jonathan Cohen
Stosh Cotler
Rabbi Rachel Cowan
Barbara Dobkin
Eve Ensler
Eleanor Friedman
Phyllis Teicher Goldman
Sally Gottesman
Cynthia Greenberg
Colin Greer
Talia Hatzor
Judith Helfand
Barbara S. Kane
Marjorie Dove Kent
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
Victor Kovner
Gil Kulick
Alan Levine
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann
Isaac Luria
Former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger
Susan Miller
Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark
Donna Nevel
Kathleen Peratis
Letty Cottin Pogrebin
Michael Ratner
Corey Robin
Deborah Sagner
James Schamus
Alisa Solomon
Nancy Schwartz Sternoff
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky
Peter Weiss