After Iran Deal Battle, Unity Declared By 53 Jewish Groups

This article first appeared on the Jewish Week website on September 25, 2015.


Washington — More than 50 Jewish groups signed a statement saying that despite differences over the Iran nuclear deal, the community was united about the dangers Iran poses.

“Deliberations over this agreement have evoked deep passions and differences befitting such a critical and complex matter,” said the statement signed by 53 groups under the aegis of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“There were those who saw the agreement as deeply flawed, while others endorsed it as the best among limited alternatives,” said the statement released Monday, noting that it came out on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.

“Across the spectrum of support or opposition to the deal, it was recognized that our community shares serious concerns for the security of the United States and the world posed by Iran’s nuclear program,” it said. “The safety of Israel and its citizens is of special concern, as Iranian leaders continue to threaten the annihilation of the Jewish State as they do the United States.”

The community, the statement said, was united going forward.

“As we celebrate the High Holy Days, inspired by the spirit and message of our prayers, we rededicate ourselves to our shared commitments to our country, to our community, and to the security and well-being of Israel,” it said.

The two-month battle over whether Congress should reject the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached in July between six major powers and Iran led to tough debates in Jewish communities across the country, and anguished statements by Jewish lawmakers.

The battle ended Sept. 17, the last day for Congress to reject the deal; it did not.

At times, the rhetoric in the Jewish community was heated, with accusations of being anti-Israel directed at those who backed the deal, and insinuations of dual loyalty directed at its opponents.

“It is regrettable that, at times, the debate was marked by irresponsible assertions, including ad hominem attacks and insinuations of dual loyalty, maligning the intentions of the opposing side,” the statement said.

A handful of Presidents Conference constituents did not sign on, among them Americans for Peace Now, which backed the deal. Ameinu, a liberal group also backing the deal, did sign the statement. J Street, which backed the deal, was rejected last year for membership in the Conference of Presidents and so was not involved in the statement.

Many of the signatories opposed the deal, or expressed skepticism about it, although some major groups, chief among them the Reform movement, were agnostic.

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, which at one time was an adjunct to the Presidents’ Conference, was not included. A spokeswoman for the college said it was not asked to join the statement. Malcolm Hoenlein, the President’s Conference executive vice chairman, said the Reconstructionists are no longer affiliated with the conference. The other three major streams, the Orthodox, Reform and Conservative movements, all were represented.

The Obama administration said the deal was the best means of keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the deal leaves Iran a nuclear threshold state.

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