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In Defense of Freedom
Interfaith Alliance--September 20, 2001
© Rabbi Jack Moline

I am Rabbi Jack Moline, a Conservative Rabbi and member of the board of The Interfaith Alliance. It is my honor to share the platform with this extraordinary cross-section of America.

Among the ten points presented in this Defense of Freedom is the seventh: We should resist efforts to target people because of their race, religion, ethnic background or appearance, including immigrants in general, Arab Americans and Muslims.

I worry that the voice of the religious community is important to many Americans only for its denials in this time of crisis. Muslims in particular are busy denying that the terror and murder inflicted on our nation find any home in Islam. Catholics and Protestants, Jews of every stripe, Hindus, Sikhs, Baha'is and Buddhists - to name but a few - are denying the teachings of hatred in their traditions. Perhaps we all need to be reassured that folks like me are not instructing their flocks to rise up as an angry mob against those who do not share our particular values and practices.

But it is not enough to deny the teaching of contempt. And it is certainly not enough to preach some vague and impractical love of neighbor as one's self in these times of fear and suspicion.

A student once professed his love for his rabbi, to which the rabbi responded, "Do you know what hurts me?" The student, confused by the response, said, "My teacher, I said that I love you! What is the relevance of whether I know what hurts you?" The rabbi responded, "If you do not know what hurts me, then how can you say you love me?"

The voices in the religious communities must rise in affirmation of the celebration of the many paths to rigtheous living. As a Jew particularly, the time has come to affirm that the differences that may exist between me and my Muslim neighbor can only be overcome if we recognize each other's humanity. We must proactively guard each other's human rights - especially the right to a life free from persecution and terror on the basis of religion, ethnic background or appearance. We must know each other's hurt.

We have a cliché in this country used too often to set barriers between us. How often have you said about some other human being, "I wouldn't be caught dead with that person." Well guess what, my friends. We were caught dead with each other. Now let's work on getting caught alive together.

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