Jews for Racial and Economic Justice on Cordoba House

Read JFREJ's statement on the plans to build Cordoba House and its response to the ADL's disgraceful statement in opposition:

                       JFREJ phone number:  212 647 8966

Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), is an 18-year-old city-wide organization that pursues racial and economic justice in New York City by advancing systemic changes that result in concrete improvements in people's daily lives. We engage individual Jews, key Jewish institutions, and key Jewish community leaders in the fight for racial and economic justice in partnership with people of color, low-income and immigrant communities.
We express our enthusiastic support for Cordoba House and welcome its creation as a valuable addition to the rich multi-cultural community of resources of our city.

It is particularly appropriate that Cordoba House should be built near the site of the World Trade Center, as a reminder of the cross-cultural diversity of New York and of the open society that we as a city and a country proclaim as one of our core democratic values. We hope that many of the visitors who come to Ground Zero will take advantage of the educational and informational opportunities offered by Cordoba House. As the descendants of Jews who, often over the opposition of powerful conservative forces, brought our rich and diverse cultural heritage to New York, and through New York's gates to many other places across the country, we offer our solidarity and support to Muslims who are now doing the same.

We want also to rebut and condemn the Anti-Defamation League  which has disgracefully betrayed its name and its proclaimed ideals with its opposition to the building of Cordoba House.  We want to make it clear, as New York Jews, that the ADL does not speak for us.
We completely reject the concept that all Muslims bear responsibility for the attack on the World Trade Center. This outrageous argument is in fact the logical conclusion of the opposition to the location of the Cordoba House, as expressed, for example, in the claim that "Well, there's nothing wrong with it but it shouldn't be so close to the World Trade Center site because it was Muslims who attacked the Twin Towers."

As Jews, and as veterans of the civil rights movement, women's movement, and movements for gay, lesbian and transgender rights, we are all too familiar with the argument that initiatives of groups who have been defined as the "other" will cause discomfort and pain to members of the dominant group and therefore the "other" should remain silent or invisible. In this controversy about the Cordoba House Arab and Muslim communities are being told this and we reject it whole-heartedly. It is particularly ironic and painful that ADL, which sponsors a national educational program called "A World of Difference," should choose to proclaim opposition to the recognition and celebration of inter-group differences and similarities.

For us as Jews and New Yorkers, these attacks on the Cordoba House echo the 2007 controversy over the establishment of the Kahlil Gibran International Academy as the first English/Arabic dual language school in the country. Debbie Almontaser, the principal, was subjected to vicious, often racist and anti-Muslim personal and professional attacks and sadly, the ADL and other major Jewish organizations chose not to stand with Ms. Almontaser and the school, but sided with the forces of hatred and division that destroyed the school.

This year, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission determined that the charges against Ms. Almontaser in that controversy were baseless, that she was indeed discriminated against on the basis of her "race, religion and national origin," and that the New York City Department of Education had "succumbed to the very bias that creation of the school was intended to dispel."
We are profoundly angry that now, with the Cordoba House as its target, the ADL is repeating its role as an agent of division rather than unity and reconciliation.  We call on all Jewish New Yorkers to stand with us against such divisiveness and hatred. We hope that together we can ensure that the Cordoba House is established as planned-to celebrate, honor and promote the cultural, ethnic, racial and religious diversity of our city and our country.