340 US rabbis sign letter urging Congress to support Iran deal

We back this ‘historic accord,’ left-leaning clerics say, and warn Israel could be isolated if agreement is rejected

Participants in the talks on the Iran nuclear deal pose for a group photo at the UN building in Vienna, Austria, on July 14, 2015. (Carlos Barria, Pool Photo via AP)
Participants in the talks on the Iran nuclear deal pose for a group photo at the UN building in Vienna, Austria, on July 14, 2015. (Carlos Barria, Pool Photo via AP)

Over 300 rabbis have signed a letter in support of the Iran nuclear accord.

“As rabbis, we support the agreement,” the letter begins. Signed by 340 rabbis from “all streams of Judaism,” many of them identified with progressive causes, the letter was publicized Monday by the left-wing Zionist group Ameinu, which says it promotes “a progressive Israel and a just America.”

The nuclear deal signed last month between six world powers and Iran aims to curtail Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing severe international sanctions. It is coming up for a critical vote of support in Congress in late September, when the Republican majority has vowed to vote against the deal. The Obama administration promised to veto legislation that undermines the deal, and is campaigning to garner the support of enough lawmakers to prevent a two-thirds vote overcoming that veto.

The letter urges the House of Representatives and Senate to endorse the agreement.

Noting that “we are deeply concerned with the impression that the leadership of the American Jewish community is united in opposition to the agreement,” the letter states, “We, along with many other Jewish leaders, fully support this historic nuclear accord.”

Rabbi Sharon Brous of the IKAR congregation in Los Angeles reads Prayers for the People at the presidential inaugural service. (Donovan Marks/Washington National Cathedral via JTA)
Rabbi Sharon Brous of the IKAR congregation in Los Angeles. (Donovan Marks/Washington National Cathedral via JTA)

In a news release issued by Ameinu, one of the letter’s signatories, Rabbi Steven Bob of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, is quoted as saying, “We commend the US and the other negotiating teams for their dedication to reaching an agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. This deal is good for the United States and our allies in the region, and is the best arrangement possible given current international realities.”

Rabbi Samuel Gordon of Wilmette, Illinois, said in the news release that if Congress rejects the deal, “the consequences for the United States, Israel, the Jewish community and the world will be significant.

“We fear that the outcome will be the collapse of the international sanctions regime, an Iranian race for nuclear weapons and an associated arms race in the Middle East and isolation of Israel and the United States from international partners,” Gordon said.

Numerous American Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee, have publicly opposed the accord. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is lobbying Congress to reject the deal and has spent millions of dollars in its campaign.

Among the rabbis signing the letter are Elliot Dorff, an influential theology professor and bioethicist who heads the Conservative movement’s central body on Jewish law; Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus and Peter Knobel, former presidents of the Reform movement’s rabbinic organization; Jill Jacobs, head of the progressive activist group T’ruah; Sharon Brous of Ikar, a large congregation in Los Angeles; Burton Visotzky, a professor at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary; Lawrence Kushner, the author of more than 18 books on Judaism; Arthur Waskow, a well-known author and progressive activist; Sharon Kleinbaum, the longtime rabbi of the largest LGBT synagogue in North America; Nina Beth Cardin, an author and Jewish environmental activist; and Amy Eilberg, the first woman rabbi ordained by the Conservative movement.

The rabbis praised the agreement, while simultaneously urging world powers to confront Iran’s “support for terror.”

“The Obama administration has successfully brought together the major international powers to confront Iran over its nuclear ambitions,” it says. “The broad international sanctions moved Iran to enter this historic agreement. Should this agreement be rejected by the US congress, those sanctions will end. There will be no new negotiations, as the other member countries are fully in favor of this agreement and have no desire to re-negotiate.”

While the agreement “blocks Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb, we recognize it does not deal with Iran’s support for terror, but that was never the purpose of these talks. Now that a nuclear agreement has been reached, we call on the United States and its international partners to strengthen their resolve and dedicate additional resources to confront Iranian threats to Israel and other states.”

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