Furor erupts over American Jews’ plan to build a synagogue near Ground Zero

Some Americans are up in arms over the prospect of a big new synagogue in the old Burlington Coat Factory site near Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center towers destroyed on 9/11. There’s even a Facebook page called “1,000,000+ people who disapprove of building a synagogue at Ground Zero!” It has 20,389 members, up from about 7,000 two days ago. The word is spreading virally on the internet, and people are thronging to the site to sign up.

The site’s self-description reads,

Jews want to put a SYNAGOGUE WITHIN 600 FEET “GROUND ZERO”! This page’s opinion is this synagogue is a symbol of conquering America; they could have put it somewhere else away from Ground Zero – hallowed ground – but they chose this spot for a reason.

Join us, and show America – and the Jewish world – that is an insult, and cannot stand!

This groups is NOT about attacking Judaism or Jews; it’s about the appropriateness of putting such a building in that location. Also, Obama has nothing to do with it; if you want to blame someone, blame Mayor Bloomberg – he approved of it.

The man leading the effort to build the synagogue is Rabbi Frank Rubenstein, who explained to The New York Times, “We want the world to know we condemn 9/11. In my congregation are many people who died on 9/11.” The Times described the rabbi as following a path of Judaism focused more on spiritual wisdom than on strict ritual, and as a bridge builder, he is sometimes focused more on cultivating relations with those outside his faith than within it.

The rabbi is the author of What’s Right with Judaism, about which the Christian Science Monitor called “An invigorating glimpse into the heart and mind of a wise Jew seeking the higher ground.”

Anti-Semitism at work? Not in the usual sense. This story is unbelievable in 2010, although it wouldn’t have been unbelievable 75 years ago. Hatred of Jews is not acceptable in today’s America. But every word above is true—or would be true—if you just change Jew to Muslim, synagogue to mosque, and change Rabbi Frank Rubenstein to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.

The Imam is a graduate of Columbia University and has worked for twenty years to build bridges between American Muslims and the broad public, and between America and the Muslim world. He is a leader in the world of patriotic American Muslims who are America’s biggest asset in convincing the Muslim world that their future lies with collaborating with the West rather than going to war with it.

So when he starts to build a mosque near Ground Zero to demonstrate solidarity with the victims and opposition to the terrorists, Americans should embrace him, not sign up to stop him out of a misguided idea that Muslims are America’s enemies.

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6 Responses to “Furor erupts over American Jews’ plan to build a synagogue near Ground Zero”

  1. Ed Stern Says:

    Thank you, Bob, for this very clever and insightful essay. I have told many people about it and encouraged them to read it.

  2. Ethics Bob Says:

    Thanks, Ed. I’m distressed that a majority of Americans may be seeing Muslims as they saw Jews in the ’30s and ’40s, or worse, as they saw Japanese Americans in 1942.

  3. Two follow-ups: Muslims near Ground Zero in New York City, and Connecticut voter reaction to Blumenthal’s lies « Ethics Bob Says:

    […] reports that a Manhattan community board voted 29-1, with 10 abstentions, to approve a proposed Muslim community center two blocks from Ground Zero. The board’s vote is just advisory, but the Times notes that the vote […]

  4. Ethics Bob Says:

    […] I visited the mosque recently, and reported on my visit here. And there’s more background here. […]

  5. Byron Says:

    Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

  6. Lisa Says:

    Great post! Hateful treatment of an entire people is the same no matter how you slice it.

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