I’m not sure if other people know this, but the community center/mosque that New York City just approved for construction is not a Jewish project. Given the public statements on the center from the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League and J Street–all leading Jewish American organizations–your Jew on the street could assume that this was some sort of interfaith project by the Jewish Community Relations Council, rahter than an Islamic effort. By the same token, this latest bout of public statements was akin to those I’d seen on the flotilla crisis or the recent conversion fiasco in the Knesset.
Despite those public statements, this is not a Jewish issue. I understand that Israel fights Islamic terror. I understand that sympathy with Israel makes America’s Jews more attuned to Islamic activity in the US. What I don’t understand is why that makes some Jewish organizations think they have anything to do with an Islamic cultural center’s construction in downtown Manhattan. Islam is not the “opposite” of Judaism and just because something is Islamic does not mean that it relates in any way to Jews or the Jewish community.
Furthermore, it wasn’t even in the interest of those organizations to join the debate. The ADL lost out big-time–both morally and politically–by opposing the center’s construction, and while the AJC and J Street ended up on the winning side of the debate, this accomplished nothing for their causes.
The ADL is an organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry, so why did they advocate against building a religious community center? The AJC is a representative body of the Jewish community in Washington, but how did this have anything to do with the Jewish community? J Street is a lobby pushing a pro-peace agenda regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but what did this initiative have to do with that conflict? Yes, the initiative’s leaders are Muslim, just like the Palestinians, but you don’t see J Street commenting on every American domestic Islamic issue, nor on every Jewish one.
I know Jews like to debate, and I appreciate that our community stays informed about key local and national issues. That doesn’t mean, however, that every major Jewish organization should be issuing public statements about every hot news issue–even if the key players in that news issue happen to share a religion with the people who live across the fence from Israel. Odds are the Muslim community in the US also has some organizations with official-sounding acronyms; let them do some talking on this one.