To the Temple Beth-El Community:
About 10 days ago, after President Trump announced that the U.S. will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an Egyptian imam who arrived at the Islamic Center of Jersey City over the summer gave sermons that contained anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric. They contained words that could be perceived as an incitement of violence. This was particularly alarming due to the proximity of the Islamic Center to Temple Beth-El. The sermons were posted to the “video” section of the Islamic Center’s website.
Rabbi Beal quickly became aware of this and worked toward a resolution with Rabbi Scheinberg of United Synagogue of Hoboken, Ahmed Shedeed, the President of the Islamic Center, the imam himself, and other local interfaith leaders. He also arranged for heightened police observation of the Temple and notified SCN, which is the national homeland security initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America & the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. SCN reports all such incidents to the U.S. Dept. Of Homeland Security.
The clergy, including the imam, met and agreed on a plan of action that was confirmed by the Board of the Islamic Center. The imam was suspended for one month without pay and will attend training sessions about the unsuitability of such language. All videos of this imam were removed from the Islamic Center’s website, and a long statement has been posted that that denounces violence and states unequivocally that they value friendship with the Jewish and Christian communities. You can see the statement at www.icjc.net
In addition, the Islamic Center reacted enthusiastically to Rabbi Beal’s idea of joint programming to address hatred and violence and to help better educate our communities about one another.
While the statement will not meet all of the concerns of all people, it is a step in the right direction. I hope that the TBE community will take pride in knowing that years of interfaith work and relationships developed over the years by our leadership were at the foundation of the discussions that took place. As a result, religious leaders were able to communicate with one another in the spirit of peace and friendship.
Let us join together in praying that this troubling and unfortunate event will lead to a growing dialogue and programming that will advance the cause of peace.
Tom Rosensweet, President