The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ has come out against the nuclear deal with Iran, the latest in a small but growing number of North American federations who are taking firm positions on the issue.
In a statement from its Board of Trustees released on Aug. 5, the federation says the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, intended to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, “does not meet” criteria, advocated by the federation, that would “end Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapons program” and “ensure the safety and security of Israel and the world.”
According to the statement, “This Agreement merely delays Iran’s nuclear military capacity, provides billions of dollars without measures to ensure that these funds are not used for terrorism, and allows for Iran’s continued purchase and development of conventional weapons and ballistic missiles.”
The statement urges members of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation to oppose the deal “as it stands,” and asserts that the U.S. government “has the power to strengthen a number of components surrounding the Agreement.”
The statement lists those components: “Iran must not become a nuclear threshold in 15 years or ever; the infusion of cash from sanctions relief must not fund an increase in terrorist activities; the United States must participate in inspections; penalties must be in place for small and medium infractions of the agreement; and there must be credible deterrence capabilities.”
This statement asserts that it was “recently approved by an overwhelming majority of the nonpartisan Board of Trustees of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, the members of which reflect the diversity of the Greater MetroWest Jewish community.”
After the Iran nuclear deal was announced on July 14, only a handful of Jewish federations staked out a clear position on the agreement. Others, including the Greater MetroWest federation, said they would be using all or part of Congress’ 60-day review period to learn about the international agreement and share their opinions with elected officials.
In recent days the federation’s Community Relations Committee hosted or co-sponsored public conference calls on the issue with David Makovsky, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who has not announced his position on the deal.
The CRC also promoted a “Town Hall Meeting on Iran” with Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Dist. 7) on Aug. 4 in Millburn as part of its “Iran Nuclear Agreement Speaker Series.” Lance was highly critical of the deal, as he has been since it was first announced.
In an op-ed published Thursday in the NJJN, Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, the federation president, and Dov Ben-Shimon, its CEO, explained the “several weeks of consultation, deliberation, and discussion” that led up to the Board vote.
“We insisted that the Board members educate themselves while continually emphasizing the need for a safe place to speak out,” they wrote. “We discussed binary (yes/no) statements and nuanced clauses, and how to craft a statement that would be clear and meaningful, expressing concerns but pointing to ways to move forward. We were mindful that a Federation Board statement should frame our concerns without alienating community members. And we wanted to frame a statement that continued the outreach and engagement process to previously unaffiliated groups in our wide and diverse community.”
The board of trustees' statement acknowledges that members of the community disagree on whether or not to to oppose the plan.
“We understand that all of us who love Israel and yearn for peace in the Greater MetroWest Jewish community have different ideas on how to achieve our shared goal. We respect the right of everyone to his or her own view; we are a broad and diverse community,” reads the statement. “We request that the civil discourse and thoughtful conversation we have seen so far in our community continues.”
However, it asserts, “It is incumbent upon us as Americans, as Jews, and as people who love both Israel and the United States to take a public stance at this historic moment.”
It also referred to inaction by American Jews during the Holocaust.
“More than 75 years ago, the American Jewish community could not speak out effectively to our political leaders when our brothers and sisters in Europe were being exterminated,” according to the statement. “Today, we are strong. Today, there is a Jewish State and it is the basis of an enduring bond between and among the Jewish people. Today, we are speaking up for the safety and security of the United States and Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East.”