Q & A with… Dr. Charles Jacobs
Human rights activist talks about what it will take to awaken the Jewish community to the threat of radical Islam
By Judie Jacobson
BOSTON, Mass. – Long-time human rights activist Dr. Charles Jacobs is president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance. www.peaceandtolerance.org, an interfaith group he co-founded in 2008 with Prof. Dennis Hale and Sheikh Ahmed Mansour, to expose and challenge radical Islamic organizations and to support moderate Muslims in America.
In 1988, Jacobs co-founded with Andrea Levin, the Boston branch of CAMERA – Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America – which evolved into the organization’s national office. In 1993, along with Muslim and Christian Africans, he founded the American Anti-Slavery Group. For his efforts to help emancipate enslaved black Africans in Sudan, he was awarded in 2000 the first Boston Freedom Award for his abolitionist work by Coretta Scott King and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. In 2002, in response to the sudden emergence of a new global antisemitism, he co-founded with Avi Goldwasswer, “The David Project,” which promotes a fair and honest discussion of the Middle East conflict and trains college students to advocate for Israel on American campuses.
Widely published, Jacobs has appeared on national television and radio shows and currently writes a column for the Boston Jewish Advocate. In 2007, he was named by The Forward as one of America’s top 50 Jewish leaders.
Recently, Jacobs criticized a Boston rabbi for allying himself with the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, presenting evidence of the mega-mosque’s radical Islamic ties. In response, several dozen local rabbis signed a letter castigating Jacobs.
The Ledger spoke with Jacobs recently about the incident and the threat of radical Islam.
Q: Can you tell us the background of what happened that led to this conflict between you,
Rabbi Eric Gurvis and the rabbis who came to his defense?
A: The immediate cause of the conflict was a column I wrote in the Boston Jewish Advocate (I’m a columnist) criticizing Rabbi Gurvis for publicly embracing the leader of an Islamic organization which federal prosecutors have called “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.” In the article I argued that Jews who embraced them, for whatever reason, even to show they were not biased against Muslims, were undermining the truly moderate Muslims as well as making our community less safe. A week later 63 rabbis, Reform and Reconstructionist, published an open letter which not only berated me for being “uncivil” to their colleague, but which also falsely accused me of waging a campaign, based on half-truths, against Boston’s Muslim community. These rabbis knew – or should have known – better: our group, Americans for Peace and Tolerance is composed of Christians, Jews and authentically moderate Muslim reformers who seek to expose the radical leadership of Islamic institutions. Our entire thrust is to distinguish between moderate and radical Muslims. Apart from being untrue, their public attack on me endangers me and my family. When the rabbi’s letter was published, many people and groups came to my defense, including rabbis, a reform Muslim leader, Christians and Jews for Israel, and many others.
Q: Has this mosque been controversial in the Jewish community before?
A: It has been at the center of an inter-Jewish conflict, simmering beneath the surface for years. In Boston, like in many other cities, the Jewish community has been split politically – left vs center/right – mostly over Zionist policy. But in Boston, there is another center of conflict: We have a $16M Saudi-funded mega mosque, the largest mosque on the Eastern Seaboard. It has become the center of a really roiling inter-Jewish brawl. The mosque, which was constructed by the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB), on city land, given to them almost free by Boston Mayor Menino, is now controlled by a group – the Muslim American Society (MAS) – that federal prosecutors call “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.” The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), from the very start, embraced the leadership of this mosque, and engaged in public dialogue with them, thereby sending a message to the rest of Boston’s citizens that these leaders were kosher. But they are not.
The founder of the ISB is in jail for being an al-Quaeda money runner. On the board was a man who preaches that Jews should be exterminated, gays killed and wives beaten. In fact the mosque’s website had a “how to beat your wife” page, until we pointed it out. The newest trustee teaches that Muslims must live under Sharia law. Etc., etc., etc. The mosque has invited speakers who are anti-Jewish and anti-Christian. The Jews who dialogued with the ISB/MAS were lied to repeatedly. In our public presentations we demonstrate 6 big lies.
Q: So with all this negative information, why is the Jewish community still in good relations with the mosque leaders?
A: Well, this has changed. We convinced the JCRC and the Federation here to skip the big public mosque inauguration where they were to be honored guests and to pull back from public dialogue.
Q: How did you do that?
A: With our massive collection of documentation about who owns and controls the mosque. Along with several Boston media outlets (Fox News and the Boston Herald), we were sued by the ISB for “defamation.” They dropped the suit, but my organization at the time – the David Project – spent close to $900,000 in legal fees defending. The upside is that we captured 40 boxes of discovery materials from the ISB. We have their bank records and internal emails. We make presentations around the region. With a two-hour presentation, we convinced the JCRC and the Federation that there is a problem.
Q: Why then are there still rabbis who are embracing these folks?
A: Because up to this point, the JCRC and the Federation have not wanted to go public with what they know. This is enormously problematic: first they signal to Boston citizens – Jews and others alike – that the ISB/MAS is hunky-dory. They work with them together on social justice issues; they are in public dialogue. But now, when they see they made an error, they have so far refused to correct the impression that they gave. Islamic radicals need Jewish embrace to get the key to the city. “If the Jews think they’re ok, well then… they must be OK” is the likely reasoning of Boston’s non-Jews.
Q: Why don’t the Jewish established organizations want to tell the rest of Boston what they suspect?
A: All bureaucracies are risk and conflict averse, no?
Q: We’ve seen our video capturing the Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, at the Boston mosque, embracing an Imam who you also capture preaching to Muslims “It’s time to reach for the sword and the gun and go out and do your job.” This is pretty stunning. What have been the consequences of this video?
A: Well, first of all, it’s gotten over 40,000 hits on YouTube. (our readers can see it at www.peaceandtolerance.org) Also, we hear that the Governor is not happy, especially since it showed that his attorney general took a $50,000 check from that same Imam – to train Massachusetts police to be sensitive to Islamic issues.
Q: But what about the Jewish community, internally? Is there real hostility and discord between the two sides?
A: There is some anger. I’m not happy that rabbis would have endangered and defamed me. But I’ve written to all of them and I am scheduling meetings with many of them to show them our documentation. Look, nobody likes fighting among Jews, but this little dust-up seems to have forced the community to confront an issue they just didn’t want to face. The question, in my view, was not civility. It was “what will it take to awaken this Jewish community from its coma?” That’s been done. The issue here now, is what are we going to do about radical Islamists, with Saudi money and general community acceptance in our midst.
::::::Full text of Charles Jacobs article in the Boston Jewish Advocate (followed by the rabbis’ open letter of response) ::::::
What’s up with Deval Patrick?
By Charles Jacobs
Just days before the Gaza flotilla, Jews were attending to a smaller but more proximate fight: State Treasurer Tim Cahill, who is campaigning as an independent for governor, charged that Deval Patrick’s May 22 visit to the Muslim American Society’s (MAS) Saudi-funded Roxbury mega-mosque was a case of “pandering” – and of not taking the threat of terrorism seriously.
In response, the MAS – which is called by federal prosecutors “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America” – gathered a few hundred people at the mosque and did what it does best when critics raise concerns about who are the trustees and what do mosque leaders teach Boston Muslims about Jews, gays, women, Christians and America. The mosque leaders ducked the questions and charged their critics with bigotry. The MAS lambasted Cahill.
As if on cue, media stenographers dutifully took down and reported the bigotry charge against Cahill as though it was obviously true. And, again as if on cue, prominently noted and photographed was kippah-wearing Rabbi Eric Gurvis, hugging Bilal Kaleem, who heads MAS.
The real story is what actually happened during the governor’s visit?
Inside the mosque, the MAS asked Patrick to consent to seven “recommendations.” With one reservation (it’s not only Muslims whose bosses need to know about their prayer times), the governor accepted all seven. Most controversial is that the MAS (“overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood,” please recall) handed over a $50,000 check to a member of state Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office to fund a program to train Massachusetts police officers in “sensitivity.”
Who handed over the check? Imam Abdullah Faarooq, who is a graduate of
University of Massachusetts and an American convert to Islam. Faarooq is also a supporter of two Boston area radicals, one facing trial for and the other convicted of trying to kill Americans. Aafia Siddiqui, a former member of Faarooq’s mosque, is now in jail for shooting FBI agents in Pakistan. Tarek Mehana, a young Muslim arrested in Sudbury in
October, is alleged to have sought terrorist training in Yemen and plotted to machine gun shopping malls in New England. You can see Patrick embracing
Faarooq at the mosque in a seven-minute video made by my group, Americans for Peace and Tolerance (visit www.peaceandtolerance.org).
Also in our film is a sermon Faarooq delivered in a Brighton mosque in March. Faarooq teaches Boston Muslims that they are obliged by their religion to stand up for their co-religionists and urges them to support Siddiqui and Mehana. “If there’sanyone that should be brave, it must be us,” Faarooq said in the sermon. “You must grab onto this rope, grab onto the shovel, grab onto the gun and the sword. Don’t be
afraid to step out into this world and do your job.”
Hmmm…. Will Massachusetts police be instructed to be more sensitive to
Faarooq’s friends? (Martha, give back the check!)
So what’s with Patrick? A year ago, I gave him the stunning report in the BostonPhoenix, documenting the controversies over the near give-away of the public landto a controversial Muslim board of trustees. And I told him that the Jewishcommunity was concerned. And Patrick lived in Sudan: He must know that the Muslim Brotherhood government there has slaughtered 2 million and enslaved hundreds of thousands of black Christians and animists in a self-declared jihad. He knows – or could easily know – that Faarooq denies that Arabs in Sudan enslaved blacks. And he could easily have been briefed by the heads of the Jewish organizations he works with here – the Jewish Community Relations Council and its parent Combined Jewish Philanthropies, both of which skipped the grand opening of the mosque precisely because of concerns they have about the mosque’s
leaders and ideology. (It is, however, unclear if Patrick was ever briefed by Jewish leaders on their concerns.)
Can it be that Governor Patrick, untutored about the facts, is simply naive? Cahill reminded the public that Patrick “attributed the 9/11 bombings to a ‘failure of human understanding in America.'”
Finally, why does Rabbi Gurvis refuse to acknowledge what he has been shown in official documents: that the MAS is a Muslim Brotherhood organization; that the mosque was funded by Wahabbi Saudis, not known to fund moderate mosques; and that the MAS/ISB leaders have invited defamers of Jews and Christians to “educate” the historically moderate Boston Muslim community? Rabbi Gurvis knows all this. Maybe for him it’s “my Muslim friends, right or wrong.” Or maybe the rabbi’s need to demonstrate his moral superiority by caring for the “other” – no
matter how radical or extreme – trumps any foreseeable consequences.
Stay tuned. Long after the flotilla sinks from view, this will be with us.
Charles Jacobs is president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance.
Rabbis’ letter of response to Charles Jacobs’ article
We write in defense of our colleague Rabbi Eric Gurvis. Rabbi Gurvis leads Temple Shalom of Newton, is the past president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, Boston Area Reform Rabbis and currently serves as the president of the Newton Clergy Association. He is a distinguished teacher and respected community leader.
We were shocked and appalled by the vicious, personal attack written by Charles Jacobs and printed in The Jewish Advocate. We denounce this attack and call upon Mr. Jacobs to discontinue his destructive campaign against Boston’s Muslim community, which is based on innuendo, half-truths and unproven conspiracy theories. We call upon members of our community to reject the dangerous politics of division that Mr. Jacobs fosters.
Rabbi Gurvis stood with a number of us at a recent interfaith press conference, denouncing the inappropriate words of a gubernatorial candidate who implied that addressing a large group of Muslims was “pandering to terrorists.” Just as we rabbis would expect Christians and Muslims to stand with us Jews if we were unjustly held accountable for the actions of a handful of our people, Rabbi Gurvis stood with our Muslim neighbors. In fact, he pointed out that when Temple Shalom was defaced by a swastika, one of the first calls he received was from Bilal Kaleem from the Muslim American Society.
During these difficult times, Rabbi Gurvis, along with other courageous religious leaders, is attempting to foster a different kind of politics. We support his commitment to interfaith dialogue and cooperation. We stand together in our commitment to a community in which neighbors seek to know one another and join together for the common good.
We write these words following the week in which the Torah portion was Shelach Lecha. It tells the stories of the Israelite scouts who were overcome by fear. As a result, they “spread calumnies” among the entire Israelite camp, who in turn broke out into loud cries and weeping. Because they succumbed to their fears, G-d condemned this generation to die in the wilderness. We refuse to allow Mr. Jacobs to spread his calumnies and paralyze our community in fear.
We the undersigned rabbis support Rabbi Eric Gurvis and walk together in faith. (Institutional affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.)
Rabbi Thomas Alpert
Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld (dean, Rabbinical School, Hebrew College)
Rabbi Stephen Arnold
Rabbi Lev Baesh (B’nai Or, Newton)
Rabbi Alfred Benjamin (Rabbi, Temple Shalom, Milton)
Rabbi Joseph Berman
Rabbi Allison Berry (Temple Beth David, Canton)
Rabbi Herman Blumberg (Emeritus, Temple Shir Tikva, Wayland)
Rabbi Carey Brown (Temple Isaiah, Lexington)
Rabbi Sharon Clevenger (The Rashi School, Newton)
Rabbi Joe Eiduson (Congregation B’nai Shalom, Westborough)
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson (Temple Beth Avodah, Newton Centre)
Rabbi John Franken (Temple Ohabei Shalom, Brookline)
Rabbi David Freelund (Cape Cod Synagogue, Hyannis)
Rabbi Ronne Friedman (Temple Israel, Boston)
Rabbi Neal Gold (Temple Shir Tikva, Wayland)
Rabbi Robert Goldstein (Temple Emanuel, Andover)
Rabbi David Gordis (past president, Hebrew College)
Rabbi Art Green (Hebrew College, Newton)
Rabbi Neil Hirsch (Temple Shalom, Newton)
Rabbi Boaz Heilman (Congregation B’nai Torah, Sudbury)
Rabbi Sandi Intraub (Chaplain Resident, Hebrew SeniorLife)
Rabbi Howard Jaffe (Temple Isaiah, Lexington)
Rabbi Shira Joseph (Congregation Sha’aray Shalom, Hingham)
Rabbi Dan Judson (Hebrew College, Newton)
Rabbi Randy Kafka (Temple Israel South Shore, North Easton)
Rabbi Daniel Klein
Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein
Rabbi David Kline
Rabbi Stephanie Kolin (Temple Israel, Boston)
Rabbi Neil Kominsky (Emeritus, Temple Emanuel, Lowell)
Rabbi Jonathan Kraus (Beth El Temple Center,_Belmont)_Rabbi Claudia Kreiman (Temple Beth Zion, Brookline)
Rabbi Judith Kummer
Rabbi Stephen Landau (Congregation Tikvoh Chadoshoh, West Hartford, Conn.)
Rabbi Karen Landy (Hebrew Senior Life, Dedham, Havurat Shalom, Andover)
Rabbi David Lerner (Temple Emunah, Lexington)
Rabbi Michele Lenke (Temple Beth Shalom, Needham)
Rabbi Allan Lehmann (vice president, Massachusetts Board of Rabbis)
Rabbi Greg Litcofsky (Temple Shir Tikva, Wayland)
Rabbi Natan Margalit (Hebrew College, Newton)
Rabbi Todd Markley (Temple Beth Shalom, Needham)
Rabbi Daniel Medwin
Rabbi Bernard Mehlman (Emeritus, Temple Israel, Boston)
Rabbi Rim Meirowitz (Temple Shir Tikvah, Winchester)
Rabbi Joseph Meszler (Temple Sinai, Sharon)
Rabbi Laurence Milder (Congregation B’nai Shalom, Westborough)
Rabbi James Morgan
Rabbi Jeremy Morrison (Temple Israel, Boston)
Rabbi Beth Naditch_Rabbi Michelle Pearlman (Temple Shalom, Newton)
Rabbi Barbara Penzner (Temple Hillel B’nai Torah, West Roxbury)
Rabbi Jay Perlman (Temple Beth Shalom, Needham)
Rabbi Jonah Pesner (Director, Union for Reform Judaism Just Congregations, Newton)
Rabbi Ellen Pildis (Jewish Studies Director, The Rashi School, Newton)
Rabbi Elaine Pollack (Newton Lower Falls)
Rabbi David Reiner
Rabbi Victor Reinstein (Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue, Jamaica Plain)
Rabbi Rachel Saphire (Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley)
Rabbi Talya Weisbard Shalem
Rabbi Lawrence Silverman (Congregation Beth Jacob, Plymouth)
Rabbi Jodi Seewald Smith (Temple Chayai Shalom, Easton MA)
Rabbi Joel Sisenwine (Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley)
Rabbi Toba Spitzer (Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, West Newton)
Rabbi Keith Stern (Temple Beth Avodah, Newton Centre)
Rabbi David Thomas (Congregation Beth El of the Sudbury River Valley, Sudbury, MA)
Rabbi Van Lanckton, (Temple B’nai Shalom, Braintree)
Rabbi Andrew Vogel (Temple Sinai, Brookline)
Rabbi Moshe Waldoks (Temple Beth Zion, Brookline)
Rabbi Jeffrey Wildstein (Temple Beth David, Westwood)
Rabbi David Wolfman (director, URJ National Commission on Rabbinic-Congregational Relations)
Rabbi Julie Wolkoff
Rabbi Sara Zacharia (Hebrew College, Newton)
Rabbi Elaine Zecher (Temple Israel, Boston)
Rabbi Henry Zoob (Emeritus, Temple Beth David, Westwood)
Hebrew College rabbinical students: Joel Baron, Rogerio Zingerevitz Cukierman, Tiffany Gordon, Margie Klein, Lev Meirowitz, Nelson, Suzie Schwartz, Lila Veissid and Judith Kates (professor)
For more on this issue, visit http://www.thejewishadvocate.com.