The proposal to build Park51, a Muslim community center and mosque in lower Manhattan two blocks from the World Trade Center site has become a lightning rod for hysteria, misinformation, and strategic electoral partisanship.
Our Constitution demands that we preserve and ensure the right for all to worship freely and assemble peacefully. In fact, the very underlying principle of these United States dictates that government shall not erect barriers to the construction and safe use of a religious community center like Park51.
At the core of these constitutional rights is America’s unwavering commitment to freedom, tolerance and diversity. Rather than allow fear and misinformation to divide us, we ought to use this moment to create dialogue, educate others, and learn more about religions and cultures different from our own. Contrary to those whose loud voices are decrying otherwise, the American thing to do — indeed, the patriotic thing to do — is to embrace this wonderful opportunity to explore the exquisite diversity of our ideas, to honor our differences, and to encourage respect and acceptance. We must promote resolutions based on greater tolerance, not divisive, false propaganda.
After 9/11, then-President George W. Bush rightly said, “We don’t fight a war against Islam or Muslims. We don’t hold any religion accountable. We’re fighting evil … murderers have hijacked a great religion in order to justify their evil deeds. And we cannot let it stand.” In his recent remarks responding to the debate surrounding the Islamic center, President Obama acknowledged, “the pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones,” which he described as “unimaginable.” But, he added, “our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable.”
The planned construction of a Muslim community center near the consecrated space of the Sept. 11 attacks ought to be the inspiration for rational discourse on how to celebrate our diversity, not the very type of intolerance and extreme fundamentalism that fueled those heinous acts of terrorism. NCJW looks forward to furthering that effort.
(The author is executive director of the National Council of Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section.)
Thanks to all
Thank you for publishing Toby Tabachnick’s excellent article on the end of Beginning with Books (“I feel like I’m sitting shiva,” Aug. 26). Our great disappointment and sadness at this unhappy outcome has been shared by so many in our city who value children and who work to provide the conditions that nurture them as readers, language users and creative thinkers.
In my conversation with Ms. Tabachnick, I inadvertently omitted sufficient emphasis on the important role played in the development of BwB by the Carnegie Library. Supported and encouraged by the late director Robert Croneberger, we became an affiliate of CLP, which provided free office space and the services of many departments, such as human resources. After we became an independent, tax-exempt organization, we continued a close and mutually advantageous relationship with library personnel, especially with the members of the children’s and young adult departments.
Read Together partners met in libraries all over the city, recipients of Gift Book packets went to their neighborhood libraries for their additional free book, and always, parents were encouraged to take advantage of the many free services offered to them and to their children by the library.
Beginning with Books as an entity has come to an end, but we are heartened by the realization that its work, and the work of its partner organizations such as the library, has affected the lives of thousands of children, their families, and their caregivers. All of us are the fortunate heirs of Andrew Carnegie and his vision. All of us at BwB are indebted to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for its dedication and commitment.
Joan B. Friedberg
(Joan Friedberg, together with Elizabeth Segel, were co-founders of Beginning with Books.)
GOP picnic rescheduled
Scheduling secular events around the Jewish holidays is not easy, even for most Jews, who are more familiar with the Julian calendar.
I recently received a few calls pertaining to the Republican Party Committee of Allegheny County having scheduled its fall kickoff picnic on Yom Kippur Shabbat (the most important holiday of the Jewish faith) and refused to reschedule or cancel.
Later, that same day my wife read a letter in The Jewish Chronicle, which offered similar information by René Rockman. She pointed out in her letter that the County of Allegheny scheduled its picnic event on Yom Kippur and refused to correct the situation. A couple of my callers had confused the two organizations.
The County of Allegheny is a separate organization from the Republican Party of Allegheny County.
The Republican committee of Allegheny has always canceled or rescheduled its events when in conflict to accommodate annually occurring Jewish holy days. Republican Committee of Allegheny County leadership decided to either reschedule or cancel the event scheduled this Yom Kippur within hours of being notified of the error.
In our committee, religious respect is not just a policy. It is a practice.
(The author is chairman of District 2 of the Republican Committee of