Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, is known for being an outspoken, provocative guy.
In his address the other day at the URJ’s biennial conference in San Diego, Yoffie covered the gamut.
On the ritual front, he urged “stressed out” Reform Jews to more seriously observe Shabbat Ã¢â‚¬â€ as a respite from pressures of daily life.
On the activism front, he called on Reform Jews to advocate for universal health care in their states, saying that the federal government had dropped the ball on one of the great domestic issues of our time.
On the interreligious front, he announced a major new partnership with the Islamic Society of North America. A few months ago, he addressed a conference of the ISNA. This time, he invited Ingrid Mattson, president of ISNA, to address the 6,000 Reform Jews in San Diego.
We live in a world in which religion is manipulated to justify the most horrific acts, a world in whichÃ¢â‚¬â€make no mistakeÃ¢â‚¬â€Islamic extremists constitute a profound threat. For some, this is a reason to flee from dialogue, but in fact the opposite is true. When we are killing each other in the name of God, sensible religious people have an obligation to do something about it. Our task is to find the voices of moderation and to reclaim from the fanatics the true essence of religious belief.
“Mattson,”:http://blogs.rj.org/biennial/2007/12/part_of_the_dialogue.html in turn, said this:
The American Muslim community is well aware, after 9/11, that much false information about our community as well as our religion, has been disseminated by religious and political ideologues. It is also true that many Americans simply know little or nothing about Islam and, perhaps, naturally extrapolate from the nasty figures they see in the news to Muslims in general. Of course, it is our responsibility to reclaim Islam from the terrorists and extremists. That is why American Muslims have been public in our views on terrorism and extremism in the name of our religion. We have published fatwas Ã¢â‚¬â€œ religious verdicts Ã¢â‚¬â€œ proving that suicide bombing, vigilante operations, terrorism, and hate-mongering is prohibited in true Islam. We have issued press releases, we have published articles and books, we have delivered sermons, we have given lectures to Muslims of all ages, we have held workshops and seminars, we have met with government officials in the US and abroad Ã¢â‚¬â€œ all with the goal of spreading the message that mainstream Muslims oppose the extremists and we are putting our efforts, individually and institutionally, to marginalize those who misuse our religion for nefarious purposes.