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Our world, our nation and our community now live in fear that Islamic extremists could strike anywhere, at any time. They have long threatened Israel. Now their reach extends worldwide, across boundaries both political and social. As Rabbi Shai Held has noted, when we are scared it is easy to let the pendulum swing too far in either direction. In this climate it is especially important for us to clearly state who and what we stand for. First, let us not overlook the crisis within Islam. The worldwide Muslim community faces essential questions about the nature of Islam. Will Muslims allow their faith to be dominated by those who would use hate and aggression to impose an intolerant theocracy upon all? On the other hand, let us not make the mistake of declaring Islam itself to be irredeemably violent, or of writing off all Muslims as evil. Let us remember that every religious group has its extremists, Judaism included. That said, there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world; the vast majority of them want the same things we do: to live peaceably with their neighbors, to provide for their children, to live a life of goodness and peace. Thus we religious pluralists have an important role to play. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner once said of the Reform Jewish community, “We don’t take the Bible literally, but we do take it seriously.” We live fully in the secular world, yet we hold on to the important values of Jewish life that guide us. And while extremists try to tear down the secular world they despise, we try to bring meaning and depth and purpose to those who, like us, are firmly planted in modernity. Let us demonstrate to all religious people that we can be proudly Jewish, daily living our conviction that Judaism is the best path to a good life. Let us defend the right of others to do the same – peacefully.

Chronicle February-March 2016  
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