Jews on NRA’s ‘blacklist

´Stop the NRA´ Web site.  ()

´Stop the NRA´ Web site. ()

NEW YORK, Oct. 16 (JTA) — The list reads like a roster of “Who’s Who in America,” and it’s full of Jewish names. It’s the 19-page list of organizations and individuals that the National Rifle Association deems “anti-gun.” In addition to Britney Spears, NBC News and the NAACP, Jews and Jewish organizations figure prominently on the list — from Jerry Seinfeld and Mandy Patinkin to the Anti-Defamation League and the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation. The NRA has had the list, which it periodically updates, for more than a decade, and it’s posted on the group’s Web site, according to NRA spokesman Ted Novin, who is Jewish. The list came to public attention after a recent New York Times column by Bob Herbert — who is on the list — blasting the gun lobby. Now a group called Stopthenra.com has decided to publicize what it calls the “blacklist,” launching a campaign at www.nrablacklist.com that urges readers to “join the honor roll” on the NRA list. The list is not easy to find on the NRA’s Web site. One has to click through layers of the site’s legislation and research sections to find those the group considers “pro-gun” and “anti-gun.” The list is about as expansive as America. Among those named are the American Medical Association, Maya Angelou, Ed Koch, Julia Child, the St. Louis Cardinals, Spike Lee, Ben & Jerry’s, the United States Conference of Mayors, Hallmark Cards, the National Education Association and Moon Zappa. For their part, the Jewish groups listed seem little troubled by the listing. Some said they considered their presence on the list a “badge of honor.” Others expressed slight concern at making the blacklist of a group whose members possess so much ordnance, but they still support gun control and downplayed the list’s importance. Shelley Klein, director of advocacy for Hadassah, which is on the list, said that “to try to stigmatize organizations” and reduce multifaceted groups to a single issue is “really troubling.” But Klein was largely dismissive of the list. “Seeing the company we keep, we’re not concerned,” she said. Other Jewish groups labeled “anti-gun” include the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Jewish Labor Committee, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Reform Jewry’s most prominent national leaders made the list, including Rabbis David Saperstein, Eric Yoffie and Paul Menitoff. Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, is not surprised. The Reform movement has a “long history of being out front” on gun control, he said. Saperstein criticized the tactic. “It’s always dismaying when a group keeps an enemies list or a blacklist,” he said. It “shuts off debate, it demonizes those who disagree.” He also had a note of caution for the NRA. “I would hope that the NRA would be more sensitive,” Saperstein said, because the list “could be seen as a suggestion that those people be targeted for criticism, at the least, and perhaps even more.” The NRA’s Novin said the list is “strictly for informational purposes” and is made up of organizations that have given either financial or grass-roots support to anti-gun organizations or causes. The NRA drew up the list to help members who wanted to know whether companies they patronize support anti-gun policies, Novin said. Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, shrugged off the issue. “There’s nothing wrong with it,” Foxman said. Calling it a blacklist is “inappropriate,” he said, because the NRA does not petition members to take any action against those listed. The ADL is “appropriately on there because we are an organization that has opposed” the NRA on gun legislation, Foxman said. The list only “adds credibility to them and to us.” Aaron Zelman, executive director of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, also downplayed the list. “Who really cares?” he said. “They’re not the only ones who have done a list before.” He added: “This is the American way.” The real problem, Zelman said, is Jewish communal leaders’ support for gun control. “If you study the history of gun control,” he said, it has been “used by every police state to disarm people and then kill them” — both Jews and non-Jews. Stopthenra.com says its campaign against the list is part of an effort to mobilize opposition to impending legislation that would protect manufacturers, distributers and dealers of firearms from lawsuits. The group also wants to drum up support to reauthorize a federal law banning the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons.

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