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Oneida call on Jewish leaders to join Redskins name boycott

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Oneida Nation is calling on Jewish communities to boycott the Washington Redskins.

Ray Halbritter, the CEO of the New York-based Oneida Indian Nation, told JTA in an interview Thursday that he wants American Jews to heed the call of two Washington-area rabbis who urged fellow rabbis to refrain from using the team logo or name in public forums, encourage congregants not to buy products bearing the name, and teach students why the issue is a Jewish one.

“I believe our cause will resonate through the Jewish community,” Halbritter said. “We hope that rabbis will stand by these rabbis to be on the right side of history.”

The Oneida Nation has been a leader among Native American groups in calling on the Washington Redskins NFL franchise to change its name.

In an Op-Ed posted Nov. 6 on CNN’s website, Rabbi Aaron Frank, the principal of Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore and Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom in Washington called on U.S. rabbis to commit to the three-pronged effort to encourage the team to change its name.

“The name represents a derogatory term and recalls a brutal history of genocide and torture — a past of racist dehumanization inflicted upon the American Indians of the United States,” the rabbis wrote. “The Bible’s Book of Proverbs states: ‘Death and life are in the hand of the tongue.’”

Halbritter said his tribe has been launching community outreach in cities where the Redskins play away games as well as in Washington, and that this outreach would now include appeals to Jewish community lay and religious leaders in those cities.

He said he was “heartened” to see the Op-Ed and also to hear of the Anti-Defamation League’s urging that teams “seriously consider” abandoning offensive names.

“The fact that they’ve joined this national change campaign validates the rightness of our cause,” Halbritter said. “They feel motivated to stand with us because of the Jewish tradition of pursuing justice.”

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