All over the map: Where dozens of local Jewish groups stand on the Iran deal
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All over the map: Where dozens of local Jewish groups stand on the Iran deal

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaking about the Iran Deal on August 11, 2015, in New York City. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Secretary of State John Kerry speaking in New York City about the Iran deal, Aug. 11, 2015. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is being continuously updated as more organizations weigh in on the Iran deal.

Across the United States, Jewish community groups have appeared unsure about exactly how to respond to the Iran nuclear deal. Consider Massachusetts.

Three groups in the state last month attempted to coordinate a single statement on the Iran nuclear deal now under consideration by Congress. The underlying sentiment: Working with Congress, the Obama administration should find a way to “address serious questions about the vulnerabilities” of the deal.

As planned, almost identical statements were released by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston on July 21, the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts on July 23 and the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts on July 24.

Almost. The central Massachusetts federation modified a critical line in its statement away from the texts of the other two groups.

The Boston and western Massachusetts groups each concluded by urging “the Massachusetts delegation to fully investigate the flaws noted above and to not endorse the deal absent significant, specific and binding solutions to the concerns that we, and so many in our community, have about this agreement.”

The central Massachusetts federation, representing 10,000 Jews in the Worcester area, instead urged “the Massachusetts delegation to fully investigate and address the specific concerns that we, and so many in our community, have about this deal.”

“Do not endorse, absent solutions” and “fully investigate and address concerns” are significantly different postures.

Vexing things further, another Boston-area Jewish group, Boston Combined Jewish Philanthropies, outright counseled lawmakers to reject the deal the week previous, on July 17.

As Massachusetts goes, so goes the (Jewish) nation: confused.

When the agreement between major powers and Iran was released on July 14, some Jewish groups came out against it almost immediately, while a month later, others have yet to weigh in. Some blared their decision on their website or Facebook page, others sent out emails unsearchable on the Internet. Some counsel a unified message, others said everyone should shout out their views.

Some statements were long, personal and anguished; others seemed to be the result of consultation with other groups, featuring almost identical language. “Utmost scrutiny” kept popping up. The Jewish federation of Birmingham, Alabama, acknowledged using the Houston federation’s statement opposing the deal as a template.

Some groups delivered mixed messages. The Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County, New York, urged making one’s voice heard, whatever one’s opinions — and then counseled attending a “Stop Iran” rally against the deal.

Here’s a survey of the statements of 55 Jewish groups from all corners of the United States. There are 23 opposed to the deal, a lot of skeptics who are not opposed for now and a couple of just-don’t-knows. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs counted 125 regional public policy agencies across the country. JTA’s list includes those whose statements could be found. (If your group has issued a statement and is not on this list, please get in touch at rkampeas@jta.org.)

Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta — “work with the Administration to redraft the JCPOA”: “Federation urges Congress to give this accord its utmost scrutiny, carefully evaluate the potential ramifications of the JCPOA and work with the Administration to redraft the JCPOA  in a manner that recognizes, not only the best interests of the United States, but also Israel and its other allies in the region.” (Aug. 18)

Birmingham Jewish Federation, Ala. — opposed: “The Birmingham Jewish Federation’s Board of Directors believes the proposed nuclear deal between Iran and world powers is cause for great concern; we are deeply disappointed with the details of the plan. Regretfully, we have no choice but to oppose it, and we urge others to join us.” (Aug. 8.)

Baltimore Jewish Council — opposed: “We are gravely concerned that the agreement fails to provide for full and immediate inspections of undeclared nuclear facilities, adequate disclosure of prior military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program and prompt dismantlement of the nuclear infrastructure … If the President is right that this is the best deal that he can achieve at this time, and if he is nonetheless unwilling to walk away from it, then Congress should reject the agreement.” (July 27).

Boston Combined Jewish Philanthropies — opposed: “The proposed agreement, as it currently stands, only delays critical aspects of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, thus acknowledging or even affirming Iran’s place as a threshold nuclear state … We encourage members of the community to reach out to their elected representatives in the House and the Senate to express their deep concern, and to urge them to vote against this deal.” (July 17)

Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston — “do not endorse the deal absent binding solutions”: “We reject the argument made by some that Congress cannot reject this deal because there is not a better option; that the sanctions regime will fall apart and that the only remaining option available to the United States is the use of force to curtail the Iranian nuclear threat … We urge the President and his administration to remain open to working with Congress to find a path forward on a matter that will inevitably be left to several future Presidents – of both parties – to implement successfully. As Congress begins its review of the agreement, the JCRC of Greater Boston urges the Massachusetts delegation to fully investigate the flaws noted above and to not endorse the deal absent significant, specific and binding solutions to the concerns that we, and so many in our community, have about this agreement.” (July 24)

Jewish Federation of Broward County, Fla. — “seriously question”: “We are deeply concerned about the final agreement, and seriously question whether the agreement can achieve the fundamental goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” (July 17)

Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts — “find a path forward”: “We reject the argument made by some that Congress cannot reject this deal because there is not a better option; that the sanctions regime will fall apart and that the only remaining option available to the United States is the use of force to curtail the Iranian nuclear threat … We urge the President and his administration to remain open to working with Congress to find a path forward on a matter that will inevitably be left to several future Presidents – of both parties – to implement successfully.” (July 24)

Charleston Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Relations Council, S.C. — “utmost scrutiny”: “We are hopeful that diplomatic efforts will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and we appreciate the hard work President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and Under Secretary of State Sherman have put into crafting this agreement. At the same time, we are concerned. Iran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas, its human rights violations and its aggressive threats toward neighboring countries—including Israel—make the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran untenable … We urge Congress to give this accord its utmost scrutiny.” (July 14)

Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago — opposed: “Following a substantive and civil three-hour discussion, our board reiterated its core mission to support Israel and safeguard Jews everywhere. Further, a majority opinion emerged and was adopted: to call on Congress to oppose the JCPOA as originally submitted, and to ask legislators to work with the Administration to produce better solutions addressing Iran’s nuclear program.” (Aug. 15)

Jewish Community Relations Council and Jewish Federation of Cincinnati — opposed: “Following a thorough process of open dialogue among our leadership, the JCRC and JFC must oppose the deal, and we urge Congress to do the same. We also encourage the Administration and Congress to implement immediate and long-term measures to ensure the security of the United States, Israel and other U.S. allies, irrespective of whether the Iran deal is approved or rejected.” (Aug. 13)

Jewish Federation of Cleveland — opposed: “The Jewish Federation of Cleveland, after careful consideration, must oppose the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as agreed upon by the P5+1 and Iran (the “Agreement”). The Agreement fails to address key issues that are necessary to curb Iran as a global threat – in terms of both nuclear and conventional weapons … As Congress continues to review the Agreement, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland urges our Representatives and Senators to consider the issues at hand and to act in the best interest of national and global security by voting against approval of the Agreement. We also call on our leaders to endeavor to negotiate a revised agreement that addresses our concerns.” (Aug. 12)

JEWISHColorado — “serious apprehensions”: “In light of recent conversations surrounding the proposed Agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China, Russia (P5 + 1) and Iran on Iran’s nuclear program, JEWISHcolorado and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) have serious apprehensions about what this agreement may enable Iran to do in the future. As Americans, as Jews, and as people who love and support Israel, we are deeply concerned that this agreement leaves the entire Middle East less stable and more vulnerable to Iran’s radical agenda … Congress needs to examine whether the agreement can effectively safeguard America and its allies from the threat posed by a nuclear Iran.” (July 23)

Jewish Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Columbus, Ohio — “concerned the deal may be insufficient”: “The Jewish Community Relations Committee(JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Columbus hopes that the agreement announced today in Vienna will resolve the issue of the Iranian nuclear threat, but we are concerned that this deal may be insufficient. We look forward to learning the specifics of the accord in the coming weeks as we seek to understand its implications and its efficacy.” (July 14)

Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas — opposed: “We can have different ideas about how to achieve the peace and security we all desire, but we cannot be silent in our opposition to an agreement that takes far too many risks with one of the world’s most dangerous regimes.” (July 15)

Jewish Federation of Delaware — opposed: “As Americans and Jews who yearn for peace and are invested in the future of our children and grandchildren, we must voice our concerns about an agreement that will destabilize a fragile region. We encourage members of our community to raise their voices in opposition to this agreement by contacting their elected representatives to urge them to oppose the Plan.” (July 23)

Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines, Iowa — “opposed, may reconsider”: “Our position is that the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines is opposed to the deal, as it stands. This means that we can reconsider our decision in light of the [Obama] administration appropriately addressing, prior to when Congress votes on the JCPOA, the reasonable clarifications and additional measures to strengthen American enforcement of the plan as recommended by the members of the Iran Policy Group of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.” (Aug. 9)

Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit — opposed: “Our desire to see lasting peace and security in the Middle East compels us to call on our community to reach out to our elected representatives in the House and Senate to express our deep concern, and to ask that they vote against this deal until further efforts produce a stronger long-term agreement with the conditions necessary to permanently eliminate the risk of a nuclear Iran.” (July 26)

Jewish Federation of Greater El Paso, Texas — “welcome Congressional and public debate”: “Iran’s prior actions prevent us from trusting its promises. Consequently, we welcome Congressional and public debate on and close scrutiny of the merits of the agreement. The sixty-day Congressional review window opens a critical period to examine the agreement and ensure that it has the rigorous inspection and compliance components that are necessary to protect our country and our allies in the Middle East.” (July 14)

Jewish Federation of Greater Houston — opposed: “We are deeply disappointed with the details of the plan. Regretfully, we have no choice but to oppose it and we urge others to join us.” (July 29)

Jewish Federation of Las Vegas — opposed: “We strongly encourage everyone in Nevada, not just the Jewish Community, to call your United States Senators and members of Congress to vote against this dangerous and short-sighted treaty.” (Aug. 27)

Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, Pa. — “deep concerns with the vulnerabilities”: “Following a process of consultation by our professional staff and our Community Relations Council to better understand the Agreement, we take this opportunity to further express our deep concerns with the vulnerabilities of this Agreement … We encourage the President to heed the voices of those that are concerned over this Agreement and seriously address those concerns. As Congress reviews the Agreement, we urge the Pennsylvania delegation to fully investigate the flaws noted above and to only endorse an Agreement complete with significant, specific, and binding solutions to the concerns that we, and so many in our community, have about this Agreement.” (July 30)

Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles — opposed: “The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles joins with Jewish communities across the country in urging Congress to oppose the joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s Nuclear Program, signed on July 14, 2015 … This Iran deal threatens the mission of our Federation as we exist to assure the continuity of the Jewish people, support a secure State of Israel, care for Jews in need here and abroad and mobilize on issues of concern.” (July 21)

Jewish Community Relations Council of Louisville, Ky. — “wary and concerned”: “We are wary, however, of a deal struck with a regime that is a serial violator of human rights, supports terrorist regimes and groups around the world, has called for the destruction of the state of Israel, and has consistently deceived International nuclear inspectors regarding the true nature of its militarized nuclear program. We call on our Kentucky congressional delegation to analyze this agreement in great detail and provide guidance to our President consistent with what is in the best interest of peace and security for the region and the world.” (July 14)

Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest, N.J. — opposed: “The Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ urges our Congressional delegation to oppose the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Iran Nuclear Agreement as it stands. We take this action because we believe it is in the best interest of the United States and Israel’s security.” (Aug. 5)

Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, N.J — “engage in a critical review”: “U.S. Congressional leaders are supposed to ensure that a good deal eliminate an Iranian pathway to a nuclear weapon. We encourage our elected officials to engage in a critical review of this agreement, to be sure that it achieves this goal.” (July 14)

Greater Miami Jewish Federation — opposed: “The Greater Miami Jewish Federation and its Jewish Community Relations Council are deeply disappointed with the details of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s Nuclear Program, signed on July 14, 2015. Regretfully, we have no choice but to oppose it and we urge others to join us.” (July 17)

Jewish Community Relations Council of Milwaukee Jewish Federation — “will require continued vigilance”: “We recognize that the P5+1 agreement with Iran is the beginning of a process that will require continued vigilance. Let us all work to make sure our government does all it can to monitor and enforce compliance.” (July 14)

Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas — ponders whether the deal is “deserving of bipartisan Congressional support?”: “The JCRC has consistently preferred a diplomatic resolution to the threat of a nuclear Iran. The possibility that the world’s leading exporter of terrorism could pose an existential threat to its neighbors is a scenario too grave to ignore. We commend the Obama Administration for its tireless efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution. We hope that the agreement announced today successfully curtails the Iranian threat. However, as President Barack Obama, Speaker John Boehner, and many others have stated, ‘no deal is better than a bad deal.’ The question before all of us is whether or not this is a ‘good deal’ and thus is deserving of bipartisan Congressional support.” (July 14)

Jewish Federation of Nashville — “utmost scrutiny” and “consider rejecting”: “We urge members of Congress to give this accord the utmost scrutiny and if they have any doubt at all about Iran’s ability to meet every single obligation specified in the agreement, including unfettered and unimpeded access to suspect nuclear sites, then we believe Congress should consider rejecting this agreement and endeavor to keep sanctions in place that brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place.” (July 22)

Jewish Federation of New Orleans — “close scrutiny by Congress”: “We welcome debate on the merits of the agreement and close scrutiny by Congress. The 60-day congressional review window opens a critical period to examine the agreement and ensure that it has the rigorous inspection and compliance components that are necessary.” (July 14)

Jewish Community Relations Council of New York — “serious shortcomings”: “It appears that The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has serious shortcomings and will not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon … With Iran’s history of acrimony, deceit and terror, it is difficult for us to have confidence that this deal will prevent a nuclear Iran.” (July 14)

Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey — opposed: “We believe the deal will negatively impact the United States, the stability of the Middle East, and the future of the State of Israel. The Iranian regime has continued to call for “death to America, the “Great Satan”, and the destruction of Israel, “The Little Satan”. Leaders in Congress, from both sides of the aisle, have expressed grave concerns about this deal. History has taught us that when nations call for the destruction of other civilized nations and death to its citizens, we must take them at their word. This Iran deal threatens the mission of our Federation, which is to ensure the continuity of the Jewish people, support a secure State of Israel, care for Jews in need here and abroad, and mobilize the community on issues of concern. (Aug. 14)

Jewish Community Relations Council of Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey — opposed: “We recognize the very hard work that the President, the Secretary of State, and members of the P5+ 1 committee have put into these negotiations. However, it is based on numerous promises made by members of the United States negotiating team during the previous two years that are no longer part of the final deal including “anytime/anywhere inspections” as well as Iran needing to disclose “possible military dimensions (PMDs)” of their nuclear program.” (Aug. 11)

UJA-Federation of New York — “serious concerns”: “We have serious concerns about aspects of the deal, including inspections and verification, the adequacy of snap-back sanctions, the release of billions of dollars to the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, weaponization activity, and Iran’s continuing nuclear capacity. These concerns demand extraordinarily diligent examination.” (Aug. 14)

Jewish Federation of Omaha, Neb. — fact sheet: “The Omaha federation does not deliver an opinion, but summarizes the pros and cons in a fact sheet “in the hope that it provides structure and substance to the many Jewish Omaha conversations taking place today and in the weeks ahead.” (July 15)

Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County, N.Y. — “extremely troublesome”: “While we deeply appreciate the daunting task President Obama and Secretary Kerry have faced in an effort to constrain Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons there are many aspects of the current agreement that are extremely troublesome.” (While the federation urged involvement “whatever your thoughts may be about the agreement,” its statement appeared on a page headlined “Two Rallies to STOP IRAN NOW” and including ads for the rallies. “Demonstrations are an effective way to express a viewpoint,” it said, recommending attendance at a July 22 anti-deal rally in Manhattan.)

Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, Fla. — “justify the agreement in detail”: “The agreement at hand appears to give Iran the ability to be a nuclear threshold state at the end of the agreement’s term … We urge Congress to fulfill its duty and look critically at all aspects and potential consequences of this deal before approving it. Congress must require the administration to justify the agreement in detail.” (July 14)

Jewish Community Relations Council of Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, Fla. — “objectionable”: “With the information we know thus far, we find this agreement objectionable … If after meticulous examination Congress votes not to reject the deal or rejects it without a veto-proof majority, global powers should not tolerate any Iranian act of deception.” (Aug. 4)

Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia — opposed: “At this time, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia opposes the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran … Our role is to implement the mission of the Jewish Federation: to address the community’s most critical priorities in Greater Philadelphia, in Israel and around the world. We believe that the agreement in its current form puts Israel in harm’s way; the Jewish Federation must work to protect Israel’s safety.” (July 29)

Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix — opposed: “Over the next 60 days, we should all do everything within our power to persuade the House and Senate to oppose this deal and to work toward one that achieves the necessary goals. Otherwise, the existing sanctions are a better alternative.” (July 16)

Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh — “close scrutiny”: “We welcome debate on the merits of the agreement and close scrutiny by Congress. The sixty-day Congressional review window opens a critical period to examine the agreement and ensure that it has the rigorous inspection and compliance components that are necessary.” (July 14)

Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Ore. — “engaged in a thoughtful examination”: “Most [federations], like ours, have not taken a position ‘for or against,’ and instead are engaged in thoughtful examination of the deal and respectfully expressing concern about the potential shortcomings of the agreement.” (July 24)

Jewish Community Federation of Richmond and its Jewish Community Relations Committee — “hope this accord will qualify”: “While we did not believe an accord needed to be made at all costs, we hope that upon examination this accord will qualify as a good deal.” (July 14) (The groups will hold an “urgent” forum on Aug. 25, featuring Adam Szubin, who administers sanctions for the U.S. Treasury defending the deal, and AIPAC’s Brad Gordon, calling for its rejection.)

Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis — “Iran not deserving of our trust”: “We are hopeful that diplomatic efforts will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We recognize the hard work that President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and Under Secretary of State Sherman and their team have put into crafting this agreement. However, Iran is not a country that is deserving of our trust.” (July 15)

Jewish Federation of St. Louis — “individual action over organizational advocacy”: “In view of the Federation’s role as a communal organization embodying the entire St. Louis Jewish community, the Federation’s Board of Directors encourages individual action over organizational advocacy on this matter. Rather than adopting a position of support for or opposition to the Iran accord, the Board urges members of our community to educate themselves about all aspects of the agreement and to make their views directly known to their elected government officials and communal advocacy organizations.” (Aug. 31)

Jewish Federation of San Diego County — “neither oppose nor support”: “Out of respect for the diversity of opinion of our donors, the Federation will not neither support nor oppose the agreement.” (July 30)

Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Foundation of the East Bay and Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley — “cautious hope” and “deep concern”: “We believe that the preferred solution to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program is a diplomatic one, and we acknowledge the tireless efforts of President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and the entire U.S. negotiating team in reaching an agreement. The agreement has raised cautious hope as well as deep concern. Any Iranian nuclear weapons capability would pose a major threat to American interests, an existential threat to Israel and its western allies, and create grave security risks worldwide.” (July 14)

Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, Fla. — “may be insufficient”: “We hope the proposal announced contains measures to successfully curtail the existential Iranian threat. Yet we are concerned that this deal may be insufficient in critical safeguards necessary to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.” (July 16)

Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle — “ask tough questions”: “Many well-informed observers in the U.S. and Middle East have noted that Iran’s promises to abide scrupulously by the agreement’s terms are, at best, open to question. Once sanctions are lifted, re-imposing them would be fraught with difficulty. We strongly urge Congress to fulfill its duty – to look critically at this deal and ask tough questions.” (July 14)

Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley — “utmost scrutiny”: “We are hopeful that diplomatic efforts will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and we appreciate the hard work President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and Under Secretary of State Sherman have put into crafting this agreement. At the same time, we are concerned. Iran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas, its human rights violations and its aggressive threats toward neighboring countries-including Israel-make the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran untenable … We urge Congress to give this accord its utmost scrutiny.” (July 14)

Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, Fla. — opposed: “We cannot be silent in our opposition to an agreement that takes far too many risks with one of the world’s most dangerous regimes. We encourage you to share your concerns with your U.S. Representatives and Senators, and urge them to join in opposing this deal.” (Week of July 20)

United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and its Community Relations Council, Va. — opposed: “We cannot, however, be silent in our opposition to this proposed agreement, one that we believe poses far too many risks to the United States, to Israel and to the entire world. We encourage members of the community to reach out to their elected representatives in the House and the Senate to express their deep concern, and to urge them to vote against this deal.” (July 21)

Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington — opposed: “Prior to the announcement of the deal, we outlined five criteria that would need to be met by any agreement to ensure Iran could not attain nuclear capabilities. Unfortunately we have reluctantly concluded that this proposed agreement does not comply with these parameters and therefore we must oppose it and call upon Congress to vote against this deal.” (Aug. 3)

Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts — “do not endorse absent binding solutions”: “We reject the argument made by some that Congress cannot reject this deal because there is not a better option; that the sanctions regime will fall apart and that the only remaining option available to the United States is the use of force to curtail the Iranian nuclear threat … We urge the President and his administration to remain open to working with Congress to find a path forward on a matter that will inevitably be left to several future Presidents – of both parties – to implement successfully. As Congress begins its review of the agreement, our Federation, in partnership with Federations across the state of Massachusetts, urges the Massachusetts delegation to investigate fully the flaws noted above and to not endorse the deal absent significant, specific and binding solutions to the concerns that we, and so many in our community, have about this agreement.” (July 23)

Youngstown Area Jewish Federation — “Opposed by a most narrow margin”: “All of us who love Israel and yearn for peace have different ideas on how to achieve our shared goal. The Jewish community of the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys is a microcosm of the broader Jewish community. The Federation vote was by a most narrow margin, but reflective of our community’s diversity and breadth of opinions on this matter. As Congress continues to review the agreement, we urge our Representatives and Senators to consider the issues at hand and to act in the best interest of national and global security by voting against approval of the agreement and urging our leaders to negotiate a revised deal that addresses our concerns.” (Sept. 3)