Orthodox reject China boycott


Three Orthodox groups rejected calls on Jewish tourists to boycott the Beijing Olympics.

The Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America and the National Council of Young Israel each issued statements in the days following a call this week by 185 Jewish leaders – most of them clergy – to boycott the Olympics.

That call was initiated by two prominent Orthodox rabbis in New York, Haskel Lookstein and Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, who noted that China was preparing a kosher kitchen for tourists and drew parallels to Germany’s use of the 1936 Olympics to whitewash Nazism.

“The Olympics is intended to be a unifying international event where nations from throughout the world come together for a common purpose,” Young Israel said in a statement. “While we certainly share concerns about the host country’s position on human rights, we believe that boycotting an event which is intended to promote peace and harmony is extremely counterproductive. We also believe that drawing a comparison between the 1936 Olympics in Germany and the 2008 Olympics in China is inappropriate.”

The Orthodox Union noted that “Jewish law cautions that we must act with exceptional care lest we cause more harm than good. The leadership of the Orthodox Union believes such exceptional care is demanded in these circumstances with regard to relations with the Chinese government.”

Israel has strong trade relations with China and, with the United States, scored modest successes in recent months in bringing China around to isolating Iran until it sends its suspected nuclear weapons program.

“We at Agudath Israel of America understand the motivation behind the effort,” said a statement from the fervently Orthodox umbrella group. “We too are deeply concerned about reports of human rights violations in China. We believe, however, that it is presumptuous, and perhaps even counterproductive, for a group of private citizens to urge a boycott of the Beijing Olympics – and to direct their appeal specifically at members of the Jewish community.”

The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have also rejected the boycott idea. Other Jewish groups, including the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Reform movement, have called on President Bush to boycott the opening ceremony, an action that they say will have symbolic value but will not harm athletes.

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