I’m not telling tales out of school when I reveal here that about 99 percent of my time (okay, exaggeration – but a slight one) is spent dealing with Jewish groups wanting more JTA inchage. ("But how could you not know that we’re recognized international experts on Andorran narco-terrorism!")
My problem with this is that these folks take an age to get their statements out. (There are exceptions.) When I point this out, I get sheepish, "well, we had to run it by the board" replies.
Last night, I got a flood of replies from non-Jewish groups condemning the murder of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few remaining physicians to provide late term abortions in the United States – and within hours of the assassination taking place in Tiller’s Wichita church.
These groups and institutions also have boards and bureacuracies – chief among them, the White House, where President Obama has been known to be especially cautious on the abortion issue – and yet somehow managed to say the right thing within hours of the attack.
This would seem a no-brainer – yes, kids, shooting someone dead in a place of worship is a bad thing – but the Jewish reactions are trickling in only now. And it’s not as murdering an abortion provider does not have Jewish resonance – Barnett Slepian was murdered in 1998 not long after welcoming in Shabbat.
Anyway, in the spirit of better-late-than-never, here are the Jewish reactions, in order of their arrival:
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, attributed to Dr. Cheryl Gutmann, Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism:
We are shocked and saddened at the murder yesterday of Dr. George Tiller, who for decades provided critical reproductive health care services, including abortion services to women facing some of the most difficult medical circumstances. Jewish tradition emphasizes the sacredness of life, healing, and health. Dr. Tiller believed in these values, risking his own life to provide compassionate care that others were unwilling to offer and facing often-violent harassment by those who sought to deny women and their families access to such treatment. As our hearts and prayers go out to Dr. Tiller’s family, we think of his personal heroism and that of the other brave and courageous providers and professionals who are part of reproductive health centers across this country. We call on all Americans to condemn this tragic act of violence and on law-enforcement officials to fully prosecute the perpetrators of such acts. The murder of Dr. Tiller is a tragic reminder that we must find common ground on the divisive issue of abortion. We renew our commitment to engage those with whom we disagree, based on a shared desire to protect women’s health and oppose acts of violence.
The National Council of Jewish Women, atrributable to President Nancy Ratzan:
NCJW is shocked and deeply saddened by the murder of Dr. George Tiller. Dr. Tiller devoted his life to ensuring that women did indeed have choices when confronted with an unintended or untenable pregnancy. His murder – his assassination – is intended to terrorize not only all involved with providing abortions but anyone even remotely associated with abortion rights. That Dr. Tiller’s assassin sought him out in his place of worship makes this crime all the more heinous. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Dr. Tiller’s family, his colleagues, and all those who loved him and benefitted from his courageous insistence on continuing to deliver needed health care, despite ongoing harassment, bombings, and an earlier near-fatal attack. Dr. Tiller was one of a very few physicians nationwide willing to provide late-term abortion services. CJW deplores the ongoing clinic violence that has left seven others dead and many others victimized. This campaign of terror has driven physicians and clinics that provide much-needed services from many parts of the country for fear of their own safety and that of their patients. We welcome the news that Attorney General Holder has upgraded security measures protecting abortion providers, and we call on local law enforcement authorities to do the same. May George Tiller be the last to die a martyr’s death in the struggle to ensure that the constitutional rights of American women can be freely exercised.
The American Jewish Congress, with a neat footnote about how long it has championed choice:
The killing of Dr. George Tiller, because he performed abortions, exemplifies criminal anarchy, not legitimate protest. Dr. Tiller’s murder was not just a terrible crime against an individual. It was also a crime against our democracy. His killer or killers therefore must be punished with the utmost severity. Differences in our society over abortion are profound. That is perfectly acceptable. As President Obama said last month, our democracy tolerates, even encourages such debate, so long as it is conducted with civility. Murder is not a debating technique. It is never, and must never be, an accepted way of advancing a point of view. Although some anti-abortion groups have now condemned Dr. Tiller’s murder, others in the movement continue to justify this heinous act. Meanwhile, as the Justice Department has already done, governments across the country must put in place urgent measures to protect the abortion providers and their clinics, and the women who frequent them. These activities are constitutionally protected. They must be protected against recurring vigilante violence.
The American Jewish Congress is a membership association of Jewish Americans, organized to defend Jewish interests at home and abroad, through public policy advocacy, in the courts, Congress, the executive branch and state and local governments. Since 1958, it has supported the right of women to chose whether to carry a pregnancy to turn.