Jewish groups denounce attack on Lerner


(JTA) — Agencies in the San Francisco Bay area were among the Jewish groups to condemn the attack on the northern California home of Tikkun editor Rabbi Michael Lerner.

In a joint statement issued Tuesday, the region’s Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Community Relations Council, along with the Northern California Board of Rabbis and the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, condemned the early Monday morning attack in which posters attacking Lerner personally, and liberals and progressives, as being supporters of terrorism and "Islamofascism" were attached to his door and the fence around his Berkeley home.

"We unequivocally condemn criminal acts perpetrated against Rabbi Lerner’s home," the statement read. "Political disagreements must be resolved in a civil manner, and not by resorting to violence. Our communities are especially disturbed that this crime targeted Rabbi Lerner at his home, thereby conveying to him the message that he may not be safe there."

The statement said the agencies were "encouraged by the responsiveness of the Berkeley Police Department to this incident" and urged a thorough investigation.

The case is being investigated as an act of vandalism. It reportedly is not a hate crime, according to police, because Lerner was being attacked for his politics, not his religion.

The attack follows a week in which the magazine and Lerner received hate mail, apparently because Tikkun announced that it will award controversial Judge Richard Goldstone with its prestigious Tikkun Award. Some have pilloried Goldstone, a South African, for his United Nations report that accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the winter 2009 Gaza war. Lerner also offered to hold the bar mitzvah for Goldstone’s grandson in San Francisco following threats of protests outside the synagogue in South Africa.

Akiva Tor, the consul general of Israel for the Pacific Northwest region, called Lerner to express his concern over the vandalism, according to j the Jewish news weekly of Northern California.

Meanwhile, attorney Alan Dershowitz said Lerner and his progressive magazine are trying to silence his criticism of Lerner "for spewing hatred against Israel" by accusing him of inciting the attack.

"I don’t know any of these protesters, nor was I aware of their actions until I read about them in the newspapers, as a result of Tikkun’s publicizing the incident," Dershowitz wrote in the Huffington Post. "I do not approve of people pasting posters on someone else’s property. On a scale of one to ten, having a few posters glued to your house ranks at about a one for seriousness. Lerner went to the press and is trying to use it to silence my criticism of him."

Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said that "At no time is vandalizing an individual’s personal property acceptable, but to do so in response to articles and columns one disagrees with is disturbing and dangerous."

In a statement Gutow, whose organization has launched a civility campaign in the Jewish community, said, "The issues that divide the Jewish community are complex and nuanced. We owe it to ourselves to work through our differences with respect for one another. Those who have committed this vandalism should be punished according to the law."

Richard Curtis, an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate in Washington state, also denounced the attack.

"Fundamentalism, in all its forms, but especially the Christian and Jewish varieties, are a grave threat to the freedom of the people of the U.S. and Israel," Curtis told the Seattle Times. 

It was the first time in 24 years of the magazine’s operation that Lerner’s home was attacked, according to a statement issued by the magazine. No one has claimed responsibility, though the statement blamed "right-wing Zionists."


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