Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Jewish Groups, to Protest Farrakhan, Withdraw from Religious Parliament

September 7, 1993
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Jewish groups withdrew their sponsorship of the Parliament of the World’s Religions last week to protest an appearance by Louis Farrakhan, a militant black leader widely considered anti-Semitic.

The local chapters of the American Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League, as well as the Chicago Jewish Community Relations Council, pulled out Thursday, shortly before he was scheduled to speak.

In a letter to the Rev. David Ramage Jr., parliament chairman, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman cited the fact that Farrakhan “continues to espouse and promote classic anti-Semitic notions of Jewish domination and control.”

Despite the Jewish groups’ support for the overall goals of the parliament, “Our participation is incompatible with a presentation by one who has so relentlessly attacked one religious group and so consistently promoted divisiveness along racial lines,” Foxman wrote.

When the Jewish organizations had agreed to co-sponsor the parliament, they had some trepidation that “its structures and platforms might be used by individuals with beliefs and goals detrimental to the well-being of the Jewish community,” said Michael Kotzin, director of the JCRC.

“Though we were reassured that this would not be the case, the participation of a person like Farrakhan, who in fact has become symbolic of values precisely contrary to those which the parliament was meant to foster, would give him a credibility and legitimacy which we can in no way be part of,” said Kotzin.


The four Jewish organizations expressed their concerns over Farrakhan’s scheduled speech in a letter to Ramage early during the conference, which ran from Aug. 28 through Sept. 4. They did not receive a reply until Thursday morning, the day Farrakhan was scheduled to make his presentation.

At that time, Ramage explained that Farrakhan was invited to speak by the African American host committee and that “the representatives of all faith communities deserve mutual respect.”

The Jewish organizations did not believe that Ramage’s letter adequately addressed their concerns and felt they had no choice but to withdraw in protest.

The ADL made its withdrawal public on Thursday afternoon, several hours before Farrakhan was scheduled to give his 7 p.m. speech.

Farrakhan responded to the ADL’s withdrawal by calling a news conference at 5:00 p.m., in which he charged that Jewish objections had led organizers of an Aug. 28 civil rights march on Washington to cancel an invitation for him to speak. March officials have denied that he was ever invited.

“Unfortunately, the same forces have not allowed us to be here at the 1993 Parliament of World’s Religions,” Farrakhan said at the press conference. “I think that they need to be told ‘Shame on you.'”

Farrakhan added, implicitly addressing the Jewish community, that “we are going to demand that you stay out of our business and mind your own business. Since you are not going to help us deliver our people out of the condition that some of your fathers placed us in, then we are going to demand that you leave us alone.”

The AJCommittee, AJCongress and JCRC withdrew from the parliament privately in a letter delivered to the parliament’s chairman early in the evening before Farrakhan’s presentation.

Farrakhan was scheduled to speak for 45 minutes on “Faith: The African American Family.” He claimed this was a topic he was forced to choose, yet he touched on it for no more than five minutes, and his presentation ran twice as long as planned.

His talk included a mix of many that he has given over the past years, in which he claimed he was working for peace while at the same time espousing anti-white, anti-Christian and anti-Jewish views.

More than 500 people attended his speech, many of them his followers, and his remarks were warmly received with a standing ovation.

In their letters to the parliament chairman, the Jewish organizations expressed their continued support for interfaith work in the future.

The AJCommittee, AJCongress and JCRC wrote that they welcomed the opportunity to join with others “in building fruitful interfaith relations in the years ahead.”

Recommended from JTA