A Letter to Ben Cardin About Iran From Two of Your Jewish Constituents

Ben Cardin Iran Nuclear Deal Israel Religion

As Jews know from our lengthy history of persecution, religion used in government actions causes untold suffering. It’s one of the reasons so many Jews are happy with the separation of church and state in this country.  Jews know that when religion enters into politics, it’s the adherents of the minority religions that get hurt. And in this country, Jews are very much a minority.

Dear Senator Cardin:

We recently learned of your decision to oppose the nuclear agreement with Iran. Over the past weeks, as Maryland residents, we have been calling you and leaving messages for you asking for you to support this agreement. We have done this not because we love the nation of Iran (though we don’t hate it either), not because we believe in always supporting the president (we don’t), not because we like John Kerry (we do), but because we see this agreement as making the world a safer place and as helping the United States in its relationships with both European and Middle-Eastern nations. This deal makes things better for our country and better for the world.

It’s clear that if we turned down this agreement, Europe would go ahead and lift the sanctions on Iran and Iran would begin to be accepted back into the world community while still moving on its plan to develop nuclear weapons. How could that be a good thing?

If we turned down this deal, the enmity between the U.S. and Iran, one of the most powerful and educated countries in that region, would continue to grow. How can that be a good thing?

If we turned down this deal, we would give support to Netanyahu, who is looking for legitimization for Israel to attack Iran and drag the U.S., as Israel’s main ally, into another war in that region. How can that be a good thing?

These are not “political strategy,” but the practical and world-relevant reasons to support the nuclear deal with Iran.

You claim that you made your decision based on conscience, not politics. But I wonder about that conscience when it is apparently so influenced by your religion:  articles in the Washington Post suggest that you were strongly affected by your rabbi’s harangues and personal phone calls to you and your wife against the deal, by AIPAC’s demonstration in front of your synagogue, by your prominent position in the Jewish community.

Well, we’re Jewish and we have to say that if your Judaism was the deciding factor in your vote, we find that appalling.

As Jews know from our lengthy history of persecution, religion used in government actions causes untold suffering. It’s one of the reasons so many Jews are happy with the separation of church and state in this country.  Jews know that when religion enters into politics, it’s the adherents of the minority religions that get hurt. And in this country, Jews are very much a minority.

So, when a public school has a Christian prayer as part of their graduation ceremonies, Jewish families are at the forefront of protests against that.

When we hear stories of teachers who denigrate students whose religion is not part of the majority in that school, we are vocal in our support of the victimized students even though the targeted students were Mormon and Catholic, not Jewish.

And so, as we continue to struggle to make sure religion is not determining how our government treats us, we have a responsibility not to let our government representatives who are Jewish allow their religion to bias their actions either.

We are afraid you have done this and it is wrong.

We are afraid you have made a decision not based on what is best for Americans, our nation and the world, but based on the power of your religious community.

If so, you did not make a decision because of conscience, but because of submission to the views of your closest friends. It is no different from a southern senator in the 60’s giving in to the racism of his peers as he voted against civil rights. It is no different from a current Republican representative giving into the religious extremism of his/her peers to vote to defund Planned Parenthood. I’m sure you abhor the choices made by those elected officials. You should not engage in the same behavior.

Your first responsibility is to your constituents and to the United States. What your rabbi thinks, what AIPAC thinks should not be the arbiters of your voting choices. And yet that seems to be what has happened.

So we, who have been proud to be your constituents, who voted for you when you first ran for Senator, are ashamed of your decision to oppose the nuclear deal with Iran, ashamed that you put a higher priority on your religious connections than you did on the welfare of your constituents and your nation.

Sincerely,

Martha Ann Teitelbaum
David M. Zwerdling

Photo courtesy of The Washington Post.

  • DFS1906

    Great letter

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