The Simon Wiesenthal Center runs something called the Museum of Tolerance. There’s one in Los Angeles, a new one in New York, and one being built in Jerusalem (on the site of an Islamic cemetery). Rabbi Meyer May, the executive director of the Wiesenthal Center, is fine with digging up 1200-year old gravesites to build a building to celebrate tolerance, but building the Cordoba House community center two blocks from Ground Zero (note that anyone arguing about “the Ground Zero mosque” is arguing about a fabrication) seems “insensitive” to him. Presumably the families of the Muslims killed in the Twin Towers shouldn’t be able to pray anywhere in the neighborhood of the atrocity, because a terrorist attack carried out by a tiny group of fanatical Muslim extremists makes any expression of al-Islam offensive to the non-Muslim victims.
Of course, Rabbi May has the right to talk nonsense – it’s right there in the First Amendment, right next to freedom of religion – but perhaps he ought to consider changing the names of those museums. “Museum of Bigotry” has rather a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
Meantime, the Daily Forward, the oldest Jewish newspaper in America, demonstrates that some Jewish institutions are – as the Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League apparently are not – run by people with a little bit of self-respect. Of course, the Forward is based in New York, and the writer of the editorial understands some of the relevant facts, rather than taking them from Sarah Palin and Fox News.
Before it became a cause célèbre for Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich and other rank opportunists, before the Anti-Defamation League sullied a once-noble reputation by siding against religious liberty, before the tweets and satellite trucks spun this all out of control, the plan to turn an eyesore of an empty building two blocks from Ground Zero into a mosque and Islamic center was embraced as a sign of true healing.
The mayor’s office was supportive, as were local community boards, the “town halls” of New York civic life. Prominent rabbis spoke in favor of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the cleric leading the project, whose wife has been associated with the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, which also lent its public support. Rauf had skillfully positioned himself as a voice of moderate Islam; even the FBI called upon him to reach out to Muslims after the terrorist attacks.