2016 September 11 Remembrance at Beth El Temple Harrisburg

Power of People of Faith to Overcome Hatred, Bigotry, and Extremism

beth-el-9-11-2016 music-9-11-2016

Introductory speakers Rabbi Eric Cytryn, Senator Rob Teplitz, Rabbi Carl Choper, Beth El Director Ben Wachstein:

Feature speaker Imam Mohamad Basher Arafat:

Panel Discussion facilitated by Randall Tenor: “Building Bridges Among the Faith Communities”
Imam Mohamad Basher Arafat (Muslim), Rev. Geoffrey Dunaway (Buddhist), Rev. Barry Chambers (Baptist), Dr. Muigul Parish (Hindu), Jennifer Ross (Jewish):

Rabbi Moline responds to Dr. Ben Carson’s statement about Islam and the Constitution

Rabbi Moline responds to Dr. Ben Carson’s statement about Islam and the Constitution
September 21, 2015
For Immediate Release
Contact: Ari Geller, West End Strategy Team, 202-776-7700, Ari@westendstrategy.com

WASHINGTON — Following an interview in which Dr. Ben Carson, candidate for the Republican nomination for President, said that he believed Islam is inconsisent with the Constitution and that he could not support a Muslim candidate for president, Rabbi Jack Moline, exeutive director of Interfaith Alliance, released this statement:

“Dr. Ben Carson’s belief that a Muslim should not be President of the United States is another example of a candidate who claims to cherish the First Amendment trying to rewrite the Constitution and what it means for people of all faiths in America. His willingness to denigrate and disenfranchise millions of American citizens not only jeopardizes full equality under the law, but delivers a message that his brand of religious freedom is not meant to truly protect the rights of all. Our country’s motto “Pluribus Unum” means we have to become one nation “out of the many”, not out of the few who worship and believe like we do.”

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Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.

Jay Keller
Dir. Outreach & Operations
Interfaith Alliance Foundation
1250 24th St NW STE 300
Washington, DC 20037-1186

When you mix politics and religion, you get politics, every time!

No Compulsion in Religion: The Challenge of Faith and Freedom

We live in a multi-faith society. Yet, historically, our faith traditions have not taught us how to let others be themselves. Accordingly, compulsion has become a default stance.
It’s important to remember that there are teachings in our traditions which remind us that there is no compulsion in religion. Or is there? Is there such a teaching in our traditions? And, if so, what is its application to society?
(More Information)

Video of the presentation at Goodwin Memorial Baptist Church, Harrisburg, PA:

As edited and aired on Channel 20</>

Full length video

It’s About the Role of Government

By Rabbi Carl Choper; President of The Interfaith Alliance of Pennsylvania

Sometime this past summer I heard a report on National Public Radio of an interaction on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives that serves to illustrate the clash of social values underlying the current paralysis in the United States government.

One U.S. representative, a Democrat, rose and spoke in favor of funding social programs that feed the hungry on the grounds that, as a Christian, he held to certain Biblical texts in which Jesus says that “as you do to the least of these, so you do to me.” This, the representative said, includes feeding the hungry, and is why he feels it is immoral for the government to defund programs designed to make sure that even the poorest among us – which includes a lot of children – have food to eat. Following this, a second U.S. representative, a Republican, rose and adamantly identified himself as a Christian as well, and said that he also held by the same Biblical texts. But he argued that this moral imperative to feed the hungry applied only to individuals who voluntarily feed the hungry as an act of charity. It was not the role of government to feed the hungry, and nor did those Christian moral principles instructing us to feed the hungry apply to the government.

To me this interaction is quite clarifying for understanding why the U.S. government at this moment is in the midst of a partial (but very real) shutdown. Both sides in the standoff believe in responsibility, but one side believes only in individual responsibility. (This despite the fact that we have a legal system that recognizes corporations as legal persons with all the rights. but few if any of the responsibilities, of individual people.) The other side believes both in individual responsibility and communal responsibility, with government acting as an agent of the people in fulfilling that communal responsibility.

One side believes that government is a problem whose role must be minimized. Other than limited functions like protecting our borders there is not much more government should be doing.┬á This is why this side is so opposed to expanded governmental involvement in healthcare (with the hypocritical exception that many on the same side seem to fight for a larger governmental presence in the bedroom and in women’s health clinics). This is why they oppose governmental regulation of the marketplace, in which individual actions are supposed to add up for the benefit of all responsible individuals. This is why we see efforts to defund public schools in favor of privately run charter schools. This is why we hear proposals to privatize the funding, operation and perhaps even ownership of roads; and suggestions that national parks should be owned and operated by private, non-profit organizations. Most particularly, the argument against any form of gun regulation is so that armed individuals can protect themselves from the government itself, which in their view is always impinging on the rights of individuals.

The belief that we should have little to no government is also why the real need to balance the federal budget is being used to further the goal of dismantling government. The reason for insisting that the budget be balanced without any tax increases, but only through spending cuts – preferably on programs that help sustain the elderly, single mothers with children, the disabled and the poor – is because they do not believe government should be used to supplant individual responsibility with a form of communal responsibility. Indeed, instituting any government program in order to meet any form of communal responsibility in this view is really a form of socialism.

This is also why radicals in the House of Representatives were not afraid of the sequester in government spending that took hold earlier this year. In fact, the sequester was likely a positive thing in their view because it reduced the size of government. This is also why not everyone is upset that part of the federal government has been shut down. The current partial shutdown aids these radicals in forcing a downsize of government, especially in that it distinguishes between “essential” and “non-essential ” parts of government. By this argument, any aspects of government that are non-essential ought not exist anyway. The next logical step would be for radicals in the House of Representatives to indicate piece by piece what forms of government should be funded, and which should simply be allowed to fade away. This is precisely what radical members of the House are now proposing.

All these efforts make moral sense if you do not believe that the government plays an important role in our society’s effort to fulfill communal responsibilities, such as making sure that the most vulnerable of our people are not dying in our streets homeless, sick and hungry. But to those who think that government is somehow an expression of the people, and is therefore a powerful tool for us all to fulfill certain aspects of communal responsibility, the wholesale dismantlement of government has the seeds of a moral catastrophe. As a practical matter, there are certain functions which are very difficult for private and poorly-funded, volunteer, non-profit organizations to fulfill. As a society, we discovered this during the Great Depression when unregulated economic practices destroyed the economy and people literally were going hungry in our streets. The major social difference between the Depression of 1929 and the Recession of 2008 is that in 2008 there was in place some semblance of a government-run safety net. That safety-net was part of the twentieth-century expansion of government that the radicals in the House now want to undo.

We need to understand that these radicals have a very harsh view of what society is supposed to be, with a very limited view of what constitutes social responsibility, and that the campaign to institute that view is already well underway.


The Constitution framers wanted religious freedom for all not state sponsored religion

Not only is it not for the House of Reps to declare anything to be the word of God or or declare any Scripture Holy or call for the application of the teachings of any scripture other than the laws and Constitution of the land – but they have their history wrong.
The framers of the Constitution were trying to get away from the religiously-inspired wars that generations of Christians had fought because of their different understandings of the Bible.
This should be more fodder for the blog – and we need to get our press releases rolling.
Read below.


Session of



Declaring 2012 as the “Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania.
WHEREAS, The Bible, the word of God, has made a unique
contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and
blessed nation and people; and
WHEREAS, Deeply held religious convictions springing from the
holy scriptures led to the early settlement of our country; and
WHEREAS, Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil
government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence
and the Constitution of the United States; and
WHEREAS, Many of our great national leaders, among them
President Washington, President Jackson, President Lincoln,
President Wilson and President Reagan, paid tribute to the
influence of the Bible in our country’s development, as
exemplified by the words of President Jackson that the Bible is
“the rock on which our Republic rests”; and
– 1 –
WHEREAS, The history of our country clearly illustrates the
value of voluntarily applying the teachings of the scriptures in
the lives of individuals, families and societies; and
WHEREAS, This nation now faces great challenges that will
test it as it has never been tested before; and
WHEREAS, Renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through
holy scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people;
therefore be it
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives declare 2012 as
the “Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania in recognition of both
the formative influence of the Bible on our Commonwealth and
nation and our national need to study and apply the teachings of
the holy scriptures.