Citing Genesis and Psalms, 500-plus people who work at more than 140 U.S. Jewish organizations penned a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden calling for a ceasefire.
“Jewish tradition teaches that every death is another world destroyed,” wrote the signatories, many of whom did so anonymously. As such, they mourned the 1,200 Israelis killed on Oct. 7, as well as for the “nearly 16,000 Palestinians who have been killed since that day.”
“Over 17,000 worlds have been destroyed in this war, and many more hang in the balance,” they wrote. (They noted the number of Palestinian victims was updated on Dec. 5; it appeared to be the count of the Hamas-controlled Gazan health ministry, which reportedly includes terrorists and which the White House has called unreliable.)
The Mishnah in Sanhedrin states that “Scripture considers someone who kills a Jewish person to be as if he destroyed a world,” although some have said that the original phrase may not have been specific to Jewish victims. The recent letter appeared to assume that Jewish tradition, which calls for capital punishment for certain crimes, also considers worlds to be erased when terrorists are killed.
“Our organizations may or may not join the call for a ceasefire themselves, but we feel moved to speak as individuals to demonstrate broad support within the Jewish community for a ceasefire,” the signatories wrote. “Whether inspired by our Israeli and Palestinian loved ones, guided by the wisdom of our ancient texts, or motivated by principles passed down to us through the generations, we feel we must speak now.”
More than 550 rabbis—all named—have responded with their own letter. “There is not broad support within the Jewish community for a ceasefire. Not now,” the second group wrote.
“More than 20% of the above-mentioned letter signatories signed anonymously. Beyond demonstrating a lack of courage, it is hard to substantiate and verify an ‘anonymous’ petition,” they wrote. “Further, the majority of pro-Israel Americans, especially clergy of all denominations, believe that a ceasefire before the eradication of Hamas leadership and a return of all hostages is a grave danger to global security.”
“The fastest way to end the bloodshed in Gaza is for Hamas to surrender, lay down their weapons and return all the hostages they continue to hold,” the rabbis added. “This is the only way to end the loss of life that we all deplore and enable Israelis and Palestinians to begin to rebuild in peace.”
As of publication time, 570 rabbis had signed that letter.