22 Jewish Leaders Arrested Calling for Removal of Iran at UN

Twenty-two leaders were arrested at a United Nations rabbinic protest demanding that Iran be thrown out of the international body.

Alex Traiman,

Rabbi Avi Weiss
Rabbi Avi Weiss

Twenty-one rabbis, and a Jewish community layperson were arrested at the United Nations Tuesday, demanding that Iran be removed from the international body.

Click here for a photo essay of the protest and arrests

The group, organized by AMCHA – Coalition for Jewish Concerns, was arrested by New York City Police and imprisoned for several hours after peacefully crossing over from the public city street to the steps leading down to the United Nations.

AMCHA Director, and Rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Avi Weiss stated in response to his incarceration, "It's a serious matter to step beyond the line, to violate the law. But we must do so as a moral outcry to the world that it can't be business as usual. The time has come to expel Iran from the United Nations."

After being warned of their impending arrest, the group sat down under the large Peace Wall quoting the words of the biblical prophet Isaiah: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more."

At the rally which began several blocks away at the Iranian Mission to the UN, Weiss exclaimed, "There's a fire burning, and we must raise a voice of moral outrage. We urge that the presence of any Iranian delegation be protested, that pressure be put on countries not to trade with Iran, that state governments divest from companies trading with Iran, and that nations signed on to the Genocide Convention strongly condemn Iranian President Ahmadinejad who's threatened to wipe Israel off the map.

"We demand that the United Nations expel Iran, which has threatened to annihilate Israel, a fellow UN member state."

The group then proceeded to the headquarters of the World body, with the intent of getting arrested.

Former Deputy District Attorney, turned Conservative Rabbi, Mark Ankcorn, of the Southwest Orlando Jewish Congregation stated prior to his arrest, "It’s not a decision I take lightly, believe me. I’ve never written a letter to the editor, never written my congressman or my senator about any issue, never been a part of a sit-down or teach-in or anything else.

"But the government of Iran denies the Holocaust and supplies the rockets that killed dozens in Israel this past summer. They furiously seek nuclear weapons and kidnap British sailors. When will it stop? When will we stand up and say, Enough?"

Rabbi Joseph Potasnick, president of the New York Board of Rabbis, stated after the protest, "Iranian President Ahmadinejad says he'll wipe Israel off the map. We say, remove the map from him -- he should not be allowed to enter any halls of power anywhere. Ahmadinejad should be made to feel like a pariah."

Conservative Rabbi Bruce Ginsburg of Congregation Sons of Israel added, "Iran trains terrorists to murder Israelis and insurgents to kill American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. We say to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, kick Iran out of the United Nations."

Each of the 22 arrested protestors were released after being held for over five hours, and were charged with disorderly conduct. Each of the protestors must appear in Criminal Court by May 15.

Following their release, organizers added, "We call upon the American Jewish community to organize a mass march on Washington, joined by hundreds of thousands, to raise a powerful voice of moral conscience and a simple message: there's a fire burning, burning from Iran. There cannot be business as usual until Iran is stopped."

"We are calling upon all rabbis and clergy of other faiths to join together and in an act of civil disobedience demand that Iran be expelled from the United Nations. To be successful in our mission, our actions need to be continuous and make a significant impact that will cause a shift around the world. On the week of Holocaust Remembrance Day, we, the leaders of our communities, will stand together and show the world that we will not tolerate Iran’s threats to the Jewish State, nor will we accept Iran’s defiance of nuclear treaties without being expelled from the UN."

The Arrested Community Leaders
Rabbi Mark Ankcorn, Southwest Orlando Jewish Congregation
Rabbi Moses Birnbaum, President, Long Island Board of Rabbis
Rabbi Steven Burton, Congregation Shaarei Shalom
Rafi Farber, rabbinical student, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah   
Rabbi Jeffrey Fox  
Rabbi Avidan Freedman, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah
Rabbi Bruce Ginsburg, Congregation Sons of Israel
Ben Greenberg, rabbinical student, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah
Yehuda Hausman, rabbinical student, Yeshivat Chovevai Torah
Rabbi Jason Herman, Congregation Beth Israel/West Side Jewish Center
Rabbi David Kalb, CLAL
Rabbi Pinchas Klein, Mount Freedom Jewish Center, Morasha
Rabbi Aryeh Leifert, Congregation Rodfei Sholom, San Antonio, Texas
Rabbi Ronald Price, Congregation Netivot Sholom, UTJ/Morasha
Glenn Richter, Amcha-Coalition for Jewish Concerns
Rabbi Aaron Rubinger, Congregation Ohev Shalom, Orlando, FL
Ross Shapiro, rabbinical student, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah
Rabbi Uri Topolosky, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale
Rabbi Avi Weiss, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale
Rabbi Akiva David Weiss, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah
Rabbi David Willig, Bayside Jewish Center