In their latest campaign against the National Rifle Association, gun-control groups are highlighting the names of Jewish organizations and individuals found on an NRA-compiled “blacklist,” in what observers say is an effort to spur one of the gun-control lobby’s key constituencies to action.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence-Million Mom March bought advertisements in The New York Times and other publications last week inviting gun-control advocates to “join the honor roll at www.NRAblacklist.com.”
The NRA’s register of those it considers enemies contains the names of many different organizations and individuals, including tennis commentator John McEnroe, newsman Walter Cronkite and rock star Bruce Springsteen. Yet fully a fifth of the names cited in a list of 35 featured in the Brady Campaign-Million Mom March ad belonged to Jewish organizations or individuals.
“They were consciously or unconsciously acknowledging that American Jews are an important demographic in the universe of domestic social policy and social organizing,” said David Twersky, a spokesman for the American Jewish Congress.
The AJCongress appears on the NRA “blacklist” and in the Brady ad along with Hadassah, former New York City mayor Ed Koch, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, actor Billy Crystal and comedian Mel Brooks.
The advertising campaign is being waged amid a fierce battle to influence legislation pending in Congress that would sunset the assault-weapons ban and provide civil immunity to gun dealers, manufacturers and distributors.
A spokesman for The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Rob Wilcox, said Jewish groups such as the AJCongress and Hadassah were chosen for inclusion in the ad because they represent the American mainstream.
“It’s the same way we picked the NAACP instead of the Black Panthers,” said Wilcox, explaining the selection of Hadassah and AJCongress. “We wanted to use highly recognizable names that clearly explained the widespread attack on every aspect of society.”
Jewish groups that are on the NRA “blacklist” but are not cited in the Brady ad include the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Jewish Labor Committee, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.
Five religious leaders are singled out by the NRA, including Rabbi David Saperstein, the chief lobbyist for the Reform movement; Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and Rabbi Paul Menitoff, executive vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
No bodies of the Conservative movement make the NRA list, despite that movement’s pro-gun control positions.
Menitoff said he didn’t understand the point of publicly labeling one’s enemies.
“I don’t know of any self-respecting organization that creates a blacklist,” he said. “It’s beyond the pale. It has no effect on our stance as an organization, and I can’t believe it would have any effect on any other credible organization.”