Shmuly Yanklowitz

Shmuly YanklowitzCommunity Contributor

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz is the President and Dean of Valley Beit Midrash, Founder and President of Uri L’tzedek, and the Founder and CEO of Shamayim V’Aretz.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Over 100 Rabbis Denounce The Death Penalty

We, the undersigned Rabbis across denominations, express our opposition to the use of the death penalty in America.

As Jews and citizens, we believe that governments must protect the dignity and rights of every human being. By using the death penalty, our country fails to live up to this basic requirement.

Too often, the wrong person is convicted for crimes they did not commit. Due to their socio-economic situation or lack of access to legal resources, wrongly convicted people often have no real opportunity to respond to an overwhelming legal system that, after an initial conviction, makes the proof of innocence very difficult. The consequences of this system are not only fundamentally unjust but also produce racially disparate outcomes. Additionally, tax payers are required to pay exorbitant amounts to maintain death row.

The Rabbis taught that a court that often puts others to death is deeply problematic. How often? Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah says, “Every 70 years.” Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva say, “If we were in a court, no person would ever be executed,” (Makkot 7a). While not categorically opposed to capital punishment, the rabbis saw the death penalty as so extreme a measure that they all but removed it from their system of justice. Regarding capital punishment, the Sages had a very high bar for reliable evidence, were eager to find ways to acquit, and were deeply concerned about the dignity of those that were indeed condemned. In contrast, our American system today lacks the highest safeguards to protect the lives of the innocent and uses capital punishment all too readily.

We do not naively believe that everyone on death row is completely innocent of any crime. Yet, it is time to see the death penalty for what it is: not as justice gone awry, but a symptom of injustice as status quo. “You must rescue those taken off to death!”(Proverbs 24:11)!

As Jewish community leaders, we are calling for an end to a cruel practice, but also for the beginning of a new paradigm of fair, equitable restorative justice.

Rabbi Leo Michel Abrami
Rabbi Rachel Adler
Rabbi Aaron Alexander
Rabbi Adina Allen
Rabbi Morris Allen
Rabbi Dr Elisha Ancselovits
Rabbi Camille Shira Angel
Rabbi Yossef Arbaim Rabbi Ethan Bair
Rabbi David Bauman
Rabbi Buz Bogage
Rabbi Sharon Brous
Rabbi John Bush
Rabbi Meredith Cahn
Rabbi Micah Caplan
Rabbi Dr Michael Chernick
Rabbi Ian Chesir-Teran
Rabbi Yosi Cirlin
Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels
Rabbi Getzel Davis
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Rabbi Barry Dolinger
Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus
Rabbi Amy Eilberg
Rabbi Stephen Einstein
Rabbi Jean Eglinton
Rabbi Barat Ellman
Rabbi Steven Exler
Rabbi Sam Feinsmith
Rabbi Jacob Fine
Rabbi Jonah Geffen
Rabbi Dr Miriyam Glazer
Rabbi Michael Goldman
Rabbi Megan GoldMarche
Rabbi Lisa L. Goldstein
Rabbi Dr. Marc Gopin
Rabbi Dr. Mel Gottlieb
Rabbi Sarah Leah Grafstein
Rabbi Dr. Art Green
Rabbi Dr. Yitz Greenberg
Rabbi Gabe Greenberg
Rabbi Ronald Eugene Grossman
Rabbi Maurice Harris
Rabbi Ari Hart
Rabbi Lauren Henderson
Rabbi Jason Herman
Rabbi Jocee Hudson
Rabbi Mark Hurvitz
Rabbi David Jaffe
Rabbi Ellen Jaffe-Gill
Rabbi Chana Johnson
Rabbi Dr. Miriam Jerris
Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster
Rabbi David Kalb
Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky
Rabbi Elana Kanter
Rabbi Alan J Katz
Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block
Rabbi Daniel Kirzane
Rabbi Jonathan Klein
Rabbi Rachel Kobrin
Rabbi Andy Koren
Rabbi Michael Adam Latz
Rabbi Jon Leener
Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz
Rabbi Darby Jared Leigh
Rabbi David Lerner
Rabbi Sheldon Lewis
Rabbi Dennis Linson
Rabbi Dov Linzer
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann
Rabbi Yehoshua Looks
Rabbi Ari Lucas
Rabbi Nina H Mandel
Rabbi Devorah Marcus
Rabbi Richard Marker
Rabbi Nathan Martin
Rabbi Dr. Ariel Evan Mayse
Rabbi Dr Yehudah Mirsky
Rabbi Robin Nafshi
Rosh Kehillah Dina Najman
Rabbi Michael Paley
Rabbi David Paskin
Rabbi Shuli Passow
Rabbi Jonah Pesner
Rabbi David Polsky
Rabbi Aaron Potek
Rabbi Joshua Ratner
Rabbi Tracee Rosen
Rabbi Jennie Rosenn
Rabbi Derek Rosenbaum
Rabbi Michael Rothbaum
Rabbi Ralph Ruebner
Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips
Rabbi Abe Schacter-Gampel
Rabbi Robert Scheinberg
Rabbi Fred Scherlinder
Rabbi Evan Schultz
Rabbi Judith Seid
Rabbi Dr. Sid Schwarz
Rabbi David Segal
Rabbi Ahud Sela
Rabbi Jamie Serber
Rabbi Dean Shapiro
Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman
Rabbi Jeremy Sher
Rabbi Jack Silver
Rabbi Daniel Raphael Silverstein
Rabbi Suzanne Singer
Rabbi Jenny Solomon
Rabbi Marc Soloway
Rabbi Abby Sosland
Rabbi Robin S. Sparr
Rabbi Scott Sperling
Rabbi David Spinrad
Rabbi Toba Spitzer
Rabbi Erica Steelman
Rabbi Dr. Oren Steinitz
Rabbi David Straus
Rabbi Elliott Tepperman
Rabbi David Teutsch
Rabbi Beni Wajnberg
Rabbi Deborah Waxman
Rabbi Elyse Wechterman
Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg
Rabbi Dr. Cheryl Weiner
Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub
Rabbi Ora Weiss
Rabbi Ariann Weitzman
Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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Over 100 Rabbis Denounce The Death Penalty

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