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Rabbi Jill Jacobs explains message behind New York subway ads

Rabbi Jill Jacobs explains message behind New York subway ads

Inae Oh of the Huffington Post interviews Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, which took out an advertisementurging New York subway users to “help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors”, in an effort to counter Pamela Geller’s notorious “savages” ad. Rabbi Jacobs explains:

“I was very concerned that people might think that these ads speak for the Jewish community, as Geller couches her anti-Muslim message in the language of supporting Israel. The suggestion that she is speaking only about terrorists, and not about Muslims in general, falls apart as soon as you read her writings, which are fear mongering about Muslims in the U.S. and in the world, and about Islam as a religion.”

She adds: “I want to spread the message that 1800 rabbis – along with the majority of the American Jewish community – believes in partnership with our Muslim neighbors. We, of course, oppose all acts of terrorism. We will not, however, allow the actions of a small minority to be an excuse for dehumanizing an entire people.”

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    • Nevermore

      @Bilal: If by ‘Muslims’ you mean ‘certain nations who happened to be Muslim,’ then yes, I agree. Even the fact that, probably, up until the 1600s-1700s, they were fairly similar in terms of economic development with their Western counterparts. However, economics (the development of mercantilism leading to capitalism), as well as their own natural abundance allowed them to slingshot ahead. Trade routes that nations like the Ottoman Empire once ruled became obsolete because no one wanted to pay their tariffs.

      As for Islam being perfected in Muhammad’s time, well, I’m a friend to Muslims (as an agnostic); otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. At the same time, though, I can’t say I honestly agree. But your point about learning more about Islam’s history is well met. Educating yourself is never a fool’s errand.

    • Garibaldi


      What I was referring to specifically is there has not been enough discussion about Pamela Geller’s anti-Muslim fear-mongering in the media, and I am commending Rabbi Jill Jacobs for highlighting that. I don’t know why media outlets are excluding this bit when they cover Geller’s Ads, it makes me question if it’s lazy journalism or selective? I mean do they think it is too much editorializing for a report? I wouldn’t buy that argument.

      To Geller most Muslims if they aren’t terrorists, are potential terrorists, and therefore a threat and dangerous to society.

    • Géji


      “This point has not been made enough during coverage of Geller’s hate ad campaign.”

      And so Geller could be able to ‘define’ what is terrorism? and who are this ‘terrorists’ we keep on ‘hearing’ about anyway? Anyhoo, I’ve expressed ‘definitions’ accuracy on this Site. Seems current outlook of, Terrorism ; Anti-semitism ; Jihadis ; Islamic-Terrorism, Islamist, and so on, really ‘defines’ all.

    • Bilal

      @nevermore , I suggest a bit of research into the history of Islam. The Muslims were the richest nations up to colonization and the reason they had no ‘reformation’ is because Islam was perfected the during the lifetime of Proohet Muhammed(PBUH) .

    • Nevermore

      @Stoned Gremlin: You’re right. I misspoke to an extent. What I meant was that both places are lacking when compared to Europe’s development.

      You’re certainly correct that some of the Caliphates throughout history were great powers; that is true. However, these are also pre-industrial societies. So far, in the industrial era and post-industrial era, both Africa and the Middle East have lost out while the places taken over by Europe (or have Europeans living in them for the most part) have triumphed. As for Africa: yes, again, compared to Europe, it does. The tsetse fly was a big factor in ensuring that native Africans could not build equivalent societies to their European counterparts (at least in the sub-Saharan parts) as did the general lack of staple food crops, though there were some exceptions like the yam. Not to mention: a lot of the empires in the north and in the west had impressive empires, for sure, but they did not effectively weed out tribal identities as what ultimately happened in Europe; this is a big problem when forming nation states. This general lack of organization into nation states is also what compounded problems for the areas that *do* have things available to them (like the area that’s the modern day Congo). The post in question was more a generalized look at the continent historically rather than specifically talking about religion.

      These places did have something in lieu of resources, both in the north and the west (even east, if we’re counting Ethiopia in): human capital. I suspect this has been a reason Islam has had trouble historically, as far as I know, with abolitionism. When you live in areas where there aren’t many things to own, how do you create symbols of status and wealth? Enslavement seems to have worked for most societies. The great historic empires of western Africa built most of their wealth through this, selling conquered tribes to Europeans. Of course, this was a problem not limited solely to Muslim Africans; no one seemed generally to be too picky about who got sold.

      You don’t have to tell me about the blight that is colonialism and imperialism. I don’t mean for that to sound harsh, but I’m well aware. But Africa, prior to the 19th century, was simply viewed as a backwater. Much of the ‘Scramble for Africa’ was either vanity projects or attempting to secure trade routes (mostly in the U.K.’s case here). They were colonies/possessions for the sake of simply having them for many. You’re totally right that their literal/figurative rape did them no favors at all.

      As for oil: well, yes, they’ve got that. Right now, that’s all they might need. The thing is, though, that in the generally authoritarian/dictatorial atmosphere of the Middle East, this means little. Hardly any of the citizens see the wealth generated by the ‘black gold’ that’s underneath them. Whom ever’s in charge gets a cut, while the companies and various cronies each get a share. The astronomical unemployment rates of many of these countries is a testament to this. Again, maybe I could have explained myself better, but for a populace to become more liberal, it must also be better educated. The lack of money of these people (for schooling) simply compounds the unfortunate fact their leaders just don’t give a damn about them.

    • Stoned Gremlin

      @Nevermore I see a little flaw in your argument there. You’re telling me that AFRICA is lacking RESOURCES? Many countries under Muslim rule during the days of the Caliphate were major world players even in pre Islamic times such as Persia, Iraq, Egypt, India etc.

      One of the reasons why former commonwealth nations aren’t as wealthy as western nations is because their resources were exploited by colonial powers to develop the countries of the COLONIALS’ rather than to continue their own economic growth.

      You’re telling me that one of the problems the middle east faces is lack of money? The region most abundant in OIL?

    • Nevermore

      Islam will ‘reform’ (a very strange term indeed considering that there are liberal imams in the West just as much as there are liberal pastors, priests, rabbis, etc.) when the places that we associate with its fringe lunatics become richer. History has proven that time and again money brings liberalism. When those nations sort themselves out and are able to properly guide their own destinies, then you’ll see them start to look like the West’s religious figures.

      Christianity and Judaism (in the sense of ‘the West’) have the benefit of being centered in a part of a world rich in natural resources and the ability to hold large, urbanized populations. Islam typically has been in areas that are resource poor, like the Middle East and Africa. “It’s the economy, stupid!” is a much better explanation than “Those stupid, unwashed ‘Mooslims’ are so barbaric and primitive!”

      As for the article: I applaud Mizz Jacobs for taking a stand against Geller and her ilk. For a people that have known so much suffering throughout their history, it’s nice to know that some have chosen to dedicate themselves to not letting a similar fate befall anyone else.

    • AJ


      “I ask the obvious questions”When will islam follow?–When will islam Reform itself?–When will islam stop with hate and hostility?–When will islam stop submission?–I’m sorry to see no light at the end of islam’s tunnel–Is there hope?”

      1) Islam is the leader.

      2) Islam = Reform

      3) Islam does not teach hate and hostility.

      4) Islam = Submission to God

      5) Stop being a pessimist. Get out of your mole hole and see the world. You will see the light.

      6) Yes, there is hope but first you have to Believe. I Believe and so I do have hope. You will to.

    • AJ

      I feel that the Jewish organizations that have been fighting Geller et al before her current ad campaign appeared have more validity than the ones that are countering her after the ad. Now it could be that Geller’s ad have become more vicious so these Jewish organizations have stepped in but there is also a chance that Geller has made a big mistake by involving the name of Israel in the current ad which would make Israel appear like a culprit in Islamophobia. These Jewish organizations need to step in to save their name. It could be either of the causes so I don’t fell very warm hearted about the Jews who got involved after this ad because I don’t know their motive.

    • dude


      sounds like Daniel Pipes who ignored the existence of Torah observant Jews back in 1980:

      While most Jews cheerfully accept modern life, Muslims contest every concession to it. As a result, Judaism today appears in many ways more akin to Christianity than to Islam; and in many ways it is. Yet this is new. For many centuries, adherence to divine law made Judaism and Islam kindred spirits. Conceivably they could be so one day again; but that will happen only when Muslims too abandon the law.

      Until he realized more recently that if current tragic demographic trends continue, the Torah Jewish community will be the only one left standing within a generation:

      Should this trend continue, it is conceivable that the ratio will return to roughly where it was two centuries ago, with the Orthodox again constituting the great majority of Jews. Were that to happen, the non-Orthodox phenomenon could seem in retrospect merely an episode, an interesting, eventful, consequential, and yet doomed search for alternatives, suggesting that living by the law may be essential for maintaining a Jewish identity over the long term.

      By the transitive property of Pipes own logic, Muslims would be daft to abandon their Law.

    • Just Stopping By


      “I too think that the Rav here is going in the right direction–Take notice that she is a female Rabbi from either the Reform or Conservative sides of Judaism which aren’t as misogynistic as the Orthodox Jews.”

      Yes, those misogynistic denominations that ordain women as rabbis, hating them so much as to give them a position as the leader of their congregation. The only thing more amusing in that sentence was when you called her “the Rav”, since that sounds really masculine, as opposed to the generally (though not universally) preferred term of Rabbah for a female rabbi.

      As for Islam, your claim that Islam is essentially hate and hostility is similarly problematic, as it similarly attributes the worst attributes of a few to an overall religion or denomination. I don’t think the rabbah, whose ads say, “help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors,” would approve.

    • Franczeska

      Nice series of loaded questions, Billy Rojas.

    • Bill

      I too think that the Rav here is going in the right direction–Take notice that she is a female Rabbi from either the Reform or Conservative sides of Judaism which aren’t as misogynistic as the Orthodox Jews–You see folks Judaism has gone through a sort of Reformation to bring itself into the modern world–I ask the obvious questions”When will islam follow?–When will islam Reform itself?–When will islam stop with hate and hostility?–When will islam stop submission?–I’m sorry to see no light at the end of islam’s tunnel–Is there hope?

    • Ansar

      Great post Jai, it is only if the real meaning of Jihad is explained by a non-Muslim will it be understood and people may pay attention. It has been correctly explained as in internal struggle in all aspects of one’s life; to the point when a smoker wants to quit, he/she is doing jihad against its own desire. And I want to thank the good Rabbi for such an understanding gesture, we need more people from all religions to start thinking this way, after all it is the second largest religion of the world and majority are good law abiding and tolerant. Regards

    • Jai

      I recently made the following point at the end of a Loonwatch comments thread about Robert Spencer, but as that article is no longer on the front page, I’ll repeat my statements here:

      Sheila Musaji’s new article is definitely worth reading in full:

      Not only does Pamela Geller plan at least 9 more anti-Muslim ads, but (no doubt in response to the escalating backlash) Robert Spencer himself has disingenuously started trying to publicly distance himself from the ad campaign.

      Furthermore, as Sheila Musaji’s article documents, it turns out that Robert Spencer is on record as publicly admitting that the word “jihad” certainly doesn’t necessarily mean anything negative, including “violence” or even “holy war”. Sheila’s article includes the URL link to Spencer’s own recent JihadWatch article on the subject:

      Quote from Spencer’s JihadWatch article:

      Robert Spencer: “This page [explaining Spencer’s decision for choosing the name “Jihad Watch”] has been linked to the front page of the Jihad Watch website since October 2003, and all that time it has said this: “Jihad (Arabic for ‘struggle’) is a central duty of every Muslim. Muslim theologians have spoken of many things as jihads: [for example] the struggle within the soul…..I discuss the various meanings of jihad, including that of spiritual struggle, in my 2003 book Onward Muslim Soldiers and many times elsewhere. On hundreds of radio shows over the years I have explained, as part of my basic explanation of the word, that “jihad” in Arabic has as many connotations and shades of meaning as “struggle” does in English — as I explained in this 2008 interview: “The word means ‘struggle,’ and has as many connotations as the English word ‘struggle’ does. The Islamic Republic of Iran has a Department of Agricultural Jihad, which has to do with the struggle to increase crop yields.””

      It proves that Robert Spencer & Pamela Geller are perfectly aware that they’re deliberately promoting misinformation about Islam & Muslims during their continuing anti-Muslim propaganda campaign, including the current ads in New York.

      Some enterprising organisation should simply create posters quoting Spencer’s statement above and display them right next to Geller’s ads in NY.

    • Garibaldi

      Happy to see Rabbi Jacobs speak out on why she put up the counter ads. I think the points she makes here is crucial,

      “The suggestion that she is speaking only about terrorists, and not about Muslims in general, falls apart as soon as you read her writings, which are fear mongering about Muslims in the U.S. and in the world, and about Islam as a religion.”

      This point has not been made enough during coverage of Geller’s hate ad campaign.

    • Just Stopping By

      I agree with mindy1 and with Rabbi Jacobs.

      (Note that if you donate to that particular fund, “campaigns against torture, slavery/human trafficking and Islamophobia in North America,” it looks like, at least on my browser, that the choice doesn’t show clearly on the webpage donation form, but it came through on the confirmation email.)

  • mindy1

    OMG way to represent the tribe ma’am. Thanks for being open minded

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