Letter to Casey Gives Voice to Rabbis’ Concerns About Iran Deal


Updated Story:  Two Pennsylvania rabbis have authored and sent a letter to Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) with suggestions and concerns about the outcome of the Iran talks.

In one of the more striking examples of the American Jewish community’s level of unease over the future of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, two Pennsylvania rabbis have authored and sent a letter to Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) with suggestions and concerns about the outcome of the talks.
In the letter, signed by 35 other rabbis representing both themselves and their congregations, Rabbi Mitchell Delcau of Temple Judea of Bucks County and Rabbi Eric Yanoff of Adath Israel expressed to Casey their gratitude for everything he has done to help make Iran a nonnuclear state, along with what they felt should be non-negotiable points.
“As negotiations with Iran intensify, we are pleased that you, and all of our friends in Congress, will have an opportunity to assert your constitutional role in foreign policy and review a final agreement,” they wrote in the letter.
They outlined five “essential points” they feel are necessary in any final agreement reached, including that sanctions relief begin after Iran complies with its commitments; Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons must be “blocked for decades” and demonstrate that the country “no longer seeks a nuclear weapons capability”; and Iran must “dismantle its nuclear infrastructure so it has no pathway to a nuclear weapon.”
John Rizzo, communications director for Casey’s office, said the office received the letter and is in the process of reviewing it.
“Sen. Casey is committed to ensuring the Iranian regime does not acquire nuclear weapons capability and has strongly supported legislation, including the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 and the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015,” Rizzo said in a statement.
“He will thoroughly evaluate any final agreement, if one is reached, to ensure it protects our national security interests and those of our important ally in the region, Israel.”
Delcau said part of the reason for writing the letter was that it was one of the things he and Yanoff wanted to keep in mind going into the summer.
“There are things that I think, particularly when you’re clergy, should stay on your agenda,” he said. “As we moved into the summer, the one thing I wanted to stay on the agenda was stability in the Middle East.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also supports the five points Delcau and Yanoff suggested, which the pro-Israel lobby says are the “minimum requirements” needed to reach a good deal.
Delcau, who has previously lobbied with AIPAC in Washington, D.C., said it was important to him and Yanoff to voice their concerns not just as Casey’s constituents but also as clergy.
Together, they reached out to Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist synagogues and gathered signatures of support.
“The clergy are particularly concerned with not only a nuclear Iran but a nuclear Middle East,” he said, adding their focus is more centered on “peace in the world.”
He cited Iran’s efforts in Yemen and Syria as a source of trepidation.
One goal in the letter is encouraging transparency on Iran’s side, as “they’ve never had to explain their weaponization efforts,” Delcau said. He added that imposing sanctions — another point — should stay on Casey’s list of requirements.
Delcau had also met with Casey recently and told him in person about the goals they are trying to achieve with the letter. It was important to speak up, he said, and to let “our public officials know this is what we believe in.”
“I think he’s going to take it into account, and I hope he does,” Delcau said.
Rabbi David Straus of Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, said he signed the letter because it “expressed my sentiments.”
“Any deal that’s done should meet the requirements that indeed truly make for a non-nuclear Iran,” he said. He added it is too early to know if that’s going to happen, but whatever deal is made should meet what is outlined in the letter.
The letter concluded with another declaration of their gratitude for Casey’s history with the Jewish community and Israel.
“As rabbis serving thousands of families in Pennsylvania, we appreciate your commitment to our communities and we are grateful for your dedication to the safety and security of Israel and the stability of the greater Middle East.”
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