Press Statement: Vigil At September 11 Memorial Museum

Date: May 21, 2014
Time: 6pm
Location: National September 11 Memorial Museum, Liberty Street

At 6:00 P.M. tomorrow, Wednesday, May 21, the day on which the National September 11 Memorial Museum officially opens its doors to the public, several Jewish organizations and allies will gather for a vigil in front of the Museum (Liberty Street) to call upon it to edit its six-minute video, "The Rise of Al Qaeda", so that it avoids language that helps create a climate in which hatred, discrimination, and violence thrive.

According to Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organizer of the vigil, “We know that the National September 11 Memorial Museum will play a unique and invaluable role in educating the public about September 11. But we are concerned that many people who come from all over the world, and who are not well informed about Muslims and Islam, will come away with inaccuracies and misconceptions. That would do an injustice to the Muslim community and to all our communities.”

The Jewish groups gathering in front of the Museum honor the memory of those who perished on that date and also call upon the Museum to take seriously the concerns expressed by its own multi-faith advisory council, scholars, leading Muslim American and Arab American organizations, and community leaders. According to a letter signed by 400 scholars world-wide, "Labels to describe organizations such as al-Qaeda are heavily disputed among academics, and in a public environment, without proper explanation and historical context, these terms could easily mislead and assign collective responsibility to Muslims and Islam."

As Marjorie Dove Kent from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, another of the vigil’s co-sponsoring groups, made clear, “The video’s current script will reinforce a dangerous falsehood at the heart of a post-September 11 narrative: that all Muslims are responsible for the attacks on September 11. Connecting Islam as a religion with the September 11 attackers has helped drive a national backlash against Muslims and those assumed to be Muslims—Arab Americans, Sikhs and other South Asians.”

This backlash has included individual anti-Muslim hate crimes and government policies and actions, such as the New York Police Department (NYPD) program that has targeted Muslims because of their religion, not because of indicators of criminal activity—a program that, according to a prominent NYPD official, “never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation.” “Jews have long resisted the idea of ‘collective guilt’ as applied to Jews,” said Dorothy Zellner of Jews Say No!, another one of the organizing groups. “Editing this video for fairness will prevent the acts of a small group from being associated with an entire world religion. We are standing here today as Jews, together with our allies, to reflect our profound commitment to dignity and respect for all.”

The vigil is co-sponsored by several Jewish organizations--Jews Say No!, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace—New York, Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace—Westchester.

MEDIA CONTACT: Donna Nevel 917-570-4371, Sadyia Khalique, 212-870-2002, E-Mail: