From Marshall Dayan, Board Chair of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
I just learned that the committee on law of the Conservative Jewish movement, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, reaffirmed the movement’s opposition to capital punishment in the United States. The approved language is similar to that of Pope John Paul II in the Evangelium Vitae, the Gospel of Life, and is a broad, general condemnation of capital punishment, both in theory and particularly in practice in the United States. Here is a short excerpt:
We consider the contemporary death penalty a needlessly bloody measure, applied inconsistently and, all too often, wielded against those wrongfully convicted. We believe that in virtually all cases, even the worst murderers should be imprisoned rather than executed. We endorse the 1999 resolution of the Rabbinical Assembly that existing death penalty laws should be abolished and no new ones be enacted. Our religious community would contribute to American moral culture by opposing capital punishment in the name of our reverence for life. Moreover, we should express that view actively, for any who might protest a social wrong â€“ even if their words are unlikely to be heeded â€“ are nonetheless responsible if they fail to raise their voices [b. Shabbat 55a].
I applaud the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. We should all take this to heart. The long piece which was adopted was written by Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofksy of congregation Anshe Chesed in New York, NY, and is a thorough exegesis of the Jewish view of capital punishment.