Why I Work for CAIR: A Letter from Executive Director Jacob Bender

As most of you know by now, I am not a Muslim. I spend my days, and many evenings, however, working for the nation’s preeminent Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization. And so, since starting as CAIR-Philadelphia’s Executive Director in October 2013, I have been asked, and sometimes confronted, with the question: “Why would a Jew work for a Muslim group, especially one that has been accused of being connected to terrorism?”

There are several reasons why I work for CAIR, and I would like to share those with you in this letter.

1. Today, American Muslims, both as individuals and as a community, face an onslaught of discrimination and intolerance, the latter from a well-financed Islamophobic network operating across the country. As a life-long supporter of civil rights, I believe the responsibility to oppose and ultimately defeat this campaign of anti-Muslim hate should not just fall upon Muslim shoulders, but should be the responsibility of all people committed to social justice.

2. I work for CAIR because, as a Jew, I feel a special responsibility to work with the Muslim community, helping to revive the memory of centuries of Jewish-Muslim coexistence in the Ummah, and how Jews fleeing persecution in Christian Europe found refuge and new homes throughout the Islamic world. I am honored to be employed by CAIR, and humbled by the warm reception I have been given throughout the diverse Delaware Valley Muslim community.

3. I work for CAIR because this is a courageous organization that repeatedly denounces injustice and violence around the world, no matter the victim, no matter the perpetrator. Whether it is ISIS beheading American journalists in Iraq, or Israeli troops killing hundreds of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, or the Taliban murdering over 150 school children in Pakistan, or police shooting unarmed African-Americans in our cities, CAIR has repeatedly denounced terrorism and indiscriminate violence, as well as the anti-democratic conditions prevailing in the authoritarian regimes of the Arab world. So make no mistake: the recent malicious charges associating CAIR with terrorism made by the UAE are absolutely false and without merit.

4. And finally, as a social justice activist, I was glad to bring my media, communications, and artistic expertise to CAIR. Quite simply, there is no other organization that has accomplished so much for American Muslims, both nationwide and in the Greater Philadelphia region: responding to Islamophobia in the media; providing free legal services to those facing discrimination, harassment, or intimidation because of their Islamic faith; training both students and adults how to respond to anti-Muslim school bullying; and educating the public about the Islamic values of peace, justice, and tolerance.

However, the many achievements of CAIR described above and in our End of Year Newsletter (PDF) cannot continue without your help. I urge you to join me in this great challenge, defending the rights of your community, and helping to make America a more just and equal society for all.

To make your tax-deductible and zakat-eligible donation online, please click here.

Please feel free to circulate this letter to your friends and colleagues, so that they may also become familiar with CAIR’s importance to the Muslim community.

With my prayers for a successful, happy, and healthy 2015 for you and your families,

Jacob Bender
Executive Director

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