“As Buddhist leaders, we strongly condemn acts of violence, hatred and bigotry of any kind,” the letter reads, urging Buddhist practitioners to “untangle antisemitism’s roots and cultivate a tender, loving and respectful world.”
Over 100 Buddhist leaders have signed an open letter addressing antisemitism following the January 15 synagogue attack at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, in which a gunman held four people hostage for 10 hours. Penned by Zen teacher Koshin Paley Ellison of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, the letter was shared via Google Doc for Buddhist leaders to sign.
The letter serves to address the larger Buddhist community’s silence around acts of antisemitism, and acknowledges that the community has “not always been a refuge for Jewish people.” The letter urges Buddhist practitioners to “dig deeply into our own roles in our collective silence in the face of antisemitism and all forms of hatred.” It also includes a list of ways to take action against antisemitism both individually and as a sangha from the Anti Defamation League.
Read the letter in full below:
Dear Friends of the Dharma,
In deep grief over the antisemitic attack and hostages taken in the midst of shabbat services in the synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, we acknowledge the long standing, systemic antisemitism that is a poison to our lives in the United States of America and globally. Our heart joins the many hearts that are targeted by all forms of hatred throughout the world. We stand with you.
We vow to include antisemitism in our continuous work we are currently engaged in and call for a fresh and coordinated effort to dismantle racism and hatred of peoples at every level of our culture, society, government, our communities, and our own hearts.
Today, to practice Jewish spirituality in America is to have security guards at the door and metal detectors. The April 2020, Anti Defamation League survey on Jewish encounters with antisemitism in the United States found that more than half of American Jews (54 percent) have either experienced or witnessed an incident they believe was motivated by antisemitism. And nearly two-thirds of Jews (63 percent) say their communities are “less safe” than they were a decade ago. Everyone of us, what ever our faith is, should be able to practice without the fear of being bombed, set on fire, held hostage, or our places of practice vandalized with hate messages.
We stand together.
As Buddhist leaders, we strongly condemn acts of violence, hatred and bigotry of any kind. We continue to see a disturbing rise of anti-Jewish hate erupt in communities around the world. These attacks are rooted in antisemitism, and we denounce antisemitism in any form, and in any context. As Buddhist practictioners, we must stand and safeguard the rights of all spiritual centers, especially attacks rooted in antisemitism and racism.
“Hatred never ceases by hatred. By love alone is the world healed.” We look to the Dharma to support us as a community, and to inspire and inform our actions on and off the cushion. The Dharma is our guide as we sow the seeds of compassion and inclusion toward all people. We recognize the deeply embedded ways antisemitism deprives us of the world we have vowed to co-create with all beings. We vow to overcome hatred in ourselves, our Sanghas, and our world.
We call on all practitioners to dig deeply into our own roles in our collective silence in the face of antisemitism and all forms of hatred.
Acknowledging the suffering antisemitism causes, we commit to creating refuges for all beings. We acknowledge that we have not always been a refuge for Jewish people. We renew our vows to untangle antisemitism’s roots and cultivate a tender, loving and respectful world. Antisemitism is painfully on the rise and we vow to be part of the healing. We will practice the humility that is essential to listening deeply, cultivating and acting with compassion as we build a truly beloved community.
We are including suggestions of ways to reflect and take action both individually and in your sanghas. These resources come from the Anti Defamation League. Together we can create a more harmonious and loving world.
With palms together,
Koshin Paley Ellison, New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, New York City, NY
Ruth King, Mindful of Race Institute, LLC, Charlotte, NC
Duncan Ryuken Williams, Zenshuji Soto Mission, Los Angeles, CA
Chodo Campbell, New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, New York City, NY
José Shinzan Palma, Open Gate Zen Collective, Chula Vista, CA
Ben Connelly, Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, Minneapolis, MN
Sebene Selassie, Brooklyn, NY
Zenki Christian Dillo, Boulder Zen Center, Boulder, CO
Sosan Theresa Flynn, Clouds in Water Zen Center, Saint Paul, MN
Tim Burkett, Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, Minneapolis, MN
Ted O’Toole, Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, Minneapolis, MN
Henry Shukman, Mountain Cloud Zen Center, NM
Pascal Auclair, True North Insight, Canada
JoAnna Hardy, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Shodo Spring, Mountains and Waters Zen Community, Faribault, MN
Edwin Kelley, Tergar Meditation Community, Minneapolis, MN
Mark Nunberg, Common Ground Meditation Center, Minneapolis MN
Shelly Graf, Common Ground Meditation Center, Minneapolis MN
Gil Fronsdal, Insight Meditation Center, Redwood City CA
Judith Lies, Blooming Heart Sangha in the Tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, Minneapolis, MN
Gendo Allyn Field, Upper Valley Zen Center, White River Junction, VT
Robert Joshin Althouse, Zen Life & Meditation Center, Chicago, Oak Park, IL
Busshō Lahn, Flying Cloud Zen, Minneapolis, MN
Dōshin Mako Voelkel, Austin Zen Center, Austin, TX
Benjamin Pumphrey, Shenandoah Zen, Waynesboro, Va
Chris Fortin, Dharma Heart Zen, Sebastopol CA 95472
Grace Schireson, Shogaku Zen Institute, Berkeley, CA
James Myoun Ford, Empty Moon Zen, Long Beach, CA
Mark Eko Morris, Heart Circle Zen, Ridgewood, NJ
Eido Frances Carney, Olympia Zen Center, Olympia, WA
Vanessa Zuisei Goddard, Playa del Cármen, México
Gabe Keller Flores, Common Ground Meditation Center, Minneapolis, MN
Sarah Dōjin Emerson, Stone Creek Zen Center, Graton, CA
Alexis Santos, Portland, ME
Myoshin Kaniumoe, ‘Alaneo Zendo, Hilo, HI
Genmyo Smith, Prairie Zen Center, Champaign, IL
Ryushin Paul Haller, San Francisco Zen Center, CA
Korin Charlie Pokorny, Stone Creek Zen Center, Sebastopol CA
Kotoku Crivello, Deep Spring Temple, Sewickley, PA.
Onryu Patrick Teverbaugh, Warm Jewel Temple, Santa Cruz Zen Center, Santa Cruz, CA
Kosen Gregory Snyder, Brooklyn Zen Center / Ancestral Heart Temple
Nomon Tim Burnett, Red Cedar Zen Community, Bellingham, WA
Kokyo Henkel, Watsonville, CA
Susan Moon, Everyday Zen, Berkeley, California
Melissa Myozen Blacker, Boundless Way Zen, Worcester, MA
Mark Shogen Bloodgood, San Luis Obispo Zen Circle, San Luis Obispo, CA
Seicho Judy Fleischman, Everyday Zen, Richmond, CA
Paul Tesshin Silverman, Tetsugyuji Zen Temple/Yorktown Zen, Yorktown Heights, NY
Daishin McCabe, Zen Fields, Ames, Iowa
Rosan Yoshida, Missouri Zen Center, Missouri
Myo-O Habermas-Scher, Hokyoji Zen Practice Community, Eitzen, Minnesota
Myogen Neal Shorstein, Everyday Zen, Oakland, California
Karin Ryuku Kempe, Zen Center of Denver, Colorado
Jill Kakushin Kaplan, Zen Heart Sangha, Woodside, CA
Dosho Port, Vine of Obstacles Zen, Duluth, MN
Zuiko Redding, Cedar Rapids Zen Center – Jikyouji, Cedar Rapids, IA
Shinchi Linda Galijan, San Francisco Zen Center/Tassajara, Carmel Valley, CA
Jeff Bon Soeng Kitzes, Empty Gate Zen Center, Berkeley, CA
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Still Breathing Zen Sangha.
Rafe Jnan Martin, Endless Path Zendo, Rochester, NY
James Shaheen, Editor-in-Chief, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
Dana Kojun Lederhos, Upright Noble Zen, Anchorage, AK
Diana Gourguechon, Fierce Compassion Sangha, Evanston, IL
Paul Gyodo Agostinelli, Eon Zen Center, Boulder, CO
Myoko Sara Hunsaker, Carmel Valley, CA
Daiken Nelson, Pamsula Zen Center, NYC
Tenzen David Zimmerman, San Francisco Zen Center, San Francisco, CA
Wendy Egyoku Nakao, Zen Center of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Susan KoDo Efird, Sky Above Great Wind Zen, Washington, D.C.
Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Zen Mountain Monastery, Mt. Tremper, NY
Kanzan Jishin Chuck Hotchkiss, mindofwater, Northern Berkshire, MA
Ekyo Susan Nelson, Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, Minneapolis, MN
Alexa Singer-Telles, True Silent Action, MotherRoot Sangha, Plum Village, Redding, CA
Rinzan Pechovnik, No-Rank Zendo, Portland, OR
Jodo Cliff Clusin, Prairie Mountain Zen Center, Longmont, CO
Kenshin Catherine Cascade, Bird Haven Zendo, Eugene, OR
Mitra Bishop, Mountain Gate, northern NM
Steve Matuszak, Dharma Field Zen Center, Minneapolis, MN
John Bell, Mountain Bell Sangha. Plum Village. Belmont, MA, USA
Joan Hogetsu Hoeberichts, Heart Circle Zen Community, Ridgewood, NJ
Patrice Koelsch, Common Ground Meditation Center, Minneapolis, MN
Kaira Jewel Lingo, Order of Interbeing, Garden City, NY
Donald Rothberg, Spirit Rock Center, Woodacre, CA; East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland, CA
Nomi Green, Order of Interbeing, Santa Fe, NM
JD Doyle, Insight Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA; East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland, CA
Kate Johnson, Philadelphia, PA
Seido Martin, Zen West/ Empty Field, Eugene, OR
Linda Hoju Strauss, Heart Circle Zen, Ridgewood, NJ
Solwazi Samuel Johnson, Aurora, CO
Zenka Colin Gipson, San Antonio Zen Center
Marc Lesser, Mill Valley Zen, Mill Valley, CA
Jan Jinrin Hencke, New River Zen Community, Blacksburg VA
Cynthia Ryotan Kear, Great Spirit Sangha, San Francisco, CA
Rebecca Li, Chan Dharma Community, New Jersey
Shosan Victoria Austin, Beginner’s Mind Temple, San Francisco
Martin Aylward, Moulin de Chaves Dharma Community, France
Jisan Tova Green, San Francisco Zen Center, San Francisco CA
Irène Kaigetsu Kyojo Bakker, Zen Spirit, The Netherlands
Josho Pat Phelan, Chapel Hill Zen Center, Chapel Hill, NC
Jisho Sara Siebert, Zen Fields, Ames, Iowa
Inryū Poncé-Barger, All Beings Zen Sangha, Washington DC
Chimon Carl Viggiani, New Moon Zendo, Ridgewood, NJ
Lyn Fine, Order of Interbeing, Berkeley, CA
John Gendo Wolff, Great Wave Zen Sangha, Ludington, MI
Amana Brembry Johnson, Spirit Rock Center, Woodacre, CA; East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland, CA
Peter and Jane Schneider, Beginner’s Mind Zen Center, Northridge, CA
Myogen Kathryn Stark, Sonoma Valley Zen, Sonoma, CA
Jeffrey Zlotnik, Dharma Bum Temple, San Diego, CA
Edward Kainei Brown, Peaceful Sea Sangha, Fairfax, CA
Joe Loizzo, Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science, New York, NY
Dawn Mauricio, True North Insight, Montreal, QC Canada
Lama Rod Owens, Bhumisparsha Community, Atlanta, GA
Gregory Kramer, Insight Dialogue Community, Orcas Island, WA
Dh Suddhayu, Portsmouth Buddhist Center and Aryaloka Retreat Center, NH
Dh Vidyamala, UK
Bart van Melik, Community Meditation Center, New York City, NY
Byakuren Judith Ragir, Mirror Lake Temple, Marine on St. Croix, MN
Doralee Grindler Katonah, Valley Streams Zen Sangha, Sacramento, CA
Rev. Doyeon Park, Won Buddhism, New York City, NY
Viviane Ephraimson, Abt, Order of Interbeing, Colorado
Rev. Grace Sangjin Song, Won Buddhism, Warminster, PA
David Iozzi, Granville, OH
Jessica Morey, Insight Meditation, Concord MA
Sharon Salzberg, Insight Meditation Society, Barre, MA
Sheila Canal, Order of Interbeing, Ashland, Oregon
Bernice Gardner, Order of Interbeing, Merging Rivers Sangha, Central Point, OR
Jerry Braza, Order of Interbeing, Salem, Oregon
Kenneth Oefelein, Order of Interbeing, Corvallis, Oregon
John Wadswoth, Order of Interbeing, Portland, Oregon
Nisi Segor, Order of Interbeing, Oregon City, Oregon
Lillibet Gillespie, Order of Interbeing, Ashland, Oregon
Joan Amaral, Zen Center North Shore, Beverly, MA
Gyokei Yokoyama, Sozenji Buddhist Temple, Montebello, CA
Pamela Ayo Yetunde, Chicago, IL
Annie Gardiner, Deepening White Awareness Sangha, Oakland, CA
- Educate yourself and your sangha about anti-Semitism.
- Engage Jewish friends and friends of different faiths in conversations about their experiences of anti-Semitism.
- Avoid using anti-Jewish language or making references to Jewish stereotypes – even in jest. Diplomatically bring such stereotypes to the attention of others when they engage in such behavior.
- Speak out against anti-Semitic jokes and slurs. Silence can send the message that such humor and derogatory remarks are acceptable.
- Learn more about anti-Semitic myths and stereotypes and share what you learn with others.
- Read news accounts and opinion pieces about both the history of anti-Semitism and its current manifestations.
- Urge your spiritual and lay leaders to speak out about anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred from the dharma seat and elsewhere. Encourage such leaders to keep informed about social justice issues and to participate vocally in local, regional, national and international organizations to speak out against anti-Semitism and help to curtail it.
- Start a group at your sangha to learn more about anti-Semitism and to develop and practice skills to take action. Ally yourself with similar groups, including the regional office of the ADL in your community.
- Organize opportunities for meetings between lay members of different faiths to discuss anti- Semitism and the persecution of other spiritual, racial and ethnic groups.
- Write letters-to-the-editor when anti-Semitic incidents take place in your community, when news stories with an anti-Semitic slant appear, when opinion pieces or political cartoons in your local paper include anti-Semitic images or language.