Many signers of letter calling for ceasefire, and thanking Summer Lee, are anonymous
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Israel at warDozens of names and last names are redacted

Many signers of letter calling for ceasefire, and thanking Summer Lee, are anonymous

The letter does not mention Hamas and does not assign responsibility for the attack on Israel.

Rep. Summer Lee (Photo courtesy of summerlee.house.gov)
Rep. Summer Lee (Photo courtesy of summerlee.house.gov)

About 150 individuals, identifying as “Jewish community members from across Pittsburgh,” signed an open letter last week asking the Biden administration and Congress to call for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

The letter, which was circulated in a press release from a group calling itself “Pittsburgh Jewish Community,” and also in a press release from Rep. Summer Lee, thanked Lee for “leading the calls in Congress for a ceasefire and the safe return of hostages.”

Shortly after Hamas’ invasion of Israel, Lee, along with four other progressive members of Congress, introduced a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in “Israel and occupied Palestine.” She continues to call for a ceasefire on social media and has accused Israel of human rights violations.

As published, of the letter’s 152 signatories, 58 were either “Anonymous” or failed to include a surname.

The sign-on form for the letter does not require a signatory to identify as Jewish or to confirm Pittsburgh residency.

Sam Wasserman, a leader with the group Pittsburgh Jews for Ceasefire and the former communications director of incoming County Executive Sara Innamorato, said that it was not necessary to confirm the signers’ Jewish identities, nor their residency, because the letter “has just been circulated amongst Jewish Pittsburghers ourselves. So, someone to get the letter had to have been sent this by someone else who was Jewish in Pittsburgh to get the sign-on.”

“People submit a Google form,” Wasserman added. “We look at it, we check it, we look at the name and we have been very familiar with all of the names of the people that have signed on.”

The letter states that “[a]s we enter the second month of the Israeli government’s deadly airstrikes and brutal siege, the number of Palestinians killed has passed 10,000 including over 4,300 children with countless more trapped and buried under rubble. Over 240 Israeli hostages remain in Gaza — and every day the airstrikes continue putting their lives and safe return at greater risk.”

The total number of those killed in Gaza since Israel launched its response to the Hamas attack is unverified, however. The numbers released by the Gaza Ministry of Health do not distinguish between combatants and noncombatants, and there is much evidence that shows Hamas terrorists fighting in civilian clothing. Moreover, according to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Hamas videos show children undergoing military training with heavy weapons. In the past, Hamas has included in its casualties those killed by errant Hamas or Islamic Jihad rockets.

The letter does not mention Hamas and does not assign responsibility for the attack on Israel.

Asked why Hamas is not mentioned in the letter, Wasserman responded: “So we focus very much on actionable items right now, which includes the release of hostages — which we put three different times in the letter. It’s very important to us that we talk about peace, about the path forward and about bringing the hostages home.”

“We have an obligation right now to push for peace and to push for the only thing that has actually brought hostages back, which is ceasefire, diplomacy and negotiation,” he added.

Just one local Jewish spiritual leader signed the letter — Keshira haLev, a Hebrew priestess who runs Kesher Pittsburgh.

Many Jewish clergy have expressed “frustration and anger” with Lee over her stance on the war. In an Oct. 31 open letter to Lee, 40 local rabbis and cantors from every stream of Judaism wrote: “Rep. Lee is one of only 10 members of Congress who voted against a House Resolution expressing America’s solidarity with the State of Israel and the Israeli people in the aftermath of the October 7th wave of Hamas terror.

“Worse yet, she is one of only 17 members of the House supporting a grotesque resolution which does not mention Hamas terrorism, denies Israel the right to defend itself by calling for an immediate ceasefire while Hamas still holds more than 200 hostages, and asserts a false equivalence between victims of savage terrorist butchery and the tragic deaths of those Palestinians whom Hamas uses as human shields while Israel exercises its responsibility to defend its citizens.” PJC

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at ttabachnick@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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