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Recent Developments

Agudath Israel letter re: Ashcroft nomination

January 12, 2001

The Honorable Orrin Hatch
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510-4402

Dear Senator Hatch,

You and the other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will soon deliberate upon the nomination of John Ashcroft to be Attorney General of the United States. Agudath Israel of America, a 79-year-old Orthodox Jewish organization, urges your favorable consideration of this important nomination.

We know John Ashcroft to be a man of honesty and integrity - not only in regard to his personal and professional dealings, but also in a broader, more profound sense. There is no dichotomy between his private and public personae. He has been principled and consistent in both word and deed, and has stressed values and ideals even at the expense of political gamesmanship or personal popularity. The cause of justice will be served by such honesty and integrity - indeed by such courage - and the interests of all Americans will be advanced by John Ashcroft as Attorney General.

We recognize that there are those who claim not to be "comfortable" with some of Senator Ashcroft's policy stances and fear that his "personal ideologies" will interfere with proper law enforcement. But applying such an ideological litmus test to an experienced and respected public servant is patently unfair. It is especially unfair in the context of an individual who has already served as a state attorney general, and whose tenure in that post was marked by extraordinary competence and the highest standards of professionalism in the enforcement of the law.

It has been quite troubling, frankly, to see John Ashcroft portrayed in certain circles as an intolerant extremist. This portrayal is a grotesque caricature of the man we know. During Senator Ashcroft's years in Washington, Agudath Israel's national organizational structure - through its headquarters in New York as well as its Washington Office - had the opportunity to observe his qualities first-hand and to work with him closely on various matters.

While he certainly possesses strong views and convictions, and while we have disagreed with him on certain issues, we categorically reject the absurd notion, the libelous notion, that he is in any way prejudiced against social and religious minorities.

Even more telling, our Missouri constituents - some of whom have known John Ashcroft for decades - hold him in the highest personal and professional regard. We have heard testimonial upon testimonial from Agudath Israel members in Missouri reflecting their profound admiration and respect, deep affection and fondness, for John Ashcroft - as a man, as a leader and as an American. Please take note of the enclosed letter from Rabbi Menachem Greenblatt, spiritual leader of Agudath Israel of St. Louis, which expresses the warmth and esteem our members in Missouri have for the Senator.

As Orthodox Jews, we are a minority within a minority, and we have an especially great stake in a society that displays tolerance and provides equal opportunity to all its citizens. Our experiences with John Ashcroft, both at the national and local levels, persuade us that he is a person who possesses a profound appreciation and deep respect for the inherent dignity and value of every human being - irrespective of race or religion.

Agudath Israel believes that John Ashcroft will be an outstanding custodian of the law in the post of Attorney General of the United States. We urge you to reject the voices of negativity that seek to portray him as someone, and something, he is not. We urge you to confirm his nomination.

Thank you for considering our views.

Sincerely yours,

Abba Cohen
Director and Counsel
Washington Office
Agudath Israel of America

David Zwiebel
Executive Vice President
Government and Public Affairs
Agudath Israel of America


"As a leader within my Jewish community in St. Louis, I feel strongly that Mr. Ashcroft would serve will in the proposed position that President-elect Bush deems him worthy of with great dedication and responsibility. In terms of integrity and credibility, he has proven throughout his two terms as Attorney General of the state of Missouri, two terms as Governor and one term as Senator that his responsiveness to his constituents' needs is supreme on his agenda. He has always provided an open door policy wherein we were able to discuss issues of concern. He has consistently been both sympathetic and empathetic to the concerns of members of our community."

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