Op Ed piece sent to Jewish newspapers in October 1994 as I prepared for trial


"As I prepare for my trial for refusing to register for the draft, I often question how my beliefs developed. I wonder why I am willing to risk five years in prison for refusing to sign my name on a piece of paper. Much of this questioning leads me to reflect on the connections between my upbringing in the Jewish culture and religion, and the work in which I am involved for peace and justice.


I was raised in an upper middle-class Jewish family in the suburbs of New York City. I started going to religious school in the second grade. My family belonged to a Reformed Congregation. I remember feeling the religion as somewhat separate from my everyday life. I, along with my brother and sisters went to religious school, and the whole family went to Temple on major holidays. We had a Seder each year. I learned about the oppression of the Jewish people--from slavery in Egypt to the Diaspora, World War II, and continued anti-semitism today. I felt pride that the State of Israel could be a refuge for Jews in a dangerous world.


In addition to the more `religious' aspects of being raised as a Jew, I grew up in a Jewish culture (although it was certainly a watered down, assimilated version). Education was stressed as a virtue. Part of this included learning to make informed decisions based on my own knowledge and feelings. I recall a deep anger at the treatment of the Jewish people and a feeling that no one should be treated in this way.


I think that these are the roots of the work I do today. No one should be denied the fundamental control of his or her destiny and the right to make decisions which affect that destiny. This is true whether an individual is Jewish, Black American, Arab or Palestinian.


I believe that war is one of the most fundamental examples of inhumanity. The tremendous quantity of nuclear weapons and conventional weapons of mass destruction possessed by the United States, the U.S.S.R. and other countries has made war a threat to all life on our earth. By refusing to register for the draft, I am saying, in as clear a way as I am able, that I will not participate in this destruction.


My great grandparents came to this country at the turn of the century during a time of massive Jewish migration. Since that time, Jews have been active in every movement for peace and justice. From Emma Goldman to Jerry Rubin, Jews have participated in the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the peace movement and other struggles too numerous to list.


I see myself as part of this tradition. It is a tradition of Jews who recognize the extent of our oppression as Jewish people. And in responding to that oppression we have come to realize that the struggle for our own liberation is intimately connected to the struggles of other oppressed people. This is a lesson we must learn if we are ever to live in a world free of anti-semitism."