New Jersey Rabbis for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

c/o NJADP Contact: Rabbi Robert Scheinberg

986 S. Broad St. 201-653-6696

Trenton, NJ 08611

November 29, 2007

Dear Members of the New Jersey State Legislature,

We are Jewish Renewal, Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Rabbis living in New Jersey, and we write to urge you to co-sponsor and support S171/A3716, the bill to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

As you may know, the Torah (Five Books of Moses) is filled with examples of execution and is often a source for quotes in support of the death penalty. Jewish law (Halacha), in theory, allows for the death penalty. It is important to note, however, that Jewish law also sets forth numerous pre-conditions which must be in place before an execution can be allowed to go forward. These pre-conditions are designed to ensure absolute fairness and accuracy when human beings sit in judgment over the lives of their fellow human beings. These standards are so strict that executions under Jewish law were essentially non-existent. No capital punishment statute in the United States, including in New Jersey, meets the standards set forth in Jewish tradition.

Jewish law guides us to take unprecedented steps to prevent the execution of an innocent person. The Talmud teaches that "a doubt in capital charges should always be for the benefit of the accused" (Baba Batra 50b, Sanhedrin 79a). The Torah’s injunction “You shall have one law, for the native and the stranger alike” (Leviticus 24:22) commands that criminal penalties be applied fairly, not capriciously. The only way to accomplish these imperatives today is to abolish the death penalty, especially considering that the death penalty’s penological intents can be met adequately by life in prison without the possibility of parole. For these reasons among others, we urge the immediate abolition of New Jersey’s death penalty.

We join with the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission in its call to change the death penalty to life without parole, and to use the funds saved for services for murder victim family members. Please work to pass Senate Bill 171 and Assembly Bill 3716 as quickly as possible.


(50 signatories, listed alphabetically)

Rabbi Robert Alpert

Member, Rabbinical Assembly, East Brunswick

Rabbi Jack Bemporad

Center for Interreligious Understanding, Carlstadt

Rabbi Peter S. Berg

Temple Beth Or, Washington Township

Rabbi Kenneth E. Berger

Congregation Beth Sholom, Teaneck

Rabbi Deborah Bravo

Temple Emanu-El, Edison

Rabbi Marcus L. Burstein

Acting Regional Director

Union for Reform Judaism NJ-WHV

Rabbi Jennifer Clayman

Temple Emanu-El, Westfield

Rabbi Deborah Bodin Cohen

Temple Emanuel, Cherry Hill

Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz

Milburn, NJ

Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer

Temple Israel Community Center, Cliffside Park

President, North Jersey Board of Rabbis

Rabbi Michael S. Friedman

Temple B’nai Jeshurun, Short Hills

Rabbi Gordon Geller

Temple Emeth Shalom, Margate

Rabbi Kim Geringer

Temple Har Shalom, Warren

Rabbi Matthew D. Gewirtz

Cong. B’nai Jeshurun, Short Hills

Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck

Temple Beth-El, Hillsborough

Rabbi Stephen D. Gold

Congregation Beth Am Shalom, Lakewood

Rabbi Kenneth A. Greene

Freehold Jewish Center, Freehold

Rabbi Debra R. Hachen

Temple Beth El, Demarest

Rabbi Mark Kaiserman

Temple Emanu–El of West Essex, Livingston

Rabbi Naomi Kalish

Hoboken, NJ

Rabbi Benjamin G. Kelsen, Esq.

Member, Rabbinical Council of America, Teaneck

Rabbi David Kirshner

Temple Emanu-El, Closter

Rabbi Jay M. Kornsgold

Beth El Synagogue, East Windsor

Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff

Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Emanu-El, Westfield

Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Steven Kushner

Temple Ner Tamid, Bloomfield

Rabbi Dr. Eric M. Lankin

Highland Park

Rabbi David C. Levy

Temple Shalom, Roxbury

Rabbi Ellen Lewis

Jewish Center of NW Jersey, Washington

Rabbi Adina Lewittes

Congregation Shaar, Tenafly

Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger

Temple Shalom, Aberdeen

Rabbi Mark Mallach

Temple Beth Ahm, Springfield

Rabbi Randall C. Mark

Cong. Shomrei Torah, Wayne

Rabbi Jeremy Master

Congregation Beth Chaim, Princeton Junction

Rabbi Bennett Miller

Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple, New Brunswick

Rabbi Ellie Miller

Temple Sharey Tefilo Israel, South Orange

Rabbi Jehiel Orenstein

Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Beth El, South Orange

Rabbi Sally J. Priesand

Rabbi Emerita, Monmouth Reform Temple, Tinton Falls

Rabbi Jonathan Roos

Monmouth Reform Temple, Tinton Falls

Rabbi Donald B. Rossoff

Temple B’nai Or, Morristown

Rabbi Francine Roston

Congregation Beth El, South Orange

Rabbi Douglas Sagal

Temple Emanu-El, Westfield

Rabbi Maurice A. Salth

Temple Beth-El, Hillsborough

Rabbi Robert Scheinberg

United Synagogue of Hoboken

Member, New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission

Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz

Cong. M’kor Shalom, Cherry Hill

Rabbi Richard B. Simon

Temple Har Zion, Mount Holly

Rabbi Amy Joy Small

Congregation Beth Hatikvah, Summit

Rabbi Brooks R. Susman

Cong. Kol Am, Freehold

Rabbi Elliott Tepperman

Bnai Keshet Reconstructionist Synagogue, Montclair

Rabbi Donald A. Weber

Temple Rodeph Torah, Marlboro

Rabbi Eric B. Wisnia

Congregation Beth Chaim, Princeton Junction

Rabbi Stephen M. Wylen

Temple Beth Tikvah, Wayne

Rabbi Mary L. Zamore

Temple B’nai Or, Morristown

Co-President, Women’s Rabbinic Network

Rabbi Gerald L. Zelizer

Congregation Neve Shalom, Metuchen

Past President, The Rabbinical Assembly