US Navy aircraft.
(photo credit: US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE)
NEW YORK – “The anti-Semitic canard of ‘divided loyalties’ among American Jews is one we would have thought was of a different era,” Rabbi Abba Cohen, the Washington director of the ultra-Orthodox organization Agudath Israel of America, wrote in a letter to US Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus.
Cohen’s letter addressed recent reports that the US Navy has been denying security clearance to Jews who have ties to Israel.
The practice came to light last month after a retired dentist from New York, Dr. Gershon Pincus – who had initially received a recommendation approving the necessary clearance to work at a naval clinic in Saratoga Springs – was denied his clearance because his mother and siblings live in Israel.
According to the navy, this represents a security concern due to “divided loyalties.”
The decision was made after a subsequent security interview in September. Pincus’s story became known after it appeared in The Wall Street Journal on December 16.
In his letter, Cohen said the navy’s accusations hit home for Agudath Israel constituents.
“A significant percentage of our community has relatives studying or residing in Israel and has similar ties to the country as Dr. Pincus,” he wrote. “Are we then presumed to have the kind of ‘divided loyalties’ that make us suspect in our government’s eyes? “Heinous charges of disloyalty to our country have brought death and destruction to the Jewish people for many centuries. That it is evinced today within our government’s mindset is both alarming and chilling,” Cohen continued.
He added that the practice is “a blot on [the United States’] democracy and it is a blot on the honor of loyal American Jews who risked their life and limb for their beloved country.”
Cohen also pointed out that AIA has been working closely with various agencies of the Pentagon for decades to find “reasonable accommodations” for haredi Jews who wish to serve in the United States Army.
He called on the navy to review Pincus’s case and said it would be “even more compelling” to study the data to assess how big the phenomenon of denied security clearances is for Jews with ties to Israel, as well as to figure out the steps to take in order to “eradicate the ‘dual loyalty’ calumny from American minds – inside the military and out.”
Agudath Israel of America joins the American Jewish Committee in the protest against the practice.
Last month, the AJC had described it as “disturbing and discriminatory.”