Last updated on: 8/3/2012 | Author:

National Council of Synagogues Biography

Con to the question "Should the Death Penalty Be Legal?"

“Recent statements of the Reform and Conservative movements in Judaism, and of the U.S. Catholic Conference sum up well the increasingly strong convictions shared by Jews and Catholics on the evil that is capital punishment:

‘In biblical times, capital punishment was a search for justice when justice seemed impossible to reach. As the rabbis did years ago when they considered the use of the death penalty, let us take the time to ask ourselves some relevant questions. Is justice reached when we are taking the chance of killing an innocent person? Is justice reached when we are discriminating against minorities in our death sentences? ‘See that justice is done,’ the prophet Zechariah proclaims. If justice is not done by legalizing the death penalty –and it is not –human decency and biblical values that stress the sanctity of life require that we put an end to this grisly march of legalized death.’

‘Respect for all human life and opposition to the violence in our society are at the root of our long-standing opposition (as bishops) to the death penalty. We see the death penalty as perpetuating a cycle of violence and promoting a sense of vengeance in our culture. As we said in Confronting the Culture of Violence: ‘We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing.’ We oppose capital punishment not just for what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes, but for what it does to all of us as a society. Increasing reliance on the death penalty diminishes all of us and is a sign of growing disrespect for human life. We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals, nor can we restore the lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their murders. The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life.’

We affirm that we came to these conclusions because of our shared understanding of the sanctity of human life. We have committed ourselves to work together, and each within our own communities, toward ending the death penalty.”

“To End the Death Penalty, A Report of the National Jewish/Catholic Consultation,” statement from the National Council of Synagogues and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), published on the USCCB website, Dec. 3, 1999


“In the United States, the National Council of Synagogues (composed of representatives from the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) meets regularly to plan dialogues and discussions with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, with the National Council of Churches, and with other major religious groups. Each meeting revolves around an area of common study examining papers and discussions, as well as contemporary issues and concerns. Every attempt is made to emerge from such meetings with statements that reflect a common concern or agenda as well as the development of common programmatic thrusts.”

“Interfaith Activities,” Rabbinical Assembly website (accessed Sep. 12, 2008)


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