100 Rabbis Oppose the Death Penalty


Death Penalty

We, the undersigned Rabbis across denominations, express our opposition to the use of the death penalty in America.

As Jews and citizens, we believe that governments must protect the dignity and rights of every human being. By using the death penalty, our country fails to live up to this basic requirement.

Too often, the wrong person is convicted for crimes they did not commit. Due to their socio-economic situation or lack of access to legal resources, wrongly convicted people often have no real opportunity to respond to an overwhelming legal system that, after an initial conviction, makes the proof of innocence very difficult. The consequences of this system are not only fundamentally unjust but also produce racially disparate outcomes. Additionally, tax payers are required to pay exorbitant amounts to maintain death row.

The Rabbis taught that a court that often puts others to death is deeply problematic. How often? Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah says, “Every 70 years.” Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva say, “If we were in a court, no person would ever be executed,” (Makkot 7a). While not categorically opposed to capital punishment, the rabbis saw the death penalty as so extreme a measure that they all but removed it from their system of justice. Regarding capital punishment, the Sages had a very high bar for reliable evidence, were eager to find ways to acquit, and were deeply concerned about the dignity of those that were indeed condemned. In contrast, our American system today lacks the highest safeguards to protect the lives of the innocent and uses capital punishment all too readily.

We do not naively believe that everyone on death row is completely innocent of any crime. Yet, it is time to see the death penalty for what it is: not as justice gone awry, but a symptom of injustice as status quo. “You must rescue those taken off to death!”(Proverbs 24:11)!

As Jewish community leaders, we are calling for an end to a cruel practice, but also for the beginning of a new paradigm of fair, equitable restorative justice.

Rabbi Leo Michel Abrami
Rabbi Rachel Adler
Rabbi Aaron Alexander
Rabbi Adina Allen
Rabbi Morris Allen
Rabbi Dr Elisha Ancselovits
Rabbi Camille Shira Angel
Rabbi Yossef Arbaim Rabbi Ethan Bair
Rabbi David Bauman
Rabbi Buz Bogage
Rabbi Sharon Brous
Rabbi John Bush
Rabbi Meredith Cahn
Rabbi Micah Caplan
Rabbi Dr Michael Chernick
Rabbi Ian Chesir-Teran
Rabbi Yosi Cirlin
Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels
Rabbi Getzel Davis
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Rabbi Barry Dolinger
Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus
Rabbi Amy Eilberg
Rabbi Stephen Einstein
Rabbi Jean Eglinton
Rabbi Barat Ellman
Rabbi Steven Exler
Rabbi Sam Feinsmith
Rabbi Jacob Fine
Rabbi Jonah Geffen
Rabbi Dr Miriyam Glazer
Rabbi Michael Goldman
Rabbi Megan GoldMarche
Rabbi Lisa L. Goldstein
Rabbi Dr. Marc Gopin
Rabbi Dr. Mel Gottlieb
Rabbi Sarah Leah Grafstein
Rabbi Dr. Art Green
Rabbi Dr. Yitz Greenberg
Rabbi Gabe Greenberg
Rabbi Ronald Eugene Grossman
Rabbi Maurice Harris
Rabbi Ari Hart
Rabbi Lauren Henderson
Rabbi Jason Herman
Rabbi Jocee Hudson
Rabbi Mark Hurvitz
Rabbi David Jaffe
Rabbi Ellen Jaffe-Gill
Rabbi Chana Johnson
Rabbi Dr. Miriam Jerris
Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster
Rabbi David Kalb
Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky
Rabbi Elana Kanter
Rabbi Alan J Katz
Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block
Rabbi Daniel Kirzane
Rabbi Jonathan Klein
Rabbi Rachel Kobrin
Rabbi Andy Koren
Rabbi Michael Adam Latz
Rabbi Jon Leener
Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz
Rabbi Darby Jared Leigh
Rabbi David Lerner
Rabbi Sheldon Lewis
Rabbi Dennis Linson
Rabbi Dov Linzer
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann
Rabbi Yehoshua Looks
Rabbi Ari Lucas
Rabbi Nina H Mandel
Rabbi Devorah Marcus
Rabbi Richard Marker
Rabbi Nathan Martin
Rabbi Dr. Ariel Evan Mayse
Rabbi Dr Yehudah Mirsky
Rabbi Robin Nafshi
Rosh Kehillah Dina Najman
Rabbi Michael Paley
Rabbi David Paskin
Rabbi Shuli Passow
Rabbi Jonah Pesner
Rabbi David Polsky
Rabbi Aaron Potek
Rabbi Joshua Ratner
Rabbi Tracee Rosen
Rabbi Jennie Rosenn
Rabbi Derek Rosenbaum
Rabbi Michael Rothbaum
Rabbi Ralph Ruebner
Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips
Rabbi Abe Schacter-Gampel
Rabbi Robert Scheinberg
Rabbi Fred Scherlinder
Rabbi Evan Schultz
Rabbi Judith Seid
Rabbi Dr. Sid Schwarz
Rabbi David Segal
Rabbi Ahud Sela
Rabbi Jamie Serber
Rabbi Dean Shapiro
Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman
Rabbi Jeremy Sher
Rabbi Jack Silver
Rabbi Daniel Raphael Silverstein
Rabbi Suzanne Singer
Rabbi Jenny Solomon
Rabbi Marc Soloway
Rabbi Abby Sosland
Rabbi Robin S. Sparr
Rabbi Scott Sperling
Rabbi David Spinrad
Rabbi Toba Spitzer
Rabbi Erica Steelman
Rabbi Dr. Oren Steinitz
Rabbi David Straus
Rabbi Elliott Tepperman
Rabbi David Teutsch
Rabbi Beni Wajnberg
Rabbi Deborah Waxman
Rabbi Elyse Wechterman
Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg
Rabbi Dr. Cheryl Weiner
Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub
Rabbi Ora Weiss
Rabbi Ariann Weitzman
Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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29 thoughts on “100 Rabbis Oppose the Death Penalty”

  1. Jerry Waszczuk

    Nice list and nice names .  They  don’t oppose Nazis in USA  and KKK but the opposing death penalty .

    Their congregations should be taxed for violation of  the Tax Code.


        1. Eric Gelber

          How can it be?

          Last time I checked, taking positions on moral and social issues was part of the job description. And, of course, rabbis, as individuals, have the same constitutional rights as others to engage in public debate on political issues.

  2. Tia Will

    Hi Jerry

    They  don’t oppose Nazis in USA  and KKK but the opposing death penalty .”
    Have you spoken to any of them about their positions on these other issues ? I suspect you would find that at least some of them stand in opposition to the Nazis and KKK as well.

  3. Claire Benoit

    This may already be the case (I’m uninformed on the issue) but I hope a humane assisted suicide is at least an option offered to convicts sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. A lot of people would prefer death to rotting in a cell for decades or until death….

    It would be nice if convicts choosing this (death) option could opt to have an estimated fraction of whatever the cost of their sentence would be given to any survivors of their murder victim or else to a child they won’t be able to raise themselves.

    Really what’s the point of long term incarceration? I’d guess at least half the convicts spend their sentences zombified on whatever drugs they’re given. What a waste of…🤔 everything.

    1. Howard P

      Wow… expansion of the death penalty!  Giving someone the option of ‘assisted suicide’ rather than a 11 year term…  flies in the face of the CA law that said AS was only OK for those who were diagnosed by at least two physicians that they had less than a year to live and faced pain and suffering…

      And in doing so, it is suggested that the “avoided cost of incarceration” be paid out to ‘victims’.  Same cost to taxpayers.  And perhaps a logic to coerce a repentant prisoner facing an 11 + year term, to do the noble thing and take the pill…

      Definitely an interesting view of “justice”…


    2. Jerry Waszczuk


      This is very sick what you wrote .

      SS-Obersturmführer Johann Paul Kremer, M.D., Ph.D.,was an assistant professor at the University of Münster. As a physician of the Waffen SS, Kremer was ordered to Auschwitz on August 30, 1942, where he replaced a doctor who had fallen sick. He carried out his duties there only for a short time — less than 3 months.
      His job was to assess prisoners attempting to gain admission to the hospital. Kremer ordered most of them killed by phenol injection. He selected prisoners who struck him as particularly good experimental material, and questioned them just before their deaths, as they lay on the autopsy table awaiting injection, about such personal details as their weight before arrest and any medicines they had used recently. In some cases, he ordered these prisoners photographed


  4. Claire Benoit

    I don’t see what’s sick about what I said at all. If someone would rather die than spend their “life” rotting in a prison cell, isn’t it more humane to accommodate their choice? Or please explain to me why torturing them is the more kind or sane option?

    same cost? How so? I said a FRACTION of whatever their estimated would-be incarceration costs could go to their victims family OR their own child/children they won’t be present for the lives of (just as they would not be present for rotting in a cell)… who the money went to would be their choice…

    last I knew a fraction is not equal to the whole so thered be some money saved too….

    im guessing some people would prefer wasting away until death or old age in a prison. I can’t understand someone like this but that’s why I feel giving them the choice is the most humane and logical way to handle lengthy prison sentences….

    Off topic but it’s the weirdest thing in the world to me how much value some attribute to the lives of incarcerated murderers or worse while so easily dismissing the value of a developing child who has no voice whatsoever… if the latter has a “choice” only through the voice of its “mother”, surely we can let adults who WANT to die exercise their own voice to do so… right? 😬🤗

    1. Jerry Waszczuk


      I don’t understand where you getting such ideas . It sounds like some kind horror movie where people are begging to be put to sleep because  their being incarcerated . Prisons and prisoners are not the overcrowded dog pounds. Following your philosophy to resolve the long sentences by killing prisoners because they got into a  suicide mood due to long sentences or because they are  old does not belong civilized and free society. I don’t see if such  ideas of  “euthanasia” program could be implemented in the today’s  United States of America correctional institutions .   Your  guess that only some   people would prefer wasting away until death or old age in a prison is  a pure speculation.  As you  know  people are able to adopt themselves to very extreme living environment with hope to stay alive .  Your ideas are similar to the Nazi Germany government “euthanasia” program  implemented before War War II in Germany .  I was in communist prison . No one wanted to die and prisoners wanted to be free and see their families  and friends or at least to see another day regardless of  incarnation harsh condition and unknown length of the incarceration . Everybody were convinced  destination would very gulag or concentration camp in very  cold Syberia in Soviet Union. .  




  5. Claire Benoit

    Howard, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, Are you being sarcastic?

    i don’t consider imprisonment “living” so i feel like an argument could be made for ANY prison sentence exceeding 1 year to fit that (nonsensical) law you described.

  6. Claire Benoit

    It makes sense to do a fraction of the estimated costs because incarceration costs are believed to be one of many drains on our economy right now… a fraction makes this a win-win and I do believe taking the pill is th noble thing to do for those who know they ARE guilty of unjustifiable murderous crimes. I also see imprisonment as wholly degrading so I would think a very proud person would prefer gambling on the unknown and leaving something behind to those they owe or care most about….
    also a fraction because some sentences exceed life expectancies and we don’t want the payout to be so lucrative that suicidal people start committing awful crimes just for this option as desperate means to help their family. Humans get weird sometimes.

    That law is funny like so many others… doctors make mistakes/get proven wrong at probably close to the same rate (if not higher) than courts finding innocents guilty…

  7. Claire Benoit


    youre focusing on “penalty” whereas I’m referring to “(voluntary) option.” There’s a huge difference here in my opinion… we’ve all got a right to one. And we all have ideas (I hope). If the dialogue between the two of you is hinting at what I suspect it is then it gives me an opinion of you too 🤗

    I SO love compassionate open-minded people who think a differing opinion equals ignorance or insanity. 👍🏽 Bounce on it.

    1. Howard P

      No, actually, neither of us were focused on “penalty” vs. “option”, am fairly sure.

      Is that what you suspect we were hinting at?  And I don’t think we were ‘hinting’.

      Don’t think either of us “think a differing opinion equals ignorance or insanity.”  (unless someone cites clearly untrue ‘facts’, then ignorance might apply)  Will let John answer for himself, in case I didn’t fully understand what he meant..

      And, it is very, very rare when John Hobbs and I agree on much of anything.  This might be the first or the second time over several years. Maybe more…

      Unclear what “bounce on it” means… could you clarify? Couldn’t find a clear referent on the internet… saw some references to trampolines, but that didn’t seem to fit….

  8. Claire Benoit

    Howard whatever the case thank you for taking the time to explain/reply as you have.

    I’ve shared only my opinion and i don’t know what non-facts I shared that would bare any impact on my opinion.

    Its good you and John agree on something. It is my opinion that freethinkers can agree with very different people on different subjects.

    I am of the opinion that John can help you with the bounce

    1. Howard P

      I am of the opinion that John can help you with the bounce

      A non-answer, to be sure…  still looking for clarification from the person who used the term… you… am realizing that’s a “snowball’s chance in Hell” thing…

      About the only thing I would expect John Hobbs to ‘help me with’ is to correct (likely saltily) me if I misrepresented the gist of a post of his.  Which would be appropriate if I misrepresented his intent.



    2. Howard P

      Oh, the ‘non-facts’ reference had to do with where Mr Hobbs and I might react the same way… explaining our few similarities… don’t either be ‘concerned’, nor ‘flattered’ that that had anything to do “about you”… all about ‘perspectives’.

      Listen to Keith… he is all-knowing and wise… just don’t pay any attention to whatever Mr Hobbs nor I post, on any subject. Believe we’re just “tools” (and unclear what he meant by that)…

      Still looking forward to you, or someone who knows, explaining what “bounce on it” means… or should I parse that with the thumbs up thingy?  Still don’t get your referent…

  9. Claire Benoit

    Hahaha it’s a joke Howard and clearly over your head (or beneath your class) which is probably a good indicator that you may not be too keen on long prison sentences yourself

    not sure we agree/disagree or on what at this point. But it’s okay either way.

    have a good day 😊

  10. Todd Edelman

    This is a very good thing and way, way more so as restorative justice is named as the next goal or part of the same challenge… incarceration is used as a mechanism to create people whose lives are permanently not under their own control.

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