News Release

The Church of Jesus Christ Honors Jewish Friend and Bridge Builder Robert Abrams

Elder Quentin L. Cook said the four-term New York attorney general’s work to bring Jews and Latter-day Saints together is “profound and seminal”

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles honored former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams on Thursday night for his many years building bridges between the Jewish community and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The award, presented by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, is named after Thomas L. Kane. He was a friend to and a critical political influence for the Church in the 19th century.

“Thomas Kane holds a unique and important place in the history of the Church, and so it is with enormous gratitude that I receive an award in his name,” the four-term attorney general said from the Conference Center Theater on Temple Square. (Read his full remarks.)

Abrams met with the First Presidency earlier on Thursday.

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Abrams told members of the society, a Brigham Young University (BYU) supported association of lawyers affirming the strength that religious conviction brings to the law, that each of them in their own sphere of influence can have the same impact as Thomas Kane.

“Your efforts to build bridges will take you to surprising places that you never envisioned,” Abrams said. “You will encounter unique experiences, newfound friendships and the knowledge that you have done your part to help create the unity necessary to maintain a strong and vibrant nation. Let this be the message and legacy of this event.”

In an interview earlier on Thursday, Abrams’ wife, Diane, said, “I’m really proud of him, and I’m thrilled that he’s a bridge builder. … It’s one of the major things that we should all try and improve on.”

Abrams’ relationship with the Church of Jesus Christ started small, with two Latter-day Saint lawyers in Arizona. Over the years it blossomed. In 2009, he played a key role in resolving tensions with some in the Jewish community about the Church’s posthumous baptisms of Holocaust victims.

“He intervened in our behalf to enhance a relationship with Ernie Michel, the chairman of the Holocaust Survivors Association, and establish a relationship with Elie Wiesel, historic Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient,” Elder Cook said. “The goodwill that was created made it possible to formally issue a joint statement that established policies and practices to deal with core concerns that are respectful of Holocaust victims and consistent with our doctrine.”

The dialogue between Latter-day Saints and Jews has continued. Abrams has attended three temple open houses. He hosted a Shabbat dinner in his home for Elder Cook and others. He facilitated dialogue between leaders of Yeshiva University and BYU. Rabbi Meir Soloveichik gave Church leaders a tour of Yeshiva University and his synagogue, Shearith Israel. Local Latter-day Saints and the New York Board of Rabbis have organized luncheons to facilitate interfaith engagement. Abrams encouraged his son, who leads the Shir Hadash congregation in Jerusalem, to reach out to the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. And Abrams advocated for the inclusion of a Latter-day Saint presence on the Commission of Religious Leaders of New York City.

In 2016, Abrams suggested that a small delegation of Jewish and Latter-day Saint leaders visit Jerusalem to commemorate 175 years since Elder Orson Hyde of the Church of Jesus Christ dedicated the Holy Land for the return of the Jews.

President Russell M. Nelson greets former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams in the Church Administration Building on June 9, 2022.2022 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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“The more I interacted with individuals and groups within the Church, the more I discovered that they shared strong areas of common ground with the Jewish community,” Abrams said. “Each has a fundamental focus on family; each places a very high value on education; each has a strong commitment to charitable giving; each demonstrates humanitarian concern and response when there are international catastrophes such as earthquakes and hurricanes around the globe; each has a history of disproportionate success due to ability, hard work and determination; and each has been subjected to fierce persecution and prejudice.”

Abrams quoted from recent remarks by Church President Russell M. Nelson and his counselor President Dallin H. Oaks on loving others and listening to them.

“We are all connected, and we have a God-given responsibility to help make life better for those around us,” President Nelson said at the 2019 annual convention for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “We don’t have to be alike or look alike to have love for each other. We don’t even have to agree with each other to love each other.”

Members of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society gather to honor former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams with the Thomas L. Kane Award in the Conference Center Theater on Temple Square on Thursday, June 9, 2022.2022 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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“As a practical basis for coexistence,” President Oaks said at the University of Virginia in 2021, “we should accept the reality that we are fellow citizens who need each other. This requires us to accept some laws we dislike, and to live peacefully with some persons whose values differ from our own.”

Abrams also read Book of Mormon verses about giving to the poor (Mosiah 4:26) and avoiding contention (3 Nephi 11:29).

“In the face of [increasing tribalism],” he said, “there is a critical need for bridge builders, for women and men who will not allow differences of opinion — as real and important as they may be — to prevent them from understanding, respecting and working with others to better the world.”

Elder Cook said the strong ties between the Jewish and Latter-day Saint communities brought about by Abrams “are both profound and seminal. This powerful connection between Latter-day Saints and the tribe of Judah has great doctrinal significance.”

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