The Presbyterian Church’s Divestment Decision and Jewish Community Response of Multi-faith Coalition

feature-rick2.jpgThank you to  URJ president Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who on CNN shared that in his address to the leaders of the Presbyterian Church, he explained the pain their decision to divest from 3 American companies doing business with Israel, would cause the Jewish community.  He spoke of a more effective and values-driven way to pursue our shared goal, a 2-state solution, inviting Church leaders to join him in a meeting with PM Netanyahu to say that the settlements do not help to advance peace in the Middle East.  The Church’s vote and decline of that invitation doesn’t represent all of its leaders.  In fact, local Presbyterian clergy has reached out to the Jewish community and I was invited to join the signatures to the below Statement for next week’s Exponent.  Both Rabbi Jacobs for the URJ and the Jewish Community Relations Council (who co-authored the statement below) teach us the path to multi-faith relations and to peace is not in division or hate but in dialogue and relationship.

Interfaith Statement Concerning the Presbyterian Church USA Decision to Divest from three American Companies because of their Sales to Israel

We the undersigned clergy from the Presbyterian and Jewish communities in Philadelphia,

who have been engaged in dialogue and learning together, wish to express our disappointment and dismay at the ill-advised decision by the PC-USA General Assembly to divest from three companies because of their sales to Israel. The role of mainstream American churches ought to be one of impartial peacemaker, working with both sides in alleviating legitimate fears and putting forward a common course of action that supports dreams and aspirations of both parties. Instead this vote isolates one side over another adding further to tension and mistrust between the parties making it harder for two people to reconcile and develop productive relations.

In the poisoned atmosphere surrounding the General Assembly, we wish to re-affirm our shared commitment to continue to work together in friendship and dialogue, for it is only through dialogue that actions like these can be avoided.  The vote, while symbolically significant and outrageous, represents a small minority of opinion (with 70% of church members against divestment) in the Presbyterian Church particularly at the local level.

Therefore, we resolve not to allow the publicity surrounding the vote for divestment to distract us from our shared goals of pursuing justice, peace and a two state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

In coalition, we maintain:

Shared Goals – Jews and Presbyterians share a common goal with regardthe Israeli-Palestinian conflict: two viable, democratic states living side-by-side, in peace, economic stability, and security.

Shared Values – There has been deep, painful suffering on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We deplore suffering of innocents on all sides.

Shared Solutions – The way to advance peace is to foster reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians and advocate for a two state solution.  If we want the parties to reconcile, we should model reconciliation rather than conflict. We do both Israelis and Palestinians a disservice when we act out the conflict as if we are the actual parties to it. American Jewish and Christian voices can play an instrumental role in paving the path to peace in the Middle East. We can teach and learn together, travel together, and promote positive investment rather than divestment.

Shared Relationships – We have historic bonds in this country with each other. We work together on many domestic issues.  Through these efforts, we have made great strides in interfaith relations.  We need to reject theologies that sometimes inform harmful discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Shared Connections – We both have deep ties and partners in the Middle East.  We can pursue positive interfaith relations between Jews, Muslims and Christians and continue support for a two state solution.

Differing Narratives – We recognize that multiple narratives exist.  No one is served by efforts to deny people-hood to either Israelis or Palestinians.

We long for the leadership and courage that will bring the peoples of the Holy Land to a just two-state solution, when the State of Israel will dwell in peace and security alongside a Palestinian state. We can, no doubt, join together in prayer for a time when Christians, Muslims, Jews and others can fulfill their spiritual destiny in this holy place, each sitting “under his vine and under his fig tree and none shall make them afraid.” (Micah 4:4)

We are committed to continuing our dialogue and invite others who share these goals and vision to join us.