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October 17, 2012: Jewish Groups Pull Plug on Longstanding Dialogue with Churches

11:30 AM Oct 17, 2012

“Enough is Enough” - JCPA and Jewish Groups Pull Plug on Longstanding Dialogue After Church Israel Letter

Cancelling an interfaith dialogue meeting, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and other Jewish groups have called for a summit with the heads of Jewish organizations that have been engaged in the roundtable and the heads of the Christian denominations that penned a letter to Congress calling for an investigation into Israel’s use of the U.S. military aid.

“The letter signed by 15 church leaders is a step too far,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow.  “The participation of these leaders in yet another one-sided anti-Israel campaign cannot be viewed apart from the vicious anti-Zionism that has gone virtually unchecked in several of these denominations. We remain committed to the enterprise of interfaith relations because it is central to the development of a just and righteous society.  But these churches have squandered our trust.  They either refuse to pay attention to our plea for a fair appraisal of the situation or they simply do not care.  Their stony silence to the use of anti-Judaism and relentless attacks on the Jewish state, often from within their own ranks, speaks loudly to their failure to stand up and speak the whole truth about what is occurring in the Middle East.”

“It is the right of these Christian leaders to say what they want to Congress or anyone else,” added JCPA Chair Larry Gold.  “And it is our right to say ‘enough is enough.’  We will continue to be vigilant against anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, and anti-Palestinian activities wherever and whenever we see them because it is the right thing to do.  If only the leaders of these churches cared a fraction as much about the anti-Israel and anti-Zionist activities that have found comfortable homes in their denominations. How tragic that some of our counterparts in the churches are not only silent to this invective, they are responsible for it. ”

In a letter to the participants in the now cancelled meeting, the Jewish groups acknowledged disappointment in the roundtable’s ability to address deteriorating relations.  The letter expresses continuing commitment to dialogue and interfaith relations, but also acknowledges that the church letter “precludes a business-as-usual approach.”  The text of the letter is below.

JCPA, the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community, serves as the national coordinating and advisory body for the 14 national and 125 local agencies comprising the field of Jewish community relations.

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October 17, 2012

Dear Christian Partners in the Christian-Jewish Roundtable:

The Christian-Jewish Roundtable was created in 2004 to bring Jewish and Christian leaders together during a period of rapid disintegration in relations. Members of the Jewish organizations were profoundly disturbed by divestment and other anti-Israel actions. Members of the Christian organizations were frustrated by a lack of progress toward a two-state solution. Against the backdrop of important partnerships on a range of shared concerns and close ties at the community level, the Roundtable sought to deepen national relationships and to open lines of communication. There have been important and positive results.  However, each side has also expressed a continued disappointment in how its core concerns have been addressed.

The Roundtable was next set to meet on October 22-23.  In advance of the meeting, the leaders of most of the Christian institutions that participate in the Roundtable sent a public letter to Congress calling for investigation of U.S. military aid to Israel in light of alleged Israeli human rights violations. Jewish organizations have responded with statements expressing umbrage at the content of the letter, the antipathy to Israel it represents, and the lack of communication to Jewish partners in advance of the letter’s release.

While we remain committed to continuing our dialogue and our collaboration on the many issues of common concern, the letter represents an escalation in activity that the Jewish participants feel precludes a business-as-usual approach. In lieu of the forthcoming Roundtable, and because we believe that there is value to the work done through interfaith relations, we are calling for a meeting with the senior leadership of our agencies and the senior leadership of the Christian institutions that joined the letter to Congress and have participated in the Roundtable in the past. The purpose of the meeting would be to communicate face-to-face at the highest levels and determine a more positive path forward for our communities.
 
Sincerely,
American Jewish Committee (AJC)
B’nai B’rith International (BBI)
Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)
Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA)
Rabbinical Assembly (RA)
Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ)

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