Despite Divestment Vote: Two Faiths Still Strive for Mideast Peace

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A statement from the Federation's Jewish Community Relations Council condemns the Presbyterian Church's divestment decision, and urges communication and cooperation between Jews and Presbyterians.

The following statement was facilitated by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia:

The undersigned clergy from the Presbyterian and Jewish communities in Philadelphia, who have been engaged in dialogue and learning for many years, wish to express our disappointment and dismay at the ill-advised decision by the Presbyterian Church-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, add­ing further to tension and mistrust between the parties.


We wish to reaffirm 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 percent of church members against divestment, 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 regard to the 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. 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 work ­together on many domestic issues. 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 among 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 peoplehood 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 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.

Rabbi David Ackerman, Congregation Beth Am Israel; 
Rev. Ryan Balsan, First Presbyterian Church of Ambler
Rev. Jade King Bass, Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church
Rev. Dr. Anita Bell, Professor, Chestnut Hill College
Rabbi Neil Cooper, Congregation Beth Hillel-Beth El
Rabbi Mitchell R. Delcau, Temple Judea of Bucks County
Rev. Dr. Brent Eelman, Abington Presbyterian Church
Rev. Cindy Jarvis, Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church
Rabbi Robert Leib, Old York Road Temple-Beth Am
Rabbi Jill Maderer, Congregation Rodeph Shalom
Rabbi Greg Marx, Congregation Beth Or
Rev. Doug McPheeters, Middletown Presbyterian Church
Rev. Dr. Nancy Muth, Honorably Retired
Rev. Dr. Agnes W. Norfleet, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church
Rev. James Poinsett, Newtown Presbyterian Church
Rabbi Eric Rosin, Congregation Kesher Israel 
Rev. Dr. Julie Sheetz-Willard, Director of Programs at the Dialogue Institute at Temple University & Collenbrook United Church
Rev. Kellen A. Smith, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church
Rev. Todd Stavrakos, Gladwyne Presbyterian Church
Rabbi David Straus, Main Line Reform Temple
Rabbi Avi Winokur, Society Hill Synagogue
Rabbi Eric Yanoff, Congregation Adath Israel
Rabbi Adam Zeff, Germantown Jewish Centre
(List as of June 30, 2014)

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