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October 13, 2015 | 30th Tishrei 5776

Greetings to PCUSA General Assembly

REVISED Greetings to PCUSA GA - As Prepared
Rabbi Rick Jacobs

June 18, 2014-20 Sivan 5774

Thank you for the invitation to join you today. I stand here bringing greetings from the 1.5 million members of the Reform Synagogue Movement, the largest denomination of Jewry in North America. As the psalmist said:

Hinei ma tov u'mah naim shevet achim gam yachad-How good it is for brothers and sisters to be together in unity.

As the leader of America's largest Jewish denomination, I am moved to stand before you -to witness the inspiring way with which you remain responsive to God's call through these prayerful days in Detroit.

Like yours, our community yearns for peace, and for justice on our own continent and for peoples around the world. We, like you, pride ourselves on our social justice work and on our interfaith relations.  Indeed your social justice, creation care and social service work throughout the world is nothing short of exemplary. We have worked closely with your Office of Public Witness in Washington for over 50 years and at the local level, our clergy and our churches and synagogues are often active leaders in interfaith coalitions and dialogue programs. We are proud of those relations; they are based on respect and understanding - and, at their best, are grounded in the core rule of coalitional relationships: in order to have a friend you must be a friend.  And that is especially true where a partner's survival is at stake.   

My first pulpit built affordable housing in partnership with the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, New York.  When Central Synagogue in NYC had its fire the 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church took them in. When Hitchcock Presbyterian Church in Scarsdale, NY burned to the ground a few years back my synagogue jumped into action to help rebuild their home. This is what it means to be in partnership.  

I look forward to speaking with you tomorrow morning more about powerful ways for us to stand together to shape a more just and compassionate world.

You know that our love for Israel is also paramount to our identity and to our faith. We appreciate deeply and share your constant concern for the vulnerable all across the globe, including in Palestine.  And we long for your passionate concern when our civilian brothers and sisters and children are threatened, especially this week when three Israeli students were kidnapped on their way home from school. Across the globe, Jews and so many others pray for their safe return.  I ask you to keep them in your prayers as well. 

We advocate for, and teach and preach for two states for two peoples, Israel and Palestine, we yearn for the day when the swords of all peoples will melt into ploughshares and that all the children of the region, of Iraq and Syria, of Palestine and of Israel, will delight in laughter, and not be raised in lives marred by fear and hate.

Our Judaism is a Judaism of the prophets, a Judaism that is impatient with injustice.  We live with the poetry of the prophets, but we exist in the prose of daily struggle, to create a better world through the difficult, sometimes relentless, work of compromise.

We rely on our allies to open their eyes and their hearts to our realities, just as we seek to know theirs.  The Bible is clear:  If I love only some of my neighbors, if I feel the pain of only some of them, then I do not love God, and I surely do not love my neighbor. 

In the long history of Jews and Christians, we have been brothers and sisters -- but as we know from the Book of Genesis, sibling relationships are never simple and not always loving. Early on, we had Cain and Abel; later Abraham's sons Isaac and Ishmael were at odds most of their lives.    

In the past two centuries, we Jews and Presbyterians have become more loving brothers and sisters but we are at a crucial junction in our  relationship. I pray that the decisions of this General Assembly will bring us closer.  I come here today on behalf of millions of your Jewish siblings with hope that we, in the words of Isaiah, can be "restorers of the breach" that threatens to divide us from each other and from the backbreaking work God demands of us, to shape a world of reason and justice, of compassion and peace.  

I pray that God's blessing will rest upon you today and in the coming days -- and guide you in your challenging deliberations.

Let me close with a prayer from our daily liturgy: 

Oseh shalom bimromav hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu, v'al kol yisrael v'al kol yoshvei tevel.

May the One who makes peace in the heavenly realm, help us to make peace for us, and for all who dwell on God's earth.

And let us say together:  Amen.

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