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
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
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
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.