New York, NY May 15, 2007 In response to the passing of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, who was invited to speak at Liberty University a year ago, issued the following statement:
My thoughts and prayers this afternoon are with the family, followers and many friends of the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
For three decades, Rev. Falwell was a formidable presence in our nations life. We disagreed often and deeply on the application of religious teachings and traditions to the public sphere; too often he used faith to create divisions within our society. Yet his commitment to encouraging Americans to express their faith was genuine, unmistakable and admirable.
Rev. Falwells influence will be felt for years, even generations, to come.
When we were together in Lynchburg last year, he told me that of all his accomplishments, there was none he was prouder of than the role he played in building Liberty University, and the role the university has played in the training of pastors and religious leaders.
I admired Rev. Falwells understanding that, despite our differences, there were areas of agreement between us, above all our deep and profound commitment to the safety and wellbeing of the State of Israel. It took courage for him to invite me to speak directly to Liberty Universitys 9,000 students; he introduced me to his students with real excitement, and, when it seemed to him that they were acting inappropriately, he stood up and defended my right to speak, even when I was saying things with which I knew he would disagree. I deeply appreciate the genuine warmth and respect that he demonstrated for me.
May Rev. Falwells family, friends and colleagues find comfort in their memories of this remarkable man.