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Yoffie: We are religious leaders, not politicians; as religious leaders,
we cannot stand aside when Jewish children are murdered in the name of God,
and we cannot ignore the abysmal plight of the Palestinians.
New York, NY, September 28, 2004 – Following a high-level meeting between religious leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Jewish community,
Rabbi Eric Yoffie said there is no substitute to meeting face-to-face to discuss the controversial positions about Israel that the Presbyterians took at
their General Assembly in July, and thanked the Presbyterians for accepting his invitation to meet with the Jewish community. This was the first meeting of
Presbyterian and Jewish leaders since the General Assembly.The group discussed the PC(USA) resolutions calling for recommendations concerning selective
divestment from companies which do business in Israel, along with resolutions on the Israeli security barrier and the funding of messianic congregations.
Following the meeting, Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
Today’s meeting was a gathering of great importance. While some in the Jewish community called for burning bridges in the wake of the Presbyterian’s
actions this summer, we believe in building them. And so we were pleased when Rev. Kirkpatrick accepted our invitation to join us here today, and we are
pleased by the participation of Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase and other leaders of PC(USA).
We came together today as religious leaders, not politicians or diplomats. As a rabbi and president of the largest Jewish religious movement in North
America, I can only respond to the Overtures in religious terms, and it is precisely as a religious statement that I find them to be so distressing.
The heart of the issue is the declaration that “the occupation (is) at the root of evil acts committed against innocent people…” Evildoers are those who
defy God’s law, and if the occupation is evil, so are those who carry it out. Yet the Presbyterians do not call suicide bombings “evil,” nor does their
overture call them “terrorism.” We are religious leaders, not politicians; as religious leaders, we cannot stand aside when Jewish children are murdered in
the name of God, and we cannot ignore the abysmal plight of the Palestinians.
In our discussions, I spoke frankly of our deep concern about the Church’s one-sided approach to sanctions through divestment without any call for
Palestinians to stop their killings. We believe divestment is not a weapon that can be wielded with the precision of a scalpel; it can instead become a
cruel and unwieldy club.
At the conclusions of today’s meeting, we made a bilateral pledge to continue advancing Presbyterian-Jewish relations. Specifically:
We thank Rev. Kirkpatrick and the Presbyterian delegation for their responsiveness to our concerns and their ongoing commitment to justice. Today’s meeting
was only a first step, but a vital first step. We look ahead, reassured that a spirit of interfaith cooperation will guide our future actions and
Meeting participants included representatives of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Commission on Interreligious Affairs of Reform Judaism,
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbinical Assembly, National Council of Synagogues, Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee,
Jewish Council for Public Affairs, PC(USA) Office of Interfaith Relations, and PC(USA) Mission Responsibility through Investment Committee.