October 17, 2012 – New York – National Jewish organizations are calling for a senior leadership meeting with Christian organizations to confront differences engendered by a Christian letter to the U.S. Congress regarding Israel that has prompted a new crisis in interreligious relations. The crisis has forced cancellation of the annual Christian-Jewish Roundtable scheduled for October 22-23.
“Open communications is essential to advancing Christian-Jewish relations,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, American Jewish Committee (AJC) Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Affairs and co-chair of the Christian-Jewish Roundtable. “Unfortunately, some Christian leaders chose to take their anger regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Washington without any warning to Jewish partners in the Roundtable. We need to meet to reset the framework for ongoing dialogue that has and can produce positive results.”
The Jewish groups, expressing deep offense with the Christian call for Congress to take action against U.S. military aid to Israel, wrote to Christian members of the Roundtable.
The Christian letter to Congress “represents an escalation in activity that the Jewish participants feel precludes a business-as-usual approach,” the Jewish organizations wrote. The purpose of the Christian-Jewish senior leadership meeting “would be to communicate face-to-face at the highest levels and determine a more positive path forward for our communities.”
Meeting participants should include the senior leaderships of the Jewish organizations and the Christian institutions that joined the letter to Congress and have participated in the Roundtable in the past.
The Roundtable was created in 2004 to open better lines of communication between Jewish and Christian national leaders in the wake of liberal Protestant anti-Israel initiatives.
The full text of the joint Jewish organizational letter follows:
October 17, 2012
Dear Christian Partners in the Christian-Jewish Roundtable:
The Christian-Jewish Roundtable was created in 2004 to bring Jewish and Christian leaders together during a period of rapid disintegration in relations. Members of the Jewish organizations were profoundly disturbed by divestment and other anti-Israel actions. Members of the Christian organizations were frustrated by a lack of progress toward a two-state solution. Against the backdrop of important partnerships on a range of shared concerns and close ties at the community level, the Roundtable sought to deepen national relationships and to open lines of communication. There have been important and positive results. However, each side has also expressed a continued disappointment in how its core concerns have been addressed.
The Roundtable was next set to meet on October 22-23. In advance of the meeting, the leaders of most of the Christian institutions that participate in the Roundtable sent a public letter to Congress calling for investigation of U.S. military aid to Israel in light of alleged Israeli human rights violations. Jewish organizations have responded with statements expressing umbrage at the content of the letter, the antipathy to Israel it represents, and the lack of communication to Jewish partners in advance of the letter’s release.
While we remain committed to continuing our dialogue and our collaboration on the many issues of common concern, the letter represents an escalation in activity that the Jewish participants feel precludes a business-as-usual approach. In lieu of the forthcoming Roundtable, and because we believe that there is value to the work done through interfaith relations, we are calling for a meeting with the senior leadership of our agencies and the senior leadership of the Christian institutions that joined the letter to Congress and have participated in the Roundtable in the past. The purpose of the meeting would be to communicate face-to-face at the highest levels and determine a more positive path forward for our communities.
American Jewish Committee (AJC)
B’nai B’rith International (BBI)
Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)
Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA)
Rabbinical Assembly (RA)
Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ)