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Ralph Reed And Christian Coalition Faulted For Failure To Honor Commitment To Support Aid To Israel

Saperstein to Reed: 'Your failure to act is a repudiation of your public pledge to stand with the pro-Israel community. . .'

WASHINGTON, May 21, 1997 -- As Congress readies to determine the U.S. foreign aid budget for the next fiscal year, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Reform Jewish Movement's Religious Action Center, today challenged Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed to honor a commitment to bring his organization's political clout to bear in support of U.S. aid to Israel.

"It is one thing to say generic, supportive things about Israel when you appear before Jewish audiences," Saperstein explains to Reed in a letter released today, "it is another to call on your supporters to join you in telling Members of Congress that economic and military aid to Israel is indispensable for a strong and secure Israel and that such support will be one of your organizational priorities."

In 1995, Reed publicly agreed for the first time to actively support U.S. aid to Israel, in a debate with Saperstein at the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Since that AIPAC conference more than two years ago, Saperstein has challenged Reed on several occasions -- both in writing and in person -- to implement his public commitment to support foreign aid to Israel. To date, Reed and the Christian Coalition have failed to act on behalf of these vital concerns.

"A letter from you to the congressional leadership, and a call from you to your activists to support aid to Israel, would send a powerful signal that your concern for Israel relates as much to the here and now as it does to the end of days," says Saperstein. On the other hand, failure to act immediately, places "[you] on the verge of missing the entirety of this year's foreign aid votes -- for the third time since the AIPAC conference."

The full text of Saperstein's letter to Reed follows:

Dear Ralph:

Over two months ago I wrote you and asked, in as clear as way as I know how, to "weigh in with public and consistent political support of foreign aid to Israel." As I noted in that letter (an additional copy of which is enclosed), when we were together at the AIPAC conference over two years ago, you made a public commitment to add your voice to those supporting aid to Israel.

In my letter, I also responded to your subsequent, and somewhat puzzling, assertion that you wanted to be sure that other Jewish leaders did not prefer you to work quietly behind the scenes(?!), by copying that letter to the heads of the key Jewish umbrella groups. None of them have indicated they would so prefer.

That letter served as a genuine effort on my behalf to reflect our agreement from past dialogue sessions not to be publicly critical of each other without a direct personal appeal. Now, after waiting two years for any public word from you in support of foreign aid to Israel, and waiting an additional two months since I reminded you of your public commitment, I am forced to conclude that you have decided not to honor your commitment. Your recent letter dated May 6 suggests that after all this time you will only now begin to seek advice as to how you and the Christian Coalition can best act in support of foreign aid to Israel. You know the political process well enough to know that by waiting two months to first respond to my letter and then begin down this ambiguous road, you're on the verge of missing the entirety of this year's foreign aid votes -- for the third time since the AIPAC conference. I must tell you, I am profoundly disappointed. Your failure to act is a repudiation of your public pledge to stand with the pro- Israel community on an issue vital to Israel's well being.

As you know, there has long been a debate in my community about how to view the "pro- Israel" claims of those in the Religious Right. Some skeptics have believed that such claims are, at root, specious, and that whatever support people like yourself may express for the idea of Zion, it does not translate into meaningful action in support of the nation of Israel. Sadly, your silence proves the skeptics right.

You need to know that, for the entire American Jewish community and the broader pro-Israel community, support for foreign aid to Israel is the baseline standard by which support for Israel is measured. It is one thing to say generic, supportive things about Israel when you appear before Jewish audiences; it is another to call on your supporters to join you in telling Members of Congress that economic and military aid to Israel is indispensable for a strong and secure Israel and that such support will be one of your organizational priorities. It is one thing for you to speak out on issues on which there has long been unanimity in your community -- such as Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel -- and another to be a leader on issues that are quite controversial on the right -- such as foreign aid -- issues on which your voice might really mean something. I have searched in vain for any statement from you or the Christian Coalition on foreign aid. Your World Wide Web home page, for example, contains press releases from the past two years -- yet not a word about aid to Israel. Your voter guides review key votes in the 104th Congress -- but, again, not one word about aid to Israel.

It is not too late. As you know, this is budget season in Washington. As early as this week, there may be the first votes on aid to Israel. A letter from you to the Congressional leadership, and a call from you to your activists to support aid to Israel, would send a powerful signal that your concern for Israel relates as much to the here and now as it does to the end of days.

I hope, still, you will raise your voice now and stand with the pro-Israel community.

With good wishes on the next stage in your professional career,

Sincerely,
/s
Rabbi David Saperstein

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis .



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