A Joint Statement by Leaders of American Jewish Religious Movements and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Contact: Rachel Slomovitz
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Washington, DC, December 4, 2006 – As we met together on November 29, 2006, at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky, we gave thanks to God for life and sustenance and recalled with joy our shared role as people of God who bring a unique and vital perspective to a world marked by secularism and fundamentalisms of various kinds. We share a prophetic tradition, with a common calling to the healing of the world. Our sacred texts put before us a number of shared values, such as respect for the dignity of each human person, compassion, seeking God’s truth, nurturing caring communities, and seeking justice for all.
We give thanks to God for bringing us to a “new season of dialogue and understanding,” as the words from this year’s PC (USA)’s General Assembly resolution on Israeli-Palestinian peace invited us to do. We believe that we have taken a significant turn at this meeting toward just such a time of renewed engagement.
Since the days before the American Revolution, Presbyterians and Jews have lived together in this country and worked together for the common good. In the spirit of that history, at this meeting we renewed our partnership in a number of ways:
- We initiated an ongoing national consultation among our communities.
- We decided to undertake an effort to bring together congregations of the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Jewish Movements with Presbyterian congregations in a number of areas of the country for fellowship and study, and to support congregations already engaged with one another.
- We agreed to join together in public policy efforts on crucial issues of our day, beginning with advocacy for an increase in the minimum wage. To this end, we will also explore fresh ways to work together on immigration issues, the situation in Darfur, and other justice concerns.
The major focus of our day together, however, was on issues related to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and the long search for peace, justice, and security for the people who live there. We discussed in depth actions of the 217th General Assembly (2006) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) relating to Israeli-Palestinian peace, and the concerns of the Jewish community regarding their interpretation and implementation by the church. That assembly affirmed what have been the consistent positions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and also introduced a “turn” in certain policies concerning Israel and the Palestinians. We agreed to make every effort to articulate our positions as clearly and as faithfully as possible as we move forward. Together, we welcomed the potential for working together invited by those General Assembly actions. We discussed frankly and openly our different perceptions of the situation in the region and found some ways to begin working together in this area that has most divided us in the past.
Together, we affirm that peace for Israel and the Palestinians should be built on the foundations of security, justice, and the establishment of two viable states. Our specific approaches to peace differ, but we believe that we can, and must, be strong advocates together—and together with other Christian and Muslim colleagues—for a renewed peace process.
We fully intend to work together for peace in the Middle East with other Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders. Together, we affirm the statement of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Middle East Peace, which will be issued as one part of renewed efforts for peace as the new Congress convenes at the end of this year.
Moreover, because we think economic development and peacemaking in Israel and the Palestinian Territories are crucial to the success of the peace process, we will be assessing a variety of Israeli and Palestinian organizations and projects that can then be recommended with confidence to our congregations for their involvement and support.
From these small steps, we pray that God will lead us to other creative joint efforts, and help us build a road to mutual understanding, cooperation, and peace for a region and a world desperately in need of it.
Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Rabbi Jerome Epstein, Executive Vice-President, The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Dr. Carl Sheingold, Executive Vice-President, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation,Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism