May 29, 2007. JewsOnFirst Conversation: Rabbis discuss Rabbi Yoffie's op-ed article. Please click here.
Leader of Reform Judiasm discourages cooperation with Christians United for Israel
High-impact op-ed published days before CUFI event in Washington DC
by JewsOnFirst.org, May 21, 2007
In a major development in the debate raging over participating in Christian Zionist "Nights to Honor Israel," the leader of Reform Judaism, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, has sharply criticized the involvement of local Jewish federations in the events. Yoffie, the president of the Union of Reform Judaism, wrote in the national Jewish weekly Forward that the federations' cooperation with Christians United for Israel (CUFI) is alienating the upcoming generation of Jewish community leaders.
Yoffie's op-ed appeared the Friday before two Conservative movement rabbis took part in a May 20th CUFI "Night to Honor Israel" in the Washington DC area. One of those rabbis told JewsOnFirst that he was participating despite his disagreement with the organizers' politics, because of their support of Israel.
CUFI and other Christian Zionist organizations support Israel because of a non-mainstream biblical interpretation that the end-times battle of Armageddon will take place in Israel and presage the return of Jesus.
The religious right positions of CUFI leader John Hagee, a televangelist and San Antonio megachurch pastor, are at odds with the tolerance and pluralism of young Jews who involve themselves in Jewish communal activities, Yoffie wrote in his Forward op-ed.
We know a great deal about Jewish young adults. We have learned from extensive research that these young people are often more socially liberal than their baby-boomer parents. They are pluralistic in their thinking, and they are tolerant of difference, especially differences in gender and sexual orientation.
Yoffie said the decision of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to give Hagee a forum at its recent convention (more here) signified a stamp of approval to local Jewish federations. The federations' participation in CUFI's Nights to Honor Israel, usually held at a church, is rewarded with contributions from the Christian attendees (see sidebar on the upcoming Night to Honor Israel in Phoenix). This, wrote Yoffie, is likely to give young Jews the impression that "we are simply selling our souls."
Yoffie's op-ed is likely to encourage Reform movement rabbis who have been reluctant to participate in CUFI events. Local federations have in some cases pressured rabbis to participate in CUFI Nights to Honor Israel.
In March, Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Temple Beth El in Madison gave a sermon explaining why he would not participate in the Night to Honor Israel in that city.
In the Washington DC area, two rabbis affiliated with the Conservative movement participated in a CUFI Night to Honor Israel on May 20th: Rabbi Jack Moline of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, Virginia, where the event was held, and Rabbi Marvin Bash, who is chaplain at Fort Belvoir, a military installation in Virginia.
Moline's participation was the lead of a May 4th report by the New York Jewish Week on Jewish organizations' increasing acceptance of Hagee and CUFI. The paper reported:
Rabbi Moline’s participation marks the growing — if uneasy — acceptance of Rev. Hagee’s brand of pro-Israel activism across the Jewish community. Mainstream Jewish leaders are rushing to embrace him, despite continuing concerns about his apocalyptic views about Israel’s future, his open advocacy of war with Iran and his harsh domestic views, and critics are being pressured into silence.
Unlike CUFI events which raise money for local Jewish federations, the beneficiary of the May 20th event was a charity connected with Shiloh, an extremist Jewish settlement in the West Bank; Shiloh's ex-mayor was a speaker. The event's keynote speaker was Joseph Farah, editor of WorldNetDaily.com, which has long been a platform for the far right, the religious right and the Israeli settler movement.
Because of the political character of this event -- and because Rabbi Moline is the chair of the Interfaith Alliance, which was founded to oppose the religious right -- JewsOnFirst asked both rabbis to comment on their participation in the Night to Honor Israel.
Moline said he was participating because the event was at a facility near his congregation in Alexandria. "As the local Conservative rabbi, my physical presence anywhere that evening would give a message," he said. "If the issue is support for Israel's security, I want to offer encouragement. I certainly do not want to be outside protesting, nor do I want to ignore them. They love Israel and the Jewish people. So do I."
Moline said he had made clear his political and theological differences with with CUFI to the event organizers and that he does not support Shiloh ex-Mayor David Rubin's "politics or militant stance."
As to the Interfaith Alliance, which explicitly opposes the religious right and states a commitment to oppose "political religious extremism," Moline said he was participating in his personal capacity. Major leaders of the religious right are on CUFI's leadership bodies.
Moline provided the text of his invocation at the Night to Honor Israel, which we have posted here. In it, Moline appears to chide the exclusivist Christian audience with a reminder that Jews and Christians who love them are only a small part of the world's people.
I know that many of you identify strongly with Ruth. You are not Moabites and you are not my sons- and daughters-in-law, but you have sought God’s voice in your sacred silence and you cling to my suspicious people and their land with professions of love. I admire that love. I bask in that love. I love that love, and love you right back. And in that love I remind you that we are but two of the seventy, and there are sixty-eight more voices, sixty-eight more peoples who are needed to make this world complete.
Moline does not critically address the source of that love -- the role of Israel in the Armageddon end-times scenario which is the core of Christian Zionism. In that non-mainstream biblical interpretation, Jews ultimately are forced to choose between conversion to Christianity and damnation.
On Friday, Rabbi Marvin Bash requested that questions about his participation in the CUFI event be emailed to him, which we did. He has not yet responded to them.
When We Let John Hagee Speak for Us
Opinion article by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, Forward, May 18, 2007
"The American Jewish community must decide: Does it want to connect young Jews to Israel, or does it intend to drive them away?" asks Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, in this much discussed op-ed. "These future Jewish leaders are not hostile to Israel, and many have positive memories from Birthright or youth-movement trips, but Israel today is a marginal part of their Jewish consciousness," he writes, continuing:
There is no single explanation for their disaffection, but surely one important reason is the increasingly right-wing and even reactionary tone that some elements of the organized community have adopted in their pronouncements on Israel. American Jews have always been moderate in their views on Israel, and this is especially true for the young.
Yoffie argues that young Jews are repelled by intolerance such as Hagee expresses toward Muslims and gays. He urges "our federations to conduct broad-based discussions to determine if a consensus really exists on endorsing Christians United for Israel events." Click here.
Christian Zionists Talk Politics
by James Besser, New York Jewish Week, May 25, 2007 (part-way down page)
It was billed as a “Night to Honor Israel,” but this week’s event in Alexandria, Va., sponsored by Christians United for Israel (CUFI), was also a night about Israeli politics as several key speakers described policies of the current Israeli government as “appeasement.”
The Rev. Jan Willem Van Der Hoeven, a longtime Christian Zionist leader, received the biggest ovation when he called the West Bank “the land that was liberated by Israel 40 years ago, in 1967, and it must never again be given away. If there is one message I would give to the president of the United States, it is this: do not divide this land.”
Van Der Hoeven also lambasted a “foolish” Democratic Congress for trying to force a U.S. exit from the Iraq war and warned that Syria could be planning massive nerve gas attacks against Israel. Continue (part-way down the page).
Farah keynotes 'Night to Honor Israel'
Washington event sponsored by Jerusalem Connection
WorldNetDaily.com, May 9, 2007. Note: Shiloh is a Jewish settlement in the West Bank
WASHINGTON – WND founder and Editor Joseph Farah will deliver the keynote address at "A Night to Honor Israel," sponsored by the Jerusalem Connection and Christians United for Israel, Sunday, May 20, at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at the Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria.
David Rubin, the former mayor of Shiloh in Israel, who was seriously wounded, along with his son, by Palestinian terrorists in 2001 will also speak. Rubin founded the Shiloh Israel Children's Fund to help in the rehab of kids traumatized by terrorists. Presidential candidate and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., will also make remarks.
"We will be celebrating Israel's 59th birthday with our Jewish friends and acknowledging the relevance of Shavuot for Christian Zionists," explained James M. Hutchens, president of the Jerusalem Connection. "Shavuot is the time when the book of Ruth is emphasized. Ruth is the proto-type of the non-Jew who pledges unconditional allegiance to Naomi, her Jewish mother-in-law. Ruth is a symbol of the Christian Zionist support for Israel and the Jewish people today." Continue.
Message from David Brog
David Brog, Executive Director, Christians United For Israel, May 21, 2007
Also last night I had the pleasure of attending and addressing the first annual Night to Honor Israel in Alexandria, Virginia, outside of Washington, DC. The event was organized by CUFI Regional Director General Jim Hutchens and his wife Patty. An enthusiastic crowd came to lend their support to the event, including Minister for Domestic Political Affairs Martin Peled-Flax from the Israeli Embassy, local rabbis, and many local pastors. Speakers included Arab Christian Zionist and World Net Daily Editor Joseph Farah and David Rubin, an Israeli who survived a harrowing terrorist attack in Israel. Jim Hutchens closed the night by most eloquently summarizing the purpose of the evening, and of CUFI, by reminding the Christians in the audience that they should pledge to the Jewish people the same pledge that Ruth made to Naomi so many centuries ago:
Israel Should Give Up 'Not One Inch' of Land, GOP Presidential Candidate Says
Patrick Goodenough, CNSNews.com, May 21, 2007
If he becomes president, Rep. Duncan Hunter says he will continue to hold the position that Israel should surrender "not one inch" of disputed territory to the Arabs in exchange for pledges of peace.
Addressing a Christian Zionist meeting in Alexandria, Va., Sunday evening, the California Republican recalled a visit with his father to the Golan Heights, where they viewed a narrow valley where a small number of Israeli tanks had held off more than 1,400 Soviet-built Syrian tanks during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Hunter, a Vietnam veteran and former chairman and current ranking minority member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he had vowed then that he would always support what he called that "postage stamp of a country." Continue
Transcript: Update: Troubled Lands
Bill Moyers, Troubled Lands, June 29, 2002
Bill Moyers: We have some new information about a piece we did earlier in the year on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Our producer went back to see how some attitudes and daily life have changed.
David Rubin, Shiloh Settler: During Operation Defensive Shield the government sent in the army to several of the autonomous cities of the PA, a lot of progress was made, but it has to be put into perspective. There is still danger, there is still risk.
Mark, Shiloh Security Chief: People are driving less on the roads, we are taking the armored buses more. And unfortunately, we've gotten to the situation where people are going out with bullet proof vests. People have not felt safer as of yet. Continue