Leading Catholic, Protestant Clergymen Celebrate Israel’s Rebirth

Seventeen leading New York clergymen of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths joined here today in celebrating the 18th anniversary of Israel’s independence, which was formally proclaimed 18 years ago today, by endorsing a famous, 75-year-old American document which had called for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. The clergymen hailed the rebirth of Israel as the fulfillment of God’s promise.

Among the signers of the statement were Francis Cardinal Spellman, Roman Catholic archbishop of New York; Dr. Dan Potter, executive director of the Protestant Council of New York; and Rabbi Harold Gordon, executive vice-president of the New York Board of Rabbis.

The old document which the clergymen endorsed as a reminder of Israel’s contemporary significance is known as “The Blackstone Memorial.” It was presented to President Benjamin Harrison in 1891 by William E. Blackstone, a religious layman and businessman of Chicago, who, after visiting Palestine, appealed for “an international conference to consider the condition of the Israelites and their claim to Palestine as their ancient home.” In 1916, the memorial was presented at the White House again, to President Woodrow Wilson, and was said to have influenced Mr. Wilson in his endorsement of the Balfour Declaration a year later.

Today’s statement was issued by the America-Israel Society, an interfaith body headed by Baltimore’s Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin, former governor of Maryland. The 17 spiritual leaders, citing the Blackstone Memorial, declared: “The rebirth of Israel has not only lifted the hearts of Jews all over the world. It has also contributed to a vastly deep understanding of Judaism by Christians, to a fraternal spirit and dialogue between Jews and Christians, and we are confident that doors will in time be opened to mutually beneficial ‘I-Thou’ relationships between the Israelis and the Arabs as well. God is using her (Israel) once again to send forth ‘light from Zion’ to the nations of the world.”

Among the original signers of the Blackstone Memorial were the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1891, the governor of Massachusetts, the mayor of New York, Congressman William McKinley, later to become President of the United States, and outstanding industrialists and merchants like John D. Rockefeller and John Wanamaker.

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