SAN FRANCISCO (Nov. 23)
A leader of American Reform Judaism changed here that there is a link between rightwing fundamentalist Christian groups and the proliferation of anti-Semitic acts in the United States. Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), also denounced certain Jewish groups that were “eager to make accommodation to the Christian right and grab whatever short-term gains there may be at the expense of integrity and self-respect.”
Schindler, speaking at a Sabbath service at Temple Emanuel attended by members of the UAHC board of trustees here for their semi-annual meeting, referred in that connection specifically to the Jabotinsky Centennial Dinner Committee and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.
“When the Jabotinsky Foundation presents its award to Jerry Falwell (leader of the Moral Majority) for his support of Israel and the Anti-Defamation League offers its platform to Pot Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network to speak about Jerusalem, it is madness — and suicide,” Schindler said. He urged American Jews, instead, to reach out to moderate Christians and Black groups to form “coalitions of decency against the chilling power of the radical right.”
According to Schindler, it was “no coincidence that the rise of rightwing Christian fundamentalism has been accompanied by the most serious outbreak of anti-Semitism in America since the end of World War II.”
He observed that “When the head of the Moral Majority’ demands a ‘Christian Bill of Rights,’ when the president of the Southern Baptist Convention (Rev. Bailey Smith) tells the Religious Roundtable that ‘God Almighty does’ not hear the prayer of a Jew,’ there should be no surprise at reports of synagogues destroyed by arson and Jewish families terrorized in their homes.”
PREACHMENTS HAVE INEVITABLE EFFECT
Schindler added: “I do not accuse Jerry Falwell and Bailey Smith of deliberately inciting anti-Semitism. But I do say that their preachments have an inevitable effect. Jerry Falwell tells us that only one brand of politics is acceptable to God. Bailey Smith tells us that only one brand of believers is acceptable to God. It is no wonder that those who hold different political views should be branded as ‘Satan’ and that those who hold different religious beliefs should become the victims of vandals who respond by attacking synagogues and stoning Jews.”
Falwell was one of 100 prominent Americans presented with the Jabotinsky Award by Premier Menachem Begin of Israel at the Jabotinsky Centennial Dinner in New York Nov. 11. He was cited for his support and friendship toward Israel, a tenet of the Moral Majority. The award to Falwell was criticized by Sen. Frank Church (D.Idaho), one of the awardees, who refused to accept his award, and by Sen. Carl Levin (D.Mich.).
Schindler asked: “Can someone be good for Israel who spells disaster for America and the security of American Jewry? Are Jews so locking in self-respect and understanding of their deepest self-interest that they will embrace forces that are anathema to every value in the Jewish ethical system?”
He added, “I do not suggest that Jews should stand alone against the Christian right, polarizing the struggle into a religious war. Rather, I urge that we seek allies among our Christian neighbors.”
CHILLING POWER OF THE NEW RIGHT
Schindler warned that “in our search for allies in building coalitions of decency against the chilling power of the radical right, the Jewish community cannot seek 100 percent ideological purity.” He explained, “We will disagree an the Middle East with the National Council of Churches, which (on Nov. 7) issued an unconscionable statement supporting the PLO, but we must work with them on free choice on abortion, on gun control, strategic arms limitation and a host of significant issues.
“We will disagree with the Roman Catholic Bishops an abortion and birth control, but we will give voice to a common concern on aid to refugees, world hunger and racial justice. We will disagree with Blacks on racial quotes, but we will continue to share a vision of a compassionate society and work together in support of national health insurance, youth employment, decent housing and similar programs.”
Schindler conceded that Jewish attitudes toward new right leaders were complicated by the support many Christian evangelicals give to Israel. “We who love Israel seek allies among all Americans,” he said. “But we cannot be blind to the fact that the deepest reasons for backing given to Israel by evangelical fundamentalists are theologically self-serving.
“They believe Jesus cannot return for the second coming until the Jews are regrouped in their biblical homeland and then converted to Christianity. They believe further that even devout Jews are not welcome in heaven. So let us welcome all those committed to Israel’s security and survival. But let us not deceive ourselves as to the reasons for that support.”