WASHINGTON (Feb. 24)
Ten Orthodox rabbis and 15 leaders of the Christian Evangelical movement met for nearly two hours at the Israel Embassy here today and emerged expressing a “communality” of interest in support of the State of Israel
The event was called an “historic get-together” by Rabbi Abner Weiss, of New York, chairman of the Israel commission of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the Orthodox rabbinical group. He explained that while Jews, including some rabbis, have participated in joint meetings with Evangelicals in recent years, this was the first under the “official framework” of a rabbinical organization.
At a press conference held at the Shoreham Hotel after the Embassy meeting, Weiss said the RCA had initiated the meeting in an effort to develop a joint agenda with the Evangelicals. While none was developed at this meeting, it will be at future meetings in order to demonstrate grass roots support for Israel, Weiss said.
Rabbi Gilbert Klaperman, president of the RCA, said the two groups feel they can “create significant, positive real pressure” among grass roots religious Americans so that the White House, where, he said, President Reagan was a “real friend of Israel” and the State Department “will respond as it should.”
CONCERN OVER U.S. PRESSURE ON ISRAEL
Ed McAteer, president of the Religious Round Table, said Evangelicals support Israel not only for “spiritual” reasons but because it is in the interests of the United States to do so. Both the Jews and the Christians at the press conference voiced concern at what they said was “pressure” by the Reagan Administration on Israel over Lebanon and the West Bank.
Dr. John Walvoord, president of the Dallas Theological Seminary, said Israel must maintain Jerusalem as its capital. He claimed it would be “ridiculous” to expect Israel to give up the West Bank. According to Walvoord, that would be like asking the U.S. to give Maryland to the Soviet Union after which the USSR could train its missiles “against our capital.”
Weiss said that today’s meeting came out of talks he had with McAteer. The Rev. Adrian Rogers, of Nashville, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, stressed that in the meetings the Jews and Christians, while supporting common goals, would not “compromise religious beliefs.”
This was also stressed by Rabbi William Herskowitz, the RCA’s executive vice president, who said the meetings will not be a deliberation on theological issues. But Rabbi Rafael Grossman, of Nashville, noted that in addition to sharing support for Israel, the Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews also are concerned about the growing secularism in the U.S. He said that when 70 percent of the world is anti-religious, it is “time for the religionists to get together.”
Klaperman said that perhaps Reform and Conservative rabbis will be asked to join the dialogue. But he noted that this first meeting was a gathering of two groups both of which can be called “fundamentalist.” He said Orthodox Jews and Evangelicals may in the future also unite on other issues but it was too soon now to say what these are.
The effort to increase grass roots support for Israel will include the various publications of the people involved as well as Jews speaking at meetings of Evangelicals and Evangelicals speaking at Jewish meetings.
One of the major efforts will be on the Christian television and radio programs. John Cummata, operations manager of the National Religious Broadcasters, said his member-stations are watched and listened to by more than 50 million Americans. Some of the Orthodox rabbis are expected to appear on these programs.