The Rev. Jerry Falwell, whose relationship with the U.S. Jewish community was at times close and at times contentious, died at age 73. Falwell, perhaps the nation’s best known televangelist, was declared dead Tuesday within hours of being found unconscious in Lynchburg, Va., in his office at Liberty University, which he founded.The founder of the Moral Majority, Falwell united the religious right into a powerful political force. He was stridently pro-Israel and was among the first to make it clear that presidential candidates must show deference to the U.S.-Israel alliance if they wanted the support of evangelicals. His hard-line views on social issues, however, alienated many Jews, especially when he appeared to say that gay and pro-choice activists had incurred God’s wrath, bringing about the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Falwell apologized in 1999 for saying that the Antichrist would probably be Jewish, claiming he simply was explaining a theological tenet that the Antichrist and Christ shared many attributes. Falwell reached out to liberal Jews last year, inviting Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Reform movement, to speak at Liberty University and noting that Reform Jews and conservative Christians shared concerns about the proliferation of violence and loose sexual mores in popular culture.
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