TORONTO (JTA) — Canada’s largest Protestant church helped finance a Jewish group that supports a boycott of Israel and is considered fringe by mainstream Jewry.
The United Church of Canada’s national office confirmed to the National Post newspaper that it had donated $900 to a March 2008 conference that led to the founding of the organization Independent Jewish Voices.
The donation helped defray 10 percent of the event’s costs, including travel expenses for three speakers, but should not be considered seed money for the new alternative Jewish group, a United Church official told the Post.
The grant intended "to facilitate voices being presented from the [Middle East]," church spokesman Bruce Gregersen told the newspaper. "The description of the event is consistent with our overall policy that the end of the occupation must come in order to bring peace and justice."
Gregersen added that it is "not typical [of the United Church] to fund events hosted by another faith."
The two-day conference was staged by the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians to voice its opposition to Israel’s policies and the stance taken by the Canadian Jewish Congress and B’nai Brith Canada. Independent Jewish Voices in Canada grew out of the Alliance.
In June, Independent Jewish Voices became the first national Jewish organization in Canada to join the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.
The Canadian Jewish Congress said it was "shocking, outrageous, shameful and scandalous" that a Christian church had financially backed the event that founded Independent Jewish Voices.
"That a mainstream Christian faith group would provide funding to create an anti-Zionist, and anti-Jewish group is absolutely astounding," CEO Bernie Farber told the Post.
The CJC and the United Church battled recently over resolutions calling for a boycott of Israel that had been proposed at the church’s annual conference. The measures were defeated at the national level, but the United Church "encouraged" individual members and congregations to "study ways to end the occupation of the disputed Palestinian territories."