PITTSBURGH, July 5, 2012 – Rabbi Gil Rosenthal, executive director of the National Council of Synagogues and for years a participant in Jewish-Presbyterian dialogues, told the 220th General Assembly Thursday that significant work of interfaith reconciliation could be in jeopardy if the assembly approves a controversial divestment recommendation.
Rosenthal, an ecumenical representative to the assembly, spoke a few hours before the assembly was scheduled to consider a recommendation that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) place on its divestment list three companies which supply defense-related equipment to Israel – Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions.
Rosenthal said his group represents about 3 million Jews in 3,000 Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist congregations. He described the Presbyterian-Jewish dialogues of which he has been part as “enriching, wonderful experiences . . . We’ve built bridges and torn down walls,” and produced documents of value to the broader Christian-Jewish conversation.
But Rosenthal cautioned that “those accomplishments are in jeopardy,” saying a vote to divest “will not advance the cause of peace one iota . . . It will embattle Israel and embolden those whose goal is to destroy it.”
Jews, “a notoriously fractious people,” are united in a concern for Israel and its security in a dangerous environment, Rosenthal said.
“Instead of being the only mainline church that espouses divestment, I encourage you to work hard to get the parties to return to the table and talk with one another. I’ve learned something from history. People who don’t speak to one another do unspeakable things to one another . . . I fear sincerely that divestment will cast a pall on our relationships and undermine our dialogue and fracture relationships, perhaps irreparably. So I implore you, do not undo what we have accomplished so beautifully together.”