by Toya Richards Jackson, OGA
LOUISVILLE (PNS) The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), joined heads of Jewish and Christian organizations and denominations in an unprecedented summit in New York City March 27 to discuss strategies to strengthen and maintain relationships even in the face of significant disagreements.
The gathering was the first to bring together these groups since a letter was sent on October 5, 2012 by Christian groups calling on Congress to investigate Israel’s use of U.S. military aid. During the meeting participants made a commitment to developing an effective and ongoing national dialogue of Christian and Jewish leaders.
“We affirm a strong commitment to continue working together on domestic and international issues of common concern. We will aspire to genuine and ongoing dialogue related to Israeli-Palestinian issues, seeking to identify and discuss, in respect and humility, areas of real or potential disagreement and of real and potential cooperation.”
“As people of faith we enter the holy season of Easter and Passover to celebrate the gift of our renewed relationship and look to the future to enhance our closeness and our commitment to serve the common good.”
The group of top leaders committed to meeting at least annually and to reconstituting the traditional Jewish-Christian roundtables that were suspended in October of 2012.
The Jewish leaders in attendance were:
Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, co-convener
Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union of Reform Judaism
Daniel S. Mariaschin, Executive Vice President of B’nai B’rith International
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly
Rabbi Steven C. Wernick, Chief executive officer of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
The Christian leaders were:
Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America from 2001-2013, co-convener
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, Ecumenical office, Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada
James E. Winkler, General Secretary/President of the National Council of Churches
The meeting was co-designed and co-facilitated by Rev. Dr. Tom Duke and Rabbi Melissa Weintraub.