Presbyterians for Middle East Peace condemns remarks by Stated Clerk

On Saturday, January 15, the American Jewish community was assaulted once again as a terrorist entered a synagogue during a time of worship and took the rabbi and several congregants hostage, believing that he could convince authorities to release prisoners held in jail. This extremist, with partners in the UK, believed the anti-Semitic trope that Jews run the world and if jews were taken hostage, he could pursue his agenda. This attack is yet just another example of the violent rise of anti-Semitism in our country and in the world.

Our prayers go out to the Jewish community in Colleyville and the nation, who once again have been reminded that there is a segment of humanity who wishes harm to befall Jews, no matter where they live. We have seen the violent actions of white supremacists and of progressive activists who have attacked Jews for just being Jewish. How much more abuse will the Jewish community suffer before we all say “never again”?

As Presbyterians, we are deeply saddened that the Jewish community has once again been targeted and we are deeply embarrassed that even after four days, our denomination, PCUSA, has made no statement about this atrocity. However, on Martin Luther King Jr Day, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, the Stated Clerk of our denomination, took time to extol the need to be vigilant against injustice in the world as well as pursue the unity that MLK sought. Unfortunately, with all the injustices in the world (China, Myanmar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc) he wrote only of the continuing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. While extolling Dr. King’s call for unity on one hand, with the other, he described the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians as “21st Century slavery.” Incredibly, he blamed all Jews as the culprit, ignoring the many reasons why Americans support Israel. He dared to claim that Jews have forgotten their own history. This is working for unity?

Rev. Dr. Nelson, lashing out at the US and the global Jewish community is beyond the pale, Gratefully his actions and words do not match the work of local PCUSA congregations and Jewish synagogues in communities across the nation. At the grassroots, Presbyterians work for justice alongside Jews rather than engaging in polarizing polemics. If  Rev. Dr. Nelson spent time with the American Jewish community as locally based Presbyterians do, he would know that the American Jews are diverse and extremely concerned about what is happening in Israel and Palestine. He would also know that many live in fear of violence – and that words matter. We hope the Stated Clerk will spend more time talking and working with American Jewish leaders and less time writing blasts filled with reprehensible misrepresentations of our Jewish neighbors.

Rev. Todd Stavrakos, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace via Religion News Service

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