JCRC Update | February 21, 2014

Presbyterian Committee distributes Anti-Semitic Study Guide
Every two years, the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) has their biennial convention, and this summer it is in Detroit. Also every two years (since 2004), PCUSA considers resolutions meant to demonize the State of Israel, accuse Israel of crimes she is not guilty of, and encourage their church and members to boycott and divest from companies doing business with Israel.

This year is no exception, but a recently issued publication indicates a new low point in their understanding of the Palestine/Israel conflict and is sure to further divide the Presbyterian and Jewish communities, communities which have so much in common and can work together on so many issues.

The Israel Palestine Mission Network of Presbyterian Church USA has just released Zionism Unsettled, a new study guide released for church members goes further than the church has ever gone in the past in denouncing Zionism.

Like previous reports issued by this committee, it accuses Zionism of being incompatible with Judaism, accusing it of being an evil plot foisted upon the Palestinians by guilty Western powers after WWII. It devolves even further than ever as it compares Israel to the Nazis and it absolves the Palestinians of any responsibility for the current situation, despite a long history of terror attacks that have necessitated many of the intrusive security measures that make their lives more difficult, even defending terror attacks as a legitimate method of advancing their national aspirations.

It excuses Israel’s neighbors’ vicious anti-Jewish attacks and mass expulsions (over 800,000 Jews in Arab countries were forcibly expelled subsequent to the creation of the state of Israel) of their Jewish populations as a natural “blowback” for Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. This document accuses our Christian Zionist friends of gross ignorance, lamenting “their uncritical endorsement of Israel’s occupation.”

There are so many misquotes, factual errors, and contextual inaccuracies associated with this document that to point out every one would require dozens of pages of analysis.

Israel’s actions and policies sometimes deserve condemnation and that dialogue should be encouraged and debated seriously, but this document goes WAY beyond that.

I do not throw around the term “Anti-Semitic” lightly, but there is frankly no other way to describe this policy paper. Astonishingly, this document even appears to condemn the Catholic Church for Nostra Aetate, the Catholic document that absolves the Jewish people for the collective guilt of Jesus’ death.

Condemning the Holocaust does not absolve someone of anti-Semitism. Avoiding the traditional canards of blood libels, greed, and seeking world domination does not absolve someone of anti-Semitism. But PCUSA’s hateful form of anti-Zionism is a new form of anti-Semitism and it is with us. In fact, two prominent individuals/organizations that have endorsed Zionism Unsettled include former KKK leader David Duke, and PressTV, an Iranian news outlet.

We have many friends in the Presbyterian Church (such as Presbyterians For Middle East Peace, a Presbyterian group that recognizes the complexities of this issue and seeks to encourage their church to support meaningful dialogue with all parties involved and we will make efforts to reach out to them and ask that they reject this document. In fact, we have already heard the outrage expressed by these friends regarding this document.

In previous Presbyterian General Assemblies, our outreach to our friends has resulted in rejections of any one-sided statement or action. Our hope is that this policy statement really does represent only a small minority of Presbyterian thought and it is given the categorical rejection it so richly deserves.

Farm Bill Cuts Food Stamps
After literally years of wrangling, our government finally passed a Farm bill this year, but unfortunately the Food Stamp program was cut.

Now, we can take heart in the fact that the actual cuts were far less than what was proposed by some lawmakers. Some proposals out of Congress included 40 billion dollars in cuts, which would have had catastrophic results.

The farm bill that passed only cuts Food Stamps by $9 billion over 10 years (or 1 percent) mostly by closing a loophole which allowed for recipients of other government assistance programs to convert their excess funds to food stamps.

In a weird kind of way, we should be grateful for the limited scope of these cuts, as other government programs have been cut much more dramatically. However, this is a program that needs to be expanded, not cut in any way.

One in six Americans are food insecure, and that includes many people in Kentucky, including in our own Jewish community here in Louisville. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or Food Stamps) is a necessary program, which helps mitigate this insecurity by providing temporary food assistance.

Food banks do a fantastic job of additional food supplementation, but they are stretched thin as well. And while the immediate danger of a catastrophic cut has passed, our efforts to ensure a properly funded SNAP program should continue.

Federal Judge Orders State of Kentucky to Recognize Out-of-State Same Sex Marriages

This past week, U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn II ruled that Kentucky’s refusal to recognize same sex marriages performed in other states violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

This is a huge victory for those who care about marriage freedom for all and it is most likely another step towards same sex marriages being performed and recognized all over the country.

Last year, our Jewish Community Relations Council co-sponsored a resolution before our national agency, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. The resolution was intended to guide national Jewish agencies, religious movements and local JCRCs on their policies regarding same sex marriage, encouraging them to advocate for full equality of marriage rights. Although we were unsuccessful in getting the resolution passed, we are looked to nationally as a JCRC that has led on the issue of promoting marriage equality.

Since last summer, when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, there have been victories all over the country on this issue. And now that marriage equality has penetrated the South as in Kentucky (and, also this week, a federal judge in Virginia ruled similarly), hopefully, we can look forward to the inevitability of marriage equality throughout the country.

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