ELCA Assembly Hears Rabbi On Jewish/Christian Relations

8/11/2005 12:00:00 AM

     ORLANDO, Fla. (ELCA) -- After almost unanimously approving a
memorial Aug. 11 that calls for stepping up dialogue with those
in the Jewish community, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly heard a national Jewish leader
thank the ELCA for its work with his community.
     The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of
the ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 8-14 at the World Center Marriott
and Convention Center.  About 2,300 people are participating,
including 1,018 ELCA voting members.  The theme for the biennial
assembly is "Marked with the Cross of Christ Forever."
     "I am particularly appreciative of the role played by the
[ELCA] in forging meaningful relations between Christians and
American Jews," said Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president of the Union
for Reform Judaism, who added, "you have been a path setter in
this regard."
     The Union for Reform Judaism consists of 920 synagogues,
representing 1.5 million Jews.
     The assembly's approval of the memorial was by a vote of 922-
     That memorial "express[es] best wishes ... to the Jewish
community in America" on the 350th anniversary of Jewish presence
in the country [and] appreciation for the distinguished
contributions made by Jews to movements for social justice and
civil rights, philanthropy, business, science, literature, and
the arts; commend[s] the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs
for its work to promote Lutheran-Jewish dialogue and produce
study materials about Christian-Jewish relations," urging "that
these efforts be continued and strengthened"; and urges ELCA
congregations "to reach out to their Jewish neighbors for
dialogue and cooperation on common concerns... ."
     Noting that his organization's work is "similar in many
respects" to that of the ELCA, Yoffie acknowledged, "This is
exceedingly hard work.  But you and I know that there is no more
important work in these difficult times than creating an earthly
home for the Divine Presence and offering our members a life lit
by the flame of faith."
     "I am grateful for the outstanding materials produced by the
distinguished Consultative Panel of Lutheran-Jewish Relations,"
Yoffie told the Assembly. "I am moved by the frank honesty of
your Statement to the Jewish Community ... and I am delighted by
the ongoing cooperation of our two movements in advancing the
cause of justice in our nation's capital."
     He called attention to several "deep worries" about life in
this country, including negative influences of the media on
children; poverty; job insecurity; health-care costs; and other
economic inequities.
     "We believe, in short," Yoffie continued, "that at this
critical moment in our country's history, churches and synagogues
and all people of faith must do what we have so often done so
often before: summon America to a higher vision of its meaning
and destiny."
     Offering "a few thoughts on the Middle East," Yoffie said
that the American Jewish community "see[s] our efforts to assure
Israel's security as one of our ... most important
accomplishments in our 350 years here, just as maintaining that
security remains one of our highest priorities."
     He emphasized that "the Reform Jewish movement is committed
to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The
Palestinians must have a state. ... For peace to be achieved,
territorial compromise will be required of Israel, and
unconditional acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state will be
required of the Palestinians."
     "The events of September 11 left Americans deeply
traumatized," Yoffie told the assembly. "Yet in relative terms,
far more Israelis than Americans have been killed and directly
impacted by terror."
     He pointed out that since 1999, there have been 175
successful terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
     "Imagine how Americans would react if they were subject to
terror on this scale," he suggested.
     "Now we find ourselves at a moment of hope," said Yoffie, as
he noted that Israel has withdrawn from Sinai and Lebanon, and
will soon withdraw from Gaza.
     "Now is the time for Israelis and Palestinians to look
through each other's eyes for an instant, and to take that
critical step for peace," he said. "Now is the time for the
government of the United States to involve itself fully in the
search for peace.  Now is the time for terror to stop and
settlement building to stop. Now is the time for all of us to see
that we can achieve through peace what none of us will ever
achieve through violence."
     In closing, Yoffie quoted Moses as he addressed the children
of Israel just before his death: "Don't hate an Egyptian, because
you were a stranger in his land."
     "Moses knew that to build a society of freedom and hope, you
have to let go of hate," he said. "That's what Moses taught the
children of his time, and it's what we must teach the children of
our time. I look forward to joining with you in this sacred
     Assembly voting members greeted Yoffie's remarks with a
standing ovation.
     Information about the ELCA Churchwide Assembly is at http://www.elca.org/assembly/05 on the Web.

For more information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news@elca.org


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