At its general assembly last week, the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) voted to divest tens of millions of dollars from companies that do business with Israel. The Jewish world is reeling from the decision, yet in so many ways it is not surprising.
The anti-Israel faction in the PCUSA has become increasingly vocal and, as membership in the denomination continues to decline, seems to wield more and more power.
If Israel can’t count the PCUSA among its supporters, then who can we count on? To answer that, I will go back 30 years to when my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founded the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. His goal was to unite the Jewish and Christian communities in cooperation, respect and communication. He had an innovative vision of creating a strategic partnership between the Jewish People and millions of evangelical Christians, and he put all of himself into transforming this idea into reality.
For years, my father stood nearly alone in his efforts. He was ostracized from the Jewish community for this “radical” idea, and accused of ignorance for thinking there were Christians who would love and support Israel sacrificially, without wanting anything in return.
With time, my father’s once radical idea has become more accepted, and today the Fellowship is the largest philanthropic organization in all of Israel, raising over $130 million annually from loyal and dedicated Christian friends to support Jewish causes worldwide. What makes the Fellowship unique from other Jewish organizations that try to raise money from Christians is that we actually respect the Christian community and their faith. We don’t look at them with dollar signs in our eyes, but with love and appreciation.
There is a hassidic teaching that says if you are not growing closer to God, you are moving farther away. Our rabbis teach us that there is no such thing as being stagnant. The same thing is true for friendships; if we do not foster them, they fade and disappear.
The recent decision by the Presbyterian Church (USA) shows that Israel has enemies who are working hard to change the Christian narrative on Israel.
So maybe it’s time that we recognize and appreciate this priceless gift of friendship from the far larger group of Christians who do love and support Israel, and have for many years. The fact that there are millions of Christians who offer their political, financial and moral support for the Jewish state, and do so consistently without expecting anything in return, cannot be taken for granted. Thank God for the Christian and Jewish supporters of the Fellowship, who nurture a vision of shalom, respect and cooperation between our two great faith communities.
The writer is senior vice president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.