Jews, Episcopals Come Together for Israel
Boston Jewish Advocate April 18, 2002
By Jacob Horowitz
NEWTON - On Sunday, April 21, Jews and Episcopalians
will come together at Congregation Beth El-Atereth
Israel in Newton to send a message that the
Episcopalian Church stands behind the state of Israel
during its time of crisis. The event comes in response
to widespread concern after three Episcopal bishops -
including the leader of the Episcopal Diocese of
Massachusetts - demonstrated against Israel at a
pro-Palestinian rally in front of the Israeli
Consulate last November.
"I picked up the newspaper one day and there was a
picture of my bishops, in full regalia, demonstrating
outside of the Israeli Consulate holding pictures of
Palestinians," says Dennis Hale, an associate
professor of political science at Boston College and a
lay leader at Grace Church, an Episcopal church in
Medford. "Some Episcopalians may share their views,
but many do not. Their views have nothing to do with
the Church, and they are counterproductive to peace."
After seeing the bishops' demonstration, Hale, who is
working with the Boston-Israel Action Committee to
organize Sunday's event, sent a letter to The Boston
Globe condemning their actions.
"After my letter was printed I got a lot of response,
both from people in my church and people in the
community. All the feedback was positive," he recalls.
The bishops' November demonstration also caused great
unease within the Jewish community - which has worked
tirelessly over the years to build relationships with
local Episcopalians - and as preparations for Sunday's
Jewish-Episcopal gathering came to fruition, Jewish
leaders were quick to take part.
"We have never objected or been troubled by the fact
that there are people who disagree with elements of
Israeli policy, but we have been profoundly troubled
by the clear lack of balance emanating from some of
these religious leaders. It's even more troubling that
there is a seeming indifference to this fact,"
stressed Robert Leikind, the Anti-Defamation League's
New England regional director.
"It is very important that we look to the religious
leadership from Christian circles to find support,
empathy and commitment to Israel's struggle," added
Rabbi William Hamilton of Congregation Kehillath
Israel in Brookline. "There is a wealth of
Episcopalians who express their solidarity with
Israel, and when we have certain leaders that do not
represent the majority of Episcopalians in this
country, it is important that we garner support from
the fellow travelers of the Christian faith who
understand very well the predicament that Jews in the
world face today."
Father Keith Roderick is one of the Episcopal leaders
who will be speaking in support of Israel at Beth El.
Roderick, who is flying in from Chicago for the event,
is an Episcopal priest of the Diocese of Quincy, Ill.
and is the secretary general of the Coalition for
Defense of Human Rights, the largest organization of
ethnic and religious groups working together to combat
radical Islamic movements.
"This event is important, because Episcopalians in the
Boston Diocese have spoken out and taken a position
that is counterproductive and dangerous to Christians
throughout the Near East," Roderick explained.
"It is important for us to show solidarity with Jews
and Israel because there was a time when we were
working on legislation to combat religious persecution
against Christians and the Jewish population was very
adamant and vocal on our behalf," he added.
According to Roderick, "The Christian Church makes the
mistake of assuming that what is happening now in
terms of the intifada is a liberation movement. In
reality, however, it is a movement that leads to
totalitarianism. Its roots are associated with Nazism
and radical Islam."
"I don't think that the Episcopal bishops in
Massachusetts want to be known for siding with bigots,
racists and fascists, and the ideology that bolsters
Arafat and the PA is just that," he said. "This is an
embarrassment not only for Episcopalians, but for
Christians throughout the Church."
"Needless to say, this is a very difficult time for
Israel," added Sunday's host Rabbi Gershon Segal of
Congregation Beth El-Atereth Israel. "At times like
this it is important that we bring together as much
support as possible for Israel, and I hope that the
message that these Episcopalians make on Sunday is
strong enough that the bishops will have to respond."