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June 13, 2014

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 13, 2014 PAGE 11A By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Which way will Presbyterians go this time? That's a question Jewish groups and their Presbyterian allies are nervously asking as they work to head off di- vestment efforts within the church targeting Israel. The fear is the efforts could pass this time after a narrow defeat two years ago. A successful divestment vote at the biennial Presbyte- rian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly this month could precipitate a rupture between the mainline Protestant de- nomination and the Jewish community, they warn. Jewish-Presbyterian rela- tions already were strained severely following the publi- cation by a church-affiliated group Of a document, "Zion- ism Unsettled," that depicted Zionism as a false theology. "The publication of 'Zion- ism Unsettled' by the very voicis backing divestment in the PC (U.S.A.) revealed an agenda that is not about church investments," said Ethan Felson, the vice presi- dent of the Jewish Council for PublicAffairs. "These backers of divestment want to return their church to a place of ret- rograde anti-Jewish theology, hostility to mainstream Jews and, of course, a blind eye to the responsibility of Hamas and Hezbollah on the Israel- At the 2012 church as- sembly, delegates rejected a divestment initiative by the slimmest of margins, 333-331. Such resolutions have become commonplace at mainline Protestant churches in recent years. But other mainline Protestant churches have been less receptive, de- feating them by solid margins. Jewish communal officials and their allies worry that divestment proponents could find success at this year's Presbyterian assembly. Since the last assembly, a contingent of conservative Presbyterians have broken away from the denomination over its recent embrace of the ordination of gay clergy. Con- servatives are seen as likelier to reject anti-Israel measures. Meanwhile, divestment proponents are pointing to the collapse of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in their efforts to encourage church members to back divestment. "Part of what this is about is highlighting how we're now at the tail end of the peace process due to settlement con- struction," said Rabbi Alissa Wise, director of campaigns for Jewish Voice for Peace, which is lobbying for divest- ment at the church's General Assembly. Christopher Leighton, a Presbyterian minister who is the executive director of the Institute for Jewish and Palestinian conflict and the~ Christian Studies in Balti- steps Israelis are forced to take to defend themselves." Delegates to the General Assembly, taking place June 14-21 in Detroit, will consider at least five resolutions, or "overtures," that would ad- vance divestment from com- panies that deal with Israel's military and one that would reconsiderwhether the church supports a two-state solution. Church officials organiz- ing the assembly declined to comment directly on the resolutions. more, said one reason he feared divestment would pass was that typical delegates to assemblies are not necessarily steeped in each issue under consideration. "The vast majority of Pres- byterians don't know these is- sues or the historical religious complexity of the region," Leighton said. "What they're bombarded with is 'Palestin- ians are suffering terribly. If we don't do something about it we become complicit in an injustice.' The arguments put forth traffic in all kinds of stereotypes that require work to undo." Leighton was outspoken in his criticism of "Zionism Unsettled," the study guide published in January by the church's Israel/Palestine Mission Network. The guide targeted what it called "the theological and ethical ex- ceptionalism of Jewish and Christian Zionism, which have been sheltered from open debate despite the intolerable human rights abuses rooted in their core beliefs." Rabbi Noam Marans, the American Jewish Commit- tee's director of interreligious relations, said the combined damage of the study guide and the passage of divestment overtures would likely have consequences for Jewish- Presbyterian ties, although he did not want to outline them until the assembly had finished. "Depending on which reso- lutions pass, and they may yet evolve, we will have to make challenging decisions," said Marans, who will attend the assembly. "It certainly is an ongoing crisis in Presbyteri- an-Jewish relations." But Wise said that linking the divestment bid to the study guide is "opportunistic." Each was generated by a different church body, she not- ed--"Zionism Unsettled" by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network and the divestment overtures by the church's in- vestment committee, the Mis- sion Responsibility Through Investment. The investment committee had been consider- ing divestment since 2004, a decade before the study guide was published. "To bring 'Z.U: into this process is disrespectful to how intentional the Presbyterian community has been," Wise said. "Zionism Unsettled" was praised as "smart and gutsy" by the co-chair of Jewish Voice for Peace's rabbinical council, Rabbi Brant Rosen, in a blog post republished on the group's website. The Rev. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, president of the Auburn Theological Semi- nary, said there was con- siderable overlap between the Israel/Palestine Mission Network and those promot- ing divestment. She said they shared an agenda informed by the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, movement. "The stakes are very high," said Henderson, who criti- cized "Zionism Unsettled" and will advocate against di- vestment at the assembly. "In my mind, all of these things go together, you can!t pull apart motives. Divestment today may mean full-out BDS tomorrow, and that's the deci- sion that Presbyterians face." One veteran of pro-Israel outreach among Presbyte- rians said he was close to giving up. "At this point, we've done a lot to educate the Presbyte- rians about what's going on in their church," said Dexter Van Zile, the Christian media analyst for CAMERA, a pro- Israel watchdog. Van Zile, a veteran of such assemblies, said he will not be heading to Detroit. "Let the General Assembly decide and the church live with the consequences," he said. "For the G.A. to affirm the agenda of its so-called 'peace activists' would basi- cally be a punch in the nose to the Jewish community." But pro-Israel groups are not giving up. They plan to send several dozen young Jewish activists to the assembly to counter what they say is the mis- taken impression of sentiment among young Jews created at past Presbyterian assemblies by pro-divestment groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace. A letter opposing divestment signed by more than 1,500 rabbis, cantors and seminary students of all streams of Ju- daism also will be circulated the assembly. As in years past, a pillar of organized Jewish pushback will be showing that left- leaning and dovish Jews also oppose divestment. Rachel Lerner, J Street's senior vice president for com- munity relations, who has made the pro-Israel case to church groups in the past, said she had decided not to attend this year's assembly because of the time commitment. She changed her mind, however, when she read "Zionism Un- settled." "It portrays Zionists as pathological and racist and scarred and unable to act in any normal way," she said. "It ran contrary to everything I think Zionism stands for. I was personally offended by it. I think it says something about the movement, where divestment is coming from and who it is coming from in the church." Lerner said that should divestment succeed, it would challenge friendships she had made with church officials. "I don't anticipate cutting them off, but it puts a strain on them," she said. John Wimberly, a co-con- venor of Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, a group that works with mainstream Jewish groups, said '!Zionism Unsettled" may prove helpful in his efforts to defeat the divest- ment overtures at the assembly. "There are Presbyterians who are very upset with Israel's policies toward the Palestinians and would like to find a way to make a state- ment about that treatment," he said. "But they will not make the statement by voting for people whose intention is to destroy Israel." The challenge, he added, would be to "keep that clear so the other side is unable to create enough smoke to hide that agenda." HANDYMAN SERVICE Handy man and General Maintenance Air Conditioning Electrical Plumbing Carpentry Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960 Fastest Growing Synagogue In Central Florida ....... co~t a~ow w~ us A New Synagogue in Clermont, FL Looking for a Reform~Conservative I CANTOR If interested, please reply by phone ASAP 352-242-6135 Please like us on Facebook By Ron Kaplan New Jersey Jewish News Jews account for a mere 170 of 18,174 athletes who have played in the major leagues (through the 2013 season, according to base- So it's not surprising that the new exhibit "Chasing Dreams: Baseball & Becoming Ameri- can" at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia provides a reason to kvell. While it may not have the grandeur of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in terms of the number of items on display, to paraphrase from'a famous line in the 1952 film Pat and Mike, what's there is choice. The NMAJH exhibit in- cludes more than 130 original artifacts--including an omer counter made from baseball batsmon loan from proud collectors. There are also films and historic game foot- age, innovative media inter- actives, a"Take Me Our to the Ball Game" listening station, an interactive game which allows users to be virtual outfielders, and a database of American Jewish ball- players from Lipman Pike, the first Jewish professional ballplayer, to those who made their debut last season. The program is complemented by a companion coffee-table book and a dedicated micro- site (chasingdreams.nmajh. org). "Chasing Dreams" is most- ly, although not exclusively, Jewish. A section of the mu- seum honors players such as Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Juan Marichal, and Ichiro Suzuki. The museum- goer will notice the word "Jewish" is not even included in the title. John Thorn, the official historian for Major League Baseball, served as a con- sultant for the exhibit and explained the decision. It all boiled down to "It]he challenge of acceptance," he said. "The challenge of being formerly persecuted in a way that Jews are not today, but that other minorities are. The challenge is how.., do you become more of the same as other Americans, but retain your distinctiveness, your difference?" "The overarching questions for all minorities is who's in, who's out, who gets to decide? And other minorities may be grappling with these issues more than Jews today. The great experiment is how you gets birds of a feather who do not flock together to share the same nest," said Thorn, who was born to Polish Jews in a displaced persons camp in 1947. "The story of American Jewish life has been a jour- ney to becoming American. That said, one of the things that was really important to us in this exhibition was to contextualize that kind of Jewish experience of finding their way into the American mainstream with the expe- riences of other minority communities and baseball provides an amazing enue for that," said Josh Perelman, cocurator of the exhibition in a phone interview with NJ Jewish News. "Baseball has generally been a sport that's rather open to the participa- tion of a variety of minority communities except for the period of segregation in which skin color prevented both African Americans and also dark skinned Carib- bean and Latino players from participating. Nevertheless, that, too, is part of the Ameri- can Jewish story and that, too, is part of baseball, and that too is part of the story of our pluralistic nation." In addition to the exhibit on baseball, the museum will hold a number of programs including lectures and a film series, "Chasing Dreams" runs through the end of the regular baseball season at the end of September and will then tour across the country. For more on "Chasing Dreams," including photos, videos, and audio interviews,- visit planskorner. Bankruptcy Auction Tampa No Minimum Bid - Subject to Bankruptcy Court Approval Sealed Bids Due: July 7 at:3pm ET Prop #DG805 13+ AC Multi-Family Dev. Site - Tampa Prop #DG806 Church & 63+ AC - Lakeland See website for details! Case No.: 8:14-bk-2567-MGW TranzonDrlggersWalterJ.Driggers, llllLJc.REBroker, FLLic#AUTOT&AB3145. Buyei~sPremiurnpursuanttocourtorder, TRANZON.COM 877-374-4437