Reform leader urges Presbyterians to reconsider divestment from Israel, meet Netanyahu instead
Rabbi Rick Jacobs says divestment would occasion rupture between Jews, Presbyterians.
The leader of the Reform movement asked his Presbyterian counterparts to join him in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make their case against Israeli practices in the West Bank.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, spoke Thursday in Detroit at the biennial general assembly of the Presbyterian Church-USA, which is considering a proposal to divest from companies that deal with Israeli security services in the West Bank.
Jacobs said passage of the proposal, which has already been approved by a key committee, would occasion a rupture between Presbyterians and Jews.
“A vote for divestment will cause a painful rift with the great majority of the Jewish community,” he said.
“If we are truly partners and you disapprove this divestment overture, I look forward to sitting with your leadership in the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem,” Jacobs said. “You can choose partnership and engagement or you can choose separation and divestment.”
The vote on the divestment proposal is due to take place on Friday.
Named in Jacobs’ invitation, which earned applause from the assembly, were Heath Rada and Gradye Parsons, respectively lay and religious leaders of the church.
Jacobs said he shared the Presbyterians’ concerned about settlement policy.
“We are against settlements,” he said. “We are for a two-state solution, but we can’t fight alone. We need each other, and if you choose partnership over divestment and BDS, together we can change the world.”
The proposed divestment resolution had been modified to explicitly distance itself from BDS, or the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which many in the Jewish community see as advocating for the dismantling of Israel. However, Jacobs said this was not enough, especially in light of an anti-Zionist tract published this year by a church committee.
“The document, which is being sold through your online church store, is a vicious attack on Judaism, the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” he said. Jacobs, who is scheduled to meet next week with Netanyahu, has not yet received a response from the church leaders.
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