By Marcia Jaffe / email@example.com
During Saturday morning services April 11 at Ahavath Achim Synagogue, congregation President Douglas Ander announced from the pulpit that AA is joining a boycott of the JNF breakfast April 23, indicating that the Rev. Charles Stanley’s enduring and tremendous support of Israel is lessened by his negative stand on LGBT issues.
Stanley, the recipient of the Tree of Life Award, is not the morning’s only honoree. Yedidya Harush, the community representative for Israeli residents on the Gaza-Egypt border, is being presented the Cantor Isaac and Betty Goodfriend Community Service Award. Should we boycott him also?
Having been a proponent of Atlanta’s LGBT community, I don’t buy the linkage that attending this breakfast in recognition of Dr. Stanley’s strong support of Israel somehow implies our diminishment of gender issues. Many Christians still scratch their hands in puzzlement as to why Jews themselves do not support our own homeland, especially in tight times. And Jewish National Fund is about planting trees, not even in the political realm.
Recognizing Dr. Stanley and his community for their support for Israel is in keeping with a tradition of mutual cooperation between the Christian and Jewish communities in support of Israel and the Jewish people.
In the recent past, the Atlanta Jewish community joined with Dr. Stanley at his church, which is one of the largest Christian communities in the South, to celebrate a Night to Honor Israel. Israeli Consul General for the Southeast Opher Aviran was one of the keynote speakers at the event, which was attended by representatives of Atlanta Jewish synagogues and Jewish community organizations, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.
Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel addressed evangelical Christians at a similar salute to Israel hosted by John Hagee Ministries and Christians United for Israel that was Hagee Ministries’ 28th annual Night to Honor Israel. Thus, no less an advocate of civil rights and anti-discrimination than Wiesel was able to find common cause with this important group over mutual support for Israel. This appearance by Wiesel displayed an attitude of tolerance toward the views of others (with which we might not agree) who share with us a love for the Jewish people and support for the state of Israel.
If Wiesel can address the evangelical Christians, many of whom voice conservative views similar to Dr. Stanley’s, JNF can certainly host Dr. Stanley.
There are, and need to be, many people and groups in the world beyond the Jewish community that support Israel. We cannot expect that we will agree with them on all issues, but the one issue we do agree on is Israel.
Dr. Stanley and his community have stood with Israel for years, including difficult times, such as after the war in Gaza last summer when he led a trip of over 400 members of his congregation to Israel.
The LGBT community should recognize that Israel is one of the most tolerant and accepting countries in the world in terms of protecting LGBT rights, yet Dr. Stanley does not let his differing views prevent him from supporting Israel.
I was scheduled to speak at the Buckhead Business Association the same morning and canceled to attend the JNF breakfast at The Temple. I am bringing as many people as I can to show support, which is the true and urgent topic. (The breakfast is kosher and free. Register at 404-236-8990, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.jnf.org/about-jnf/events/2015/12th-annual-jack-hirsch.html.)
As Georgia Aquarium CEO Mike Leven so movingly said at an Israel Bonds event April 2, “The biggest problem in the American Jewish community today is not in arguing about whether Netanyahu speaks to Congress, but our own divisiveness on the real issues facing our survival.”