Rabbis Skip JNF Event Over Honoree

Rabbis Skip JNF Event Over Honoree

By Michael Jacobsmjacobs@atljewishtimes.com

Peter Berg for Atlanta Jewish Times
Temple Senior Rabbi Peter Berg

Clergy members from at least two synagogues are skipping the biggest annual event of Jewish National Fund’s Southeast Region because of the honoree’s position on gay rights. (For more details and reactions, click here.)

JNF is giving the Tree of Life Award to the Rev. Charles Stanley of First Baptist Church Atlanta during the 12th annual Jack Hirsch Memorial Breakfast the morning of Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day, April 23. The event is being held at The Temple in Midtown, but the Reform congregation’s rabbis and staff will not be attending.

Senior Rabbi Peter Berg and Temple President Jonathan Amsler issued a statement explaining the decision to stay away from an event inside their building: “The Temple is renting our social hall space to the Jewish National Fund as we have done with them and so many other organizations over the years. Recognizing the good work that JNF does for the State of Israel, The Temple remains a strong supporter of the Jewish National Fund. As inscribed over our doorway, The Temple is a house of prayer for all people and we will continue to work diligently for the inclusion of all including the rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.”

Rabbi Brad Levenberg also notified JNF Regional Director Beth Gluck that Temple Sinai’s clergy will not be at the breakfast.

Senior Rabbi Ron Segal said Temple Sinai is trying to uphold a community of inclusion and could not ignore Stanley’s well-known positions on same-sex relationships. But the decision to stay away from the breakfast does not represent a statement about the organization.

“We are tremendous supporters of JNF and all things Israel,” Rabbi Segal said. “We continue to support them.”

Nine other synagogues have tables in their names for the free event.

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