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July 19, 2002 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-07-19

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Washington Watch

Christian Support

Motives questioned as two Evangelical-Jewish
political groups form.,

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srael is enjoying unprecedented
support in Congress, and one
reason is the surge in activism
on behalf of the Jewish state by
Christian Zionists.
Now an Evangelical leader and a
politically conservative rabbi are team-
ing up to create a new Washington-
based organization to reinforce an
alliance they say is very much in
Israel's interests.
But liberal Jewish activists disagree;
support based on the hope that Israel
and the Jews will soon go through the
agonies of the apocalypse isn't worth
getting, they insist, especially when
those "friends" are in a position to
influence U.S. Mideast policy.
The new organization, the American
Alliance of Jews and Christians
(AAJC), is a project of Rabbi Daniel
Lapin, founder of Toward Tradition, a
group promoting traditional Judaism.
Rabbi Lapin will co-chair the new
group with Gary Bauer, the former
Republican presidential hopeful,
Reagan administration official and
Christian activist.
The group's board of advisers lists
some of the most visible figures on the
Christian right, including Rev. Jerry
Falwell and televangelist Pat Robertson
— who has written several books
detailing the special role he believes
Israel and the Jews will play in
Christian "end-time" prophecy.
Rabbi Lapin said the group will
focus more on changing attitudes in a
Jewish community that remains suspi-
cious of the Christian conservatives
than on lobbying Congress.
The focus will be on "bringing
exciting events to many American
cities and towns that will provide
opportunities for ordinary Jews and
Christians to interact and to discover
what they have in common, both as
people of faith and people who care
about Israel," he said.
The current emergency in Israel and
the surge in anti-Semitism around the
world have created a momentary "rap-
prochement" between rank-and-file
Jews and the religious conservatives,
Rabbi Lapin said. One goal of the new
organization will be to "give durabili-

ty" to that change.
Rabbi Lapin, who has argued that
Jewish efforts to preserve the church-
state wall have amounted to outright
attacks against Christianity, said his
organization will seek to educate Jews
that "Christian domestic concerns par-
allel Jewish concerns — or should par-
allel Jewish concerns, if we are going
to be led by Judaism and not by the
Democratic Party."
He dismissed claims by some Jewish
leaders that the surge in Christian
Zionism is based heavily on Bible
prophecies that predict continuing
warfare for Israel and persecution for
Jews until the longed-for apocalypse
and return of Jesus Christ.
"Many Jews are confused and both-
ered by this question," he said. "But if
you talk to ordinary Christians about
this end-of-time prophecy — the peo-
ple you meet at Disneyland, or on an
airplane — they will look at you with
dropping jaws. The majority of
Christians are not at all involved with
the intricacies of prophecy." And for
those Christian leaders who do focus
heavily on prophecy, "it's arrogant and
churlish to reject their support," he
But a leading Jewish liberal rejected
Rabbi Lapin's insistence that the
motives of Israel's new best friends are
irrelevant. Rabbi David Saperstein,
director of the Religious Action
Center of Reform Judaism, said,
"While I welcome support from an
extremely broad range of organizations-
and individuals, motives and defini-
tions are, in fact, very important."
If the current climate of confronta-
tion in the region continues, he said,
"is it not valid to be concerned about
those whose 'end-time' beliefs require
war and destruction? What kinds of
policies will they advocate for America
at such a moment? And should the
Jewish community legitimize those
kinds of views?"
The question of Middle East
motives, he said, is particularly impor-
tant because of the growing power of
the religious right in Congress and at
the White House.
Announcement of the Lapin-Bauer
group came only days after Rabbi
Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the
International Fellowship of Christians

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