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January 12, 2012 - Image 29

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-01-12

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Joints of view


Send letters to: letters@thejewishnews.com

Contributing Editor


Presbyterian Tightrope

Divestment call isn't popular, but
it's still a revealing indictment.
very time I think the largest Presbyterian
The Church has every
coalition in America seems ready to mod-
erate its overarching hard-line stance
I A, iv
right to challenge
toward Israeli government policy, a troubling
new development intervenes. As a result,
111 °I, the Israeli
restoring trust and improving dialogue
between Presbyterians and Jews seems
government. But
ever distant; it's tough to have a meaningful
conversation when Israel is the implied bad
KO 47: its bolting of
guy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The latest bubble
(us P•)
the peacemaking
of concern comes in the
decision of a Presbyterian
burden to Israel is
Church (USA) committee to
resurrect a strident resolu-
flat-out wrong.
tion calling for divestment


from companies doing busi-
ness with Israel — namely,
Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-
Packard and Caterpillar.
Specifically, Caterpillar was
targeted for, among other
things, allowing its Israeli
dealership to sell Caterpillar
D-9 bulldozers to the Israeli Defense Forces and
also provide mechanics to maintain them. Hewlett-
Packard was cited for, among other things, selling
hardware to the Israeli navy, outfitting the Israeli
army with software and nurturing business relation-
ships with "the illegal settlements" in the West Bank.
Motorola Solutions came under fire for, among other
things, continuing to equip the Israeli government
with business lines.

A Call To Battle
The Committee on Mission Responsibility Through
Investment will pitch the edgy call at the church's
next biennial General Assembly (G.A.) from June
30 to July 7 in Pittsburgh. Passage isn't automatic.
In fact, it's unlikely; the resolution is that divisive.
That's one positive vibe. This matters because the
Presbyterians are so influential within Christianity
— and take no shame in painting Jewish settlements
in the West Bank and Israel's naval blockade of the
Gaza Strip with a damning brush.
In a statement following release of its Sept. 9
report, the committee indicated efforts to bring
a shift in company policies or practices through
dialoguing were fruitless, and there's no reason to
believe that will change. "According to the assembly's
prior directives and the church's ordinary engage-
ment process',' reads the statement, "we have little
choice but to recommend divestment:'
Understandably, the American Jewish Committee
and the Anti-Defamation League registered outrage
at the foolhardiness of thinking a divestment threat
could advance Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Peace condemned the report's authors for giving a
"friendly ear" to "a small group of activists within
the Presbyterian Church that has relentlessly sought
to punish Israel" and for wanting "to find one party
at fault in a conflict where all parties have engaged
in positive or negative actions." The organization
defined "activists" as a very small group made up
principally of pulpit clergy more likely to support
Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and east
Jerusalem and less likely to support strong U.S.-Israel
ties and relations between Jews and Presbyterians.
In 2006, the General Assembly adopted a resolu-
tion urging that church investments relating to Israel,
the Gaza Strip, east Jerusalem and the West Bank
be limited to "only peaceful pursuits:' This resolu-
tion overrode a 2004 G.A. vote to begin a process of
"phased, selective divestment" relating to multina-
tional corporations doing business in Israel. In 2008,
the G.A. stressed that business activity solely engaged
in peaceful pursuits furthermore must refrain from:
"allowing products or services to support or facili-
tate violent acts by Israelis or Palestinians against
innocent civilians; construction and maintenance of
settlements or Israeli-only roads in east Jerusalem
and the West Bank; the Israeli military occupation
of Palestinian territory; and construction of the
Separation Barrier as it extends beyond the 1967
Green Line into Palestinian territory:' Reiterating its
longstanding position, the G.A. in 2010 urged all cor-
porations doing business in the region "to cease any
involvement in roadblocks to a just peace."
In this historical perspective, the only indication
that the church isn't entirely anti-Israel is the men-
tion that neither Israelis nor Palestinians should
commit violence against innocent civilians. I do find
at least a shred of hope in the G.A.'s 2010 and recom-
mended 2012 call to continue urging corporations
operating in the region "to seek proactive ways to
promote respect for human rights, peace building
and equal employment opportunity."

A Different View
New York-based JTA reported that a grass-roots
organization called Presbyterians for Middle East

Super Charged Theology
What exactly is MRTI? Clearly, it's a theological
overseer of faith-based investing. The Presbyterian


Two Oakland County congregations become partners via a

joint operating agreement.


e're a shrinking, aging Jewish community racked
by Michigan's sour economy, but still close-knit
and responsive with an uncanny knack for adapt-
ing to changing times.
Take the innovative and successful endeavor that has
elevated Temple Kol Ami, a Reform temple, and B'nai Israel,
a Conservative synagogue, to national stature as an example
of together accepting a challenge and embracing an oppor-
The concept was simple: share building space through a
joint operating agreement, but also collaborate on projects.
The execution, as a year of doing underscores, has been phe-
nomenal. It helped that Kol Ami congregants welcomed their
former down-the-road neighbors with open arms.
Kol Ami is situated midway between two larger Reform
congregations, Temple Israel and Shir Shalom, along Walnut
Lake Road in West Bloomfield. Led by Rabbi Norm Roman, it
has a vibrant congregation of 340 families, but not one that's
growing substantially.
B'nai Israel is smaller with only 126 families, but it boasts
a dedicated and involved core member group. A significant
number of its members walks to shul on Shabbat and is well
versed in religious tradition. With Jonathan Berger, Hillel Day
School's rabbi-in-residence, providing leadership, B'nai Israel
members only needed a place to gather. When Congregation
Shaarey Zedek decided in 2010 to consolidate operations on
its Southfield campus, the B'nai Israel membership found a
new home at Kol Ami, with West Bloomfield Schools' Sheiko
Elementary providing supplemental support.
Kol Ami was a good fit - enough space for B'nai Israel ser-
vices and greater numbers for religious, cultural, educational
and social programming. The first year saw joint participa-
tion in holiday observance, family events, social action, a
book club, even planning an April heritage trip to Prague and
Budapest. The two congregations are paying to renovate the
Kol Ami social hall.
This wasn't a case of financial necessity for Kol Ami. But
having a paying tenant that could reduce costs, fully use the
real estate and provide critical mass for programs certainly
is a "win/win." The cross-stream aspect makes this arrange-
ment special.
The impetus was really a unique situation of shared need
and shared opportunity. It's great to hear Rabbi Roman say
that dialogue, respect and two healthier congregations have
marked the year.
This coming together reinforces in a heimish way that if
there's creative thought, open-mindedness and a laser-focus
on high-return benefits, fresh, exciting possibilities can, and
often will, emerge. ❑

Presbyterian on page 30

January 12 s 2012


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