Amid charges of anti-Semitism and countercharges of partisan-inspired bigotry, leaders of some of America's most influential Jewish and Christian organizations will meet in Washington, D. C., next month to try to reduce tensions.
Though the events organizer, the Chicago-based International Fellowship of Christians and Jews originally had planned the meeting for next spring, fellowship president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein moved the date to November 29-30 because he "felt there was a need for a more urgent, small-level conference … just to introduce the leadership of these two groups to each other." The meeting it expected to include leaders of the Christian Coalition, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the American Jewish Congress.
Participants will have much to discus. In June, ADL released a 193-page book, "The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance and Pluralism in America", which drew charges from religious conservatives that the ADL was itself practicing intolerance. In August, the Christian Coalition responded with a 28-page report, "A Campaign of Falsehoods: The Anti-Defamation League's Defamation of Religious Conservatives" which labeled the ADL report "inaccurate, biased, and politically motivated.
The Christian Coalition objected to what it said were a series of inaccuracies in the ADL book and it charged that the ADL was using "reckless charges of anti-Semitism" against people matters. The coalition's response claims: "The ADL report is filled with fabrications, half-truths, innuendo and guilt by association that are reminiscent of the political style practiced by Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s"
We have always said we are human and we can make mistakes," Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, told CHRISTIANITY TODAY. In a letter to Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson, Foxman apologized for the report's inaccurate claim that the evangelist never denounced David Duke's Lousiana gubernatorial bid.
Foxman also apologized for the report's incorrect attribution to Robertson of comments denigrating Jews, and he says the two mistakes have been corrected in a second printing of the report.
Mike Russell, Christian Coalition director of communication, says there are more than just two mistakes in the ADL report
"Our major concern with the report is that it used second- and third-level sources for the majority of its information," Russell says "Very few of the facts that are in that report are even footnoted, and what ones are [are] highly partisan sources" Foxman admits his organization never contacted the Christian Coalition in preparing the report." We're not a newspaper, we're not a TV magazine," Foxman says. Everything that is in there is on public record. "That's what we read, we see, we analyze. I don't want to—God forbid—compare them, but when we do a report on the Nation of Islam and [Louis] Farrahkan or David Duke … we don't go and interview them"
The ADL report is also increasing tensions within the Jewish community. A group of prominent Jewish conservatives took out an advertisement in the New York Times in August denouncing the report. "The so-called" 'evidence' of a conservative Christian threat to Jewish security is derived from such discreditable techniques as the ADL seems to suggest, coextensive with liberalism.
The advertisement's signers include such well-known conservatives as Jacob Neusner, Mona Charen, Irving Kristol, and his organization claims to speak for Judaism or liberals but he confirms that an ADL board member who signed the ad was asked to resigned from his position.
Eckstein hopes that, if the Washington, D.C., meeting is a success, Christians and Jews can avoid such public attacks on each other in the future. He wants to see the other in the future. He wants to see the two groups, after getting to know one another, tone down their rhetoric, set up a mechanism to resolve future conflicts, commit to ongoing meetings, and cooperate "in discerning Judeo-Christian values" in the United States.
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