About 50 evangelicals and Roman Catholics met with an equal number of their Jewish counterparts in May to launch an alliance to work for a more moral American society. The new alliance, the Center for Jewish and Christian Values, is the brainchild of Chicago rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.

When, in June 1994, the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith released a vitriolic attack on the Christian Right, relations between Jews and Christians "came to a rupture as never before," Eckstein said. Subsequently, a closed-door meeting between Jewish and Christian political leaders helped clear the air and warrant a more public effort at coalition building.

Honorary chairs of the center are Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), an evangelical Christian, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), an orthodox Jew. Lieberman spoke in favor of school vouchers and public financing of faith-based social agencies.

Organizers believed observant Jews and practicing Christians have many values in common. But before opening the conference, the center's executive director, Chris Gersten, announced that "the legal issues regarding abortion are not on the table for discussion."

Christian participants, however, refused to keep silent, insisting on the importance of identifying conception as the beginning of protected human life. The Christian Legal Society's Sam Casey tried to bridge the gap by suggesting that because both groups shared an abhorrence of violence, abortion and euthanasia be approached as instances of violence.

Gersten did outline a strategy for moral renewal that he hoped both Christians and Jews present would back, with the help of local clergy; it includes adoption reform; divorce reform; active opposition to gratuitous sex and violence, as well as hostility ...

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