Right after George W. Bush was elected President, David Harris asked members of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), "How many of you voted for Bush?" After an uncomfortable silence, a smattering of hands went up among several hundred people.

Such results do not surprise Harris, who is executive director of the AJC. He regularly asks fellow Jewish leaders, "How can we expect evangelical Christians to support our concerns if we support none of theirs?"

That mindset is changing. In May 2001 AJC leaders invited Bush to their annual meeting. The President told an attentive audience about his faith in Christ, his intolerance of religious bigotry, and his faith-based foreign policy. One AJC leader observed, "The wellspring of Bush's decency is his faith."

In June the AJC board informed staff members that relations with evangelicals were to be freer and more open—not cautious and defensive. "These people [evangelicals] are my neighbors and friends," one board member said. "I won't insult them by treating them with reserve and caution."

This developing realignment of the AJC provides strong evidence that the outspoken coalition of pro-Israel American Jews and evangelicals reflects a deeper and longer-lasting change in relations between largely conservative evangelicals and their mostly liberal Jewish counterparts.

"I sense a new appreciation on the part of AJC and other Jewish groups for evangelicals," said the Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land, who serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom with the AJC's Felice Gair. "There is a difference in attitude. They have gotten to know evangelicals better. They are less threatened by evangelicals."

Uneasy history

The American Jewish Committee, with 120,000 members ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.