Presbyterian business decision causes schism with Manatee-Sarasota Jewish Federation

HERALD STAFF REPORTJune 28, 2014 

MANATEE -- Howard Tevlowitz, executive director of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, said the organization expresses regret over the Presbyterian Church decision to divest in three American firms that supply products and technology to Israel.

This vote was passed by A margin of 310-303 at the church's legislative body at the 221st General Assembly in Detroit.

"We are disappointed, hurt and saddened -- but not surprised," Tevlowitz said in a news release. "Granted the animus that a determined core group of church officials has consistently demonstrated their bias against both the Jewish people and the state of Israel, this decision is all too predictable. We could see this action coming. But that doesn't make it any less damaging."

On Sunday's "Meet the Press," Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly denounced the action.

"It should trouble all people of conscience and morality because it's so disgraceful," Netanhayu said. "You know, you look at what's happening in the Middle East, and I think most Americans understand this: They see this enormous area riveted by religious hatred, by savagery of unimaginable proportions. Then you come to Israel and you see the one democracy that upholds basic human rights, that guards the rights of all minorities, that protects Christians.

"Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East. So most Americans understand that Israel is a beacon of civilization and moderation."

Tevlowitz is joined in protest by Rabbi Howard Simon, chaplain of Kobernick-Anchin and Pastor Joey Mimbs, of Bradenton's Bethel Baptist Church.

Each is a co-chairman of the Heller Israel Advocacy Initiative, which advocates for peace and security in Israel through education, information and community awareness. The group also addresses anti-Israel activities in the Sarasota-Manatee region.

"The Presbyterian leaders pushing for this vote claim to support a peaceful resolution of this complex conflict in the Left Bank," said Mimbs. "But if peace is the goal, pushing for divestment is exactly the wrong way to pursue it."

Tevlowitz said the divestment will have a devastating impact on relations between mainstream Jewish groups and the national Presbyterian Church.

"We hold their leadership accountable," says Tevlowitz. "They failed to isolate and repudiate the radical, prejudiced voices of their own denomination. This decision is the result."

Tevlowitz said the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee remains committed to challenging assaults on Israel's legitimacy and its right to exist as Jewish state.

The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to save Jewish lives and enhance Jewish life in the Sarasota-Manatee region, in Israel and throughout the world. The federation is responsive when worldwide catastrophes occur.

Information: 941-371-4546 or go to jfedsrq.org.

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