April 12, 2024
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Rabbis and Christian Leaders Lobby for Israel

Christian and Jewish leaders meet with Sen. Chris Murphy (left) from Connecticut and Sen. John Fetterman (center, back, in black) from Pennsylvania.

On January 31, a coalition of 70 rabbis and Christian pastors came together under the auspices of multiple organizations to lobby for Israel on Capitol Hill. The group consisted of approximately 50 Christian leaders and 20 rabbis, from varying foundations such as the Christian organization Eagles’ Wings, the American Christian Leaders for Israel, the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition and the Israel Allies Foundation.

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, chairman of the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition, explained the reason for the mission. “We felt it was important to let members of Congress know that support for Israel is broad-based and deep, and that it extends beyond the Jewish community. This was a unique opportunity for pastors and rabbis to show our solidarity with each other in our expression of support for Israel as Israel seeks to defeat Hamas. Having Jewish and Christian clergy unite and join together in this effort made a powerful impression. We were welcomed and well-received in the 20 to 30 visits we had.”

The walls in Sen. John Fetterman’s Washington office are covered with posters of the hostages.

Rabbi Weinblatt explained that they were motivated by the recognition that “those who support Hamas make a lot of noise and have garnered much attention, which may give some the mistaken impression that they represent public opinion. They do not. They are a minority who do not understand the threat posed by Hamas, an authoritarian terrorist network, to the entire free world, including the very people who are demonstrating on their behalf.”

Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, the rabbi of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan, was one of the organizers of the event. “We came to Washington because supporting Israel in her war with Hamas is an American issue, and an issue for all people of goodwill. Never before have rabbis and pastors, Christians and Jews, gone to Congress to lobby together, but it is happening today, as more Americans rise in concern that Iran and her proxies are threatening the very existence of a key American ally.

“Our voices are being heard,” Rabbi Steinmetz continued. “I found it particularly moving how many members of Congress and the Senate displayed symbols of solidarity with Israel. Rick Scott’s office has a large milk carton with a picture of 4-year old Ariel Bibas; John Fetterman has the walls of his office covered with posters of the hostages, both those held by Hamas and those who have been released.

Christian leader and pro-Israel advocate Jordana McMillan, the U.S. director of the Israel Allies Foundation.

“Jews have been persecuted in the past, but never before have so many stood side by side with us,” he concluded. “That was remarkable, and gives me enormous hope for the future.”

Rabbi Daniel Cohen, the rabbi of Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, Connecticut, is a member of the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition and was invited to join this trip. “These Christian leaders are interested in supporting Israel,” he explained, “not for an evangelical endgame, but because they believe in the words of the Torah—the Bible—that say ‘those who bless you will be blessed.’ And they want to ensure that America will stand with Israel.”

Rabbi Cohen reflected that this trip demonstrated that people’s physical presence in Washington truly does make a difference. “There is a lot going on there, and they have many priorities, But when their constituents take the time to go to Washington and go to a congressman’s office and say, ‘Thank you for the work that you have done,’ they greatly appreciate it.”

One politician who has been supportive of Israel told the group that he had been getting a great deal of pressure from his constituents to call for a cease-fire and to diminish his support for Israel. But he told them that he is holding his ground because he understands what is really important. Rabbi Cohen said: “We can’t underestimate the voices out there that are calling for a diminishment of support. We cannot take it for granted when they support us. They need our support and our voices matter.

One of the lobbying groups.

“It’s important to recognize that we want to be engaged in the conversation. The last thing we want is a situation where, God forbid, the doors are closed to us on Capitol HiIl. That’s why AIPAC was founded. We need relationships. To come down to connect and say, ‘Thank you, I care, and I support you,’ creates a relationship that isn’t only based on us asking for things. That helps the doors stay open.”

Jordana McMillan, the U.S. director of the Israel Allies Foundation, was one of the Christian leaders in attendance. She has been an advocate for Israel from when she was a young girl growing up in a pro-Israel church and home. She has worked with the IAF since its first international office opened in Washington in 2011. She speaks at international pro-Israel conferences and leads U.S. Congressional and State Legislator trips to Israel.

“I was honored to be a part of this incredible group of rabbis and pastors coming together for Israel,” McMillan said. “I believe this united front showed our nation’s leaders that we represent the majority of Americans who stand with Israel. Antisemites are loud and hateful—we came with a message of unity and hope. We came to thank our leaders for doing the right thing, for standing on the side of good, and to encourage them to give Israel the tools it needs to win the battle against evil. It was also our hope that through this advocacy day, our Jewish brothers and sisters would know that they are not alone. Christians across America, and indeed around the world, stand with you.”

Rabbi Daniel Cohen, the rabbi of Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, Connecticut, and Rep. Ritchie Torres.

McMillan reflected that the highlight of the trip for her was coming back together at the end of the day and seeing the relationships that had developed. “We ensured that each advocacy team had both Jewish and Christian representation, and when everyone returned with a spirit of joy and camaraderie, I felt we had truly accomplished something, even if it was just to encourage the Jewish community.”

Rabbi Cohen concluded by saying that it’s important for leaders in Jewish communities to partner with other faith communities in this critical moment in history. “We need to deepen our friendships with those who stand with Israel, in order to amplify the voices of support.”


Dassi Lewis is a staff writer for The Jewish Link.

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