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Marans said Jewish groups should continue pursuing local Christian-Jewish ties in addition to national ones.
“Liberal Protestants live side by side with Jews, and rabbis have relationships with local ministers,” Marans said. “Once the antipathy toward Israel of some national leaders is communicated in the context of these relationships, the local religious leadership is heard from and communicates to their national leadership their concerns.
“The Jewish community understands that the overwhelming majority of Americans and American Christians understand that Israel must defend itself and that Israel is not an aggressor, that Israel is on the front lines of terrorism and has modeled how to create a balance between security and concern for the individual rights of all of the inhabitants.”
Indeed, some Presbyterians are openly angry with their leader, the Rev. Grayde Parsons, who signed the letter.
“We know there’s a very small, very vocal group in the Presbyterian Church that wants to see Israel punished,” said the Rev. John Wimberly, co-moderator of an unofficial group called Presbyterians for Middle East Peace. “We think we represent the 70 percent of Presbyterians polled in 2009 who said that maintaining a strong diplomatic and military relationship with Israel should be a U.S. priority.”
He said Parsons’ signing of the letter “makes a lot of people mad and a larger number of people embarrassed.”
Parsons did not return JTA’s calls for comment.
David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel, a largely evangelical group often billed as the Christian AIPAC, called the move by the mainline Protestant churches to reach out to Congress an “accelerating trend” with a message for the Jewish community.
“This should be a wake-up call,” said Brog, who is Jewish. “Christians will be involved in Israel and the Middle East whether Jews accept that or not. We cannot take Christian support for Israel for granted. We have to actively engage our Christian neighbors and take the case to them, so that when they are active on this issue they support Israel.”