Washington’s Jewish communal establishment went on a date this week. It was with three staff members of the evangelical group Christians United for Israel.
“In many ways, we hope it is going to lead to a very nice relationship,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, which invited CUFI to a series of private meetings this week with Washington-area Jewish groups.
“The goal is to allow everybody, in a safe space, to come to their own decision about what they think their relationship with CUFI should be, if any,” he said.
As a pro-Israel group, CUFI is a natural — and substantial — ally of Jewish supporters of Israel, Halber said.
“I realized we had a true ally on this issue of Israel,” he said, “CUFI is a 5.3 million member organization and there are 6 million Jews in the United States. How can we not welcome them?”
The problem is that evangelicals have a reputation in the largely liberal Jewish community of being the most conservative Christians in the country.
And the mission of evangelicals to “save” Jews by encouraging them to accept Jesus as the messiah is a reminder of the centuries of persecution by Christians.
But an alliance first requires laying down a foundation of trust among suspicious members of the Jewish community, Halber said.
“It is natural for Jews to be suspicious of Christians professing love for them,” Halber said.
Not all CUFI members are alike, said Shari Dollinger, Co-executive Director of CUFI, who attended the meetings. “We represent both sides of the political aisle. We’re bipartisan. We’re [a] single issue [organization.]”
Also attending were CUFI National Outreach Director Victor Strysky and Communications Director Ari Morgenstern.
They met with The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, lay members of the JCRC, the Washington Board of Rabbis and others involved in Israel-related causes, Halber said.
Halber and the CUFI staff members declined to name individuals who attended the meetings or what was discussed.
These meetings are the beginning of the partnership between JCRC and CUFI, Halber said.