Jewish Community Relations Council Response to Ed Felien’s With God on our Side

jcrc-300x253There was a time in the 1930s and 1940s when Minneapolis had its share of anti-Jewish clergy preaching hatred of the Jews from church pulpits.  Fortunately, the growing civic disapproval of racism and anti-Semitism in the post war years gradually deprived these clergy of their audiences.
Unfortunately, after a span of about 70 years, the Southside Pride has reverted to printing commentary about Jews and their beliefs in the most unflattering light.  The spirit of Luke Rader and William Bell Riley rises from such commentary.
The Ed Felien piece in question—“With God on our Side: the theology of Zionism”—is both confused and an expression of shocking disdain for Jews and Judaism.  Oddly, Mr. Felien equates contemporary Jews with the ancient Israelites of the Bible.  Further, he compounds this error by citing Biblical text without any historical context and with the unsubstantiated assumption that such verses are the literal blueprint for contemporary Israeli policies.  In fact, many of the laws cited by Mr. Felien were never literally followed, even several thousand years ago.  Moreover, no contemporary Jew or Christian—let alone the modern State of Israel —literally follows the laws of Deuteronomy.  Despite Mr. Felien’s disdain for Jews, however, the Bible remains the ethical foundation for contemporary Judaism and Christianity.  No wonder, given that the most repeated Biblical admonition is to love the stranger.
The current war is a truly awful reality because Israel is trying to defend its citizens.  We pray that what Felien calls the “captivity of the Palestinians” ends not in desperate terrorism but in diplomatic negotiation to create two states.  Israel has tried to return land in exchange for peace for the past 47 years so that Palestinian children can live in peace and so too Israeli children.
In summary, it is wrong to isolate a few phrases from the Hebrew Bible and to claim this is the nature of contemporary Judaism or the Rosetta Stone for understanding Israeli foreign policy.  As the editor of a newspaper which purports to represent the “racial and cultural diversity of the Southside” and “oppose[s] racism and other efforts to keep us apart as a community,” Mr. Felien ought to take his own paper’s mission closer to heart.
Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker, Mount Zion Temple
Steve Hunegs, Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas

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