By: Dimas Guaico | Algemeiner | September 27, 2023
On June 28, 2022, I found myself standing outside the national headquarters of the Presbyterian USA (PCUSA) national convention, holding a sign that read, “Fight racism, not Jews.” Inside, leaders were deliberating on issues that would shape their denomination’s stance.
One of the positions discussed was recognizing the State of Israel as an apartheid state. It was a surreal moment, as I stood arm-in-arm with fellow Christians and Jewish friends, with colleagues from the Philos Action League, Pathways for Peace, The Combat Antisemitism Movement, and the Anti-Defamation League, amongst others, contemplating the paradox before me.
The Christian worldview that I believe in is based on compassion, faith, and community stand paramount; but here were Christians alienating, attacking, and further marginalizing the Jewish community.
According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, delegitimizing and demonizing Israel constitutes antisemitism. Sadly, the stance of many PCUSA activists isn’t a novel occurrence within my Christian community.
History features numerous examples of different Christian denominations fueling persecution against Jews — be it the Russian Orthodox Church’s late 1800s pogroms, the Catholic Church’s role in the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, or Protestant leaders’ writings against Jews during the Reformation.
Regrettably, this trend endures. Although PCUSA has notably taken such a stance, other denominations like the United Methodist Church and esteemed institutions like the College of Holy Cross and Notre Dame have also often subscribed to divisive, hateful rhetoric. Recently, a petition titled “The Elephant in the Room” gained momentum, echoing these recycled falsehoods and defamations against Israel. Signatories, including professors, pastors, musicians, and educators from across the globe, helped fuel this concerning narrative.
In the midst of these challenging times, fostering connections between the Jewish and Christian communities doesn’t have to be a complicated endeavor. There are practical examples that illustrate the power of unity and solidarity, like the event StandWithUs organized in 2022, where a group visited the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event featured Jewish and Christian students interacting, socializing, and learning together to foster better understanding and build connection across communities.
By creating such opportunities for shared understanding and empathy, we can bridge divides and work towards a future built on mutual respect and cooperation between Christians and Jews. These actions, no matter how small, can have a lasting impact in fostering unity among faith communities.
In 2019, I had the privilege of visiting Israel multiple times. Notably for me, I embarked on a journey to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum and memorial. My visit was unique and deeply moving. Guided by a son of Holocaust survivors, the experience took on a profoundly personal dimension. Unlike previous Holocaust museums I had visited, this guide wove his family’s story into the narrative. He recounted how his parents had endured the horrors of concentration camps, ultimately finding their way to the Jewish homeland that would become the modern State of Israel.
As our group walked through the exhibits, his account shed light on the weight of “Never Again.” For him and his generation, who bore witness to the Holocaust’s unfathomable atrocities, the phrase held a personal resonance. It wasn’t just a history lesson; it was a vow against the repetition of such horrors. It was during this poignant moment that the true meaning of “Never Again” crystallized for me. I understood that if I genuinely embraced this commitment, I also needed to actively impart its significance to my Christian community.
This drive led me to join StandWithUs, where I now get to live out that promise of “Never Again” through my work in bringing these communities together. As a Christian staffer, I have been so lucky to become a friend and mentor to so many Jewish students, and through this and other efforts, I know have created long-standing relationships that will serve both communities.
In a world where polarization has become commonplace, it is imperative that Christians help to promote understanding and unity among faiths. The struggle against antisemitism is a moral duty that transcends theological differences. Together, we can’t change history, but we can create a better future, replacing intolerance and division with acceptance and unity.
Dimas Guaico is the StandWithUs Mid-Atlantic Campus Regional Manager. He is a resident of Greenville, SC, and a graduate of Bob Jones University. StandWithUs is a 22-year-old international non-partisan education organization that supports Israel and fights antisemitism.
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