January 2006 Church & State | People & Events

American Jewish groups are concerned about the growing political power of the Religious Right — and are organizing to counter it.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in early December hosted a private meeting in New York that included ADL staff mem­bers along with representatives from the Union for Reformed Judaism, the Am­er­ican Jewish Congress, the Jewish Coun­cil for Public Affairs and the Union of Orth­odox Jewish Congrega­tions of Ameri­ca.

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman recently gave a series of strongly worded speeches in which he criticized Religious Right groups for trying to “Christianize” the United States. The conservative Washington Times newspaper reported that Foxman convened the meeting to determine if other Jewish leaders share his concerns.

Not all groups that attended do. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congrega­tions of America, for example, often sides with conservative Christian groups on social issues. The organization’s Nathan Diament told The Times he urged Foxman to enter into a dialogue with the evangelical community.

One attendee, Marc Stern of the American Jewish Congress, said the meeting will lay the groundwork for future gatherings. Stern said the meetings are not designed to attack evangelical Christians but merely to help them understand the rights of religious minorities. He cited the recent controversy over the appearance of favoritism toward evangelical Christianity at the U.S. Air Force Academy as an example.

“There’s a tone deafness in [the evangelical] community about religious freedom,” Stern said. “There seems to be among them a lack of awareness as to how they’re crowding out others.”

Stern added, “Abe’s not saying there’s an imminent pogrom from evangelicals; everyone agrees on that. It was intended to see if there’s enough common ground to go further. I think the answer is yes.”

Some activists in the Jewish community are willing to step up the rhetoric against the Religious Right. This month Rabbi James Rudin, formerly of the American Jewish Committee, will publish a new book titled The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans for the Rest of Us.