As a practicing synagogue rabbi for over two decades at Congregation Sons of Israel, I had many occasions to interact and collaborate with other faith leaders in the South Jersey region. After studying Torah, Talmud, ethics, and history for over a decade, when discovering Christian love and support for Israel, it befuddled me. Like so many others, after reading, studying, and, learning about millennia of persecution and antisemitism, where did this Jewish and Zionist support come from?
Yael Eckstein, president and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), explained the situation in simple terms. “The premise of Christian support for Israel is found in Genesis,” citing Genesis 12:3, which explains that G-d “will bless those who bless you.” My experience engaging with likeminded faith leaders gleaned similar responses. Although there certainly may be some who maintain underlying hopes and wishes that a strong Jewish nation-state of Israel will precipitate Christian redemption, the clearly proclaimed basis for Christian support of Israel is from our Parshat Lech Lecha 12:3:
וַאֲבָֽרְכָה֙ מְבָ֣רְכֶ֔יךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ֖ אָאֹ֑ר וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָאֲדָמָֽה׃
G-d states unequivocally to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and curse the one who curses you; And all the families of the earth, shall be blessed through you.”
These are very strong and clear prophetic words that demonstrate that the people of Israel are the representatives of G-d on earth.
G-d proclaimed these words right after he instructed Abraham to leave the comforts of his home in Mesopotamia and depart to a foreign unidentified land. It was then that G-d promises He would have Abraham’s back, bless his supporters, and curse his opponents.
Now, almost four thousand years later we see just how true these words have been. As Mark Twain so eloquently wrote in his essay, Concerning the Jews (1899):
The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?
To answer Twain, the secret of Jewish immortality is found in our verse Genesis 12:3; i.e. the Jewish connection to G-d and Torah. There are more Jews studying Torah in Israel and around the world than ever before in world history. After 75 years since her rebirth, the state of Israel is poised to be home for the majority of world Jewry.
We are living in challenging but incredible times. Although antisemitism is skyrocketing around the globe, simultaneously Jews are confronting their Judaism, and what it means to be a Jew.
Here at Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey we support Jewish connections to Torah here, in Israel, and around the world. Through our Global Connections Area of Impact, we provide support to ensure Jewish identity continues to thrive and that the safety, security, and well-being of Jews is maintained globally.
We also have community programming, such as March of the Living as well as Gift of Israel, a program that financially assists young Jews so they can travel and learn in Israel. In fact, Gift of Israel enrollment is now open and parents who would like to gift their children the experience of traveling to Israel can learn more at jewishsouthjersey.org/goi.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are following in the peaceful footsteps of Egypt and Jordan. There is hope that Saudi Arabia is not far behind. The modern-day Abraham Accords will not only provide security and stability to Israel, but will also bring forth the blessings from the original Abraham Accords in Genesis 3:12.
Community Scholar in Residence