Rabbi Arnold Sher and I are fortunate to have found good friends in the Christian ministry. Despite the theological distinctions, sometimes it’s a fellow member of the clergy who can best understand the day-to-day challenges that we each encounter.
It’s especially reassuring to have Christian colleagues who steadfastly stand behind the State of Israel. Reverends William Harter and David Spollett are two such men who in their own ministries have recognized the nuances and complexities of the Middle East and have taken an active, if at times controversial role in defending Israel while promoting peace and reconciliation between Israel and her neighbors.
Rabbi Sher and Rev. Harter’s friendship goes back to their days at Williams College. Each found fulfilling paths in their congregational work and in their involvement with their denominations.
As a Presbyterian minister, Dr. Harter served his church in Chambersburg Penn., for almost 40 years. Not only was he committed to the religious development of his church, he participated in several organizations whose work is focused on Jewish–Christian relations and Middle Eastern affairs. He has traveled extensively in the Middle East, including 36 trips to Israel. Rev. Harter was only the seventh recipient of the prestigious Isaiah Award given by the American Jewish Committee in 2006. The award recognizes extraordinary achievement in inter-religious affairs.
Rev. Harter was one of the most vocal opponents of the recent vote by Presbyterian Church (USA) to endorse divestment from three companies that do work in Israel. The controversial vote – by a count of 310-303 – is part of a larger strategy known as BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) and makes the Presbyterians the largest of the historic mainline Protestant denominations to take such an action.
Rev. Harter will be with us on Friday night November 14 to talk about the vote and his lifelong support of Israel.
As the minister of First Church Congregational in Fairfield for 30 years, Rev. Spollett is well known to many in our congregation. Deeply involved in areas of social justice, David was a co-founder of Operation Hope in 1986 with Beth El’s then-Rabbi Laibel Waldman.
And David is also an incredible friend of Israel and the Jewish People. He was instrumental in advancing the work of the Town of Fairfield’s Holocaust Commission and spent a sabbatical studying at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Over the years of our friendship. we’ve talked about co-leading an interfaith trip to Israel for congregants of First Church and B’nai Israel and have finally moved those plans from talk to reality. Join us from December 30, 2015 to January 10, 2016. Information about this amazing experience for us and we hope and trust for you is available by clicking here.
Speak to me if you have questions or interest. Opportunities for study and conversation will precede next year’s travels.