ADL Letter to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Regarding Statement Directed at American Jews

January 19, 2022

In a letter to Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), ADL expressed dismay at a recent statement from the church that questioned the validity of Jewish statehood, and the morality of Jews and Judaism.

January 19, 2022

The Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
100 Witherspoon Street 
Louisville, KY  40202-1396 

Dear Reverend Nelson: 

We are writing to express our great pain and dismay at your irresponsible statement directed at American Jews on the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.    

We all pray for a future whereby Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side with self-determination, security and dignity. However, your call to action went well beyond criticism of Israeli policies in this complex conflict or even calls for justice for Palestinians. Instead, you presented Israel as the epitome of evil:  an unethical, immoral, dehumanizing, marginalizing entity that has put another people into “enslavement.”  While this may be a powerful rhetorical flourish, it is a false equivalency that obfuscates rather than clarifies.  Alarmingly, you further put the responsibility for this alleged evil entity onto the shoulders of the Jewish people as a whole, with an implicit condemnation of Jewish ethics and morality, and placed the onus for ameliorating this conflict on American Jews.   

Reverend Nelson, ADL views this construct as nothing less than antisemitism.  Your demonizing language towards Israel appears to question the validity of Jewish statehood, and the morality of Jews and Judaism.  By your formulation, unless they act against Israel, Jews (specifically American Jews) are implicated and judged guilty.  This not only holds all Jews accountable for Israeli policies, but essentially demands that Jews deny an integral aspect of their Jewish identity, that of a connection to Israel, their historic homeland, and to Jewish self-determination.  It must be noted that support for the existence of Israel is affirmed by the vast majority of Jews in the U.S. and around the world, and is not synonymous with supporting policies of a particular government, nor is it synonymous with opposing self-determination, and a viable and secure state for Palestinians. 

We cannot ignore the dangerous implications of your statements.  In the last months alone, we have seen how rash rhetoric related to Jews and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict created an environment which emboldens violent attacks against Jewish people and Jewish institutions.   Indeed, the timing of your irresponsible message was particularly hurtful and harmful, coming a mere day after the hostage taking at the Colleyville, TX synagogue, a shocking incident which underscored the sense of siege confronting the U.S. Jewish community.  Your words serve to reinforce that sense of vulnerability and besiegement and to empower those who express their hatred through violence.    

Reverend Nelson, we know that PC(USA) has been a long-time advocate for the Palestinian cause, and has at times used language and approaches that ADL and others in the Jewish community have viewed as unconstructive.  Regrettably, your January 17 statement goes well beyond unconstructive and can be clearly considered as prejudicial, irresponsibly tarring and endangering the Jewish people at a time when they are feeling intense vulnerability.   This action is particularly destructive coming from a faith leader, directed at another community.  We call on you to publicly reflect on the implications of this statement, retract it, and commit to constructively and sensitively engaging with the Jewish community on issues of mutual concern.   


Jonathan Greenblatt
CEO and National Director