2010-11-17 / Letters

Help pay tribute to true friend of Israel Bill Sutter

For many years, some friends would say to me in jest, referring to my involvement in interfaith activities, “watch out, they’re looking to get your soul!” Whether Protestant, Catholic or Evangelical, Jews have in the past been the object of Christians seeking to convert Jews to Christianity. But times are changing.

Jewish-Christian relations have always been of great sensitivity in the Jewish community. But as time has passed, and Jews and Christians have gotten to know each other and learned about each other’s faiths. Bridges of understanding have been built and the fears and misperceptions of one for the other have been fading. Conversionary outreach on the part of most Christian denominations not only is not done, but it is frowned upon.

In South Jersey, the Jewish Community Relations Council has been in the forefront for decades building those bridges of understanding and cooperation, fighting those fears and misperceptions. The JCRC opened the doors to close cooperation with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Camden, with Protestant denominations, and in more recent years, with Evangelicals who support Israel while strongly condemning antisemitism and the targeting of Jews for conversion.

The relationship of JCRC and Friends of Israel (FOI), a national evangelical Christian organization based in South Jersey, and of Bill Sutter, its executive director, and me, began with a phone call nearly a decade ago. As the saying goes, the rest is history. It has been a close relationship of institutions and its directors ever since.

In 2003 and again in 2006, the JCRC co-sponsored trips to Israel with Friends of Israel. Christians had the unique opportunity to learn about Israel through the eyes of their Jewish companions as the Jews gained insight into the views of the Christians. Each year, Bill and Friends of Israel take hundreds of Christians from throughout the U.S. to Israel, and through the connections made on our jointly sponsored trips, Bill and FOI are able to bring greater depth and understanding of Israel to the participants.

Bill and Friends of Israel have been steadfast friends and supporters both of Israel and our local Jewish community. Through his leadership, Friends of Israel has cosponsored rallies with the JCRC in support of Israel and has participated in JCRC news conferences condemning terrorism against Israel. FOI has co-sponsored communitywide programs that help educate about Israel, and large numbers of Christians have attended the rallies and programs through the efforts of FOI.

As an additional means of demonstrating its support, Friends of Israel contributes to the Federation Annual Campaign and to the JCRC.

I am so pleased, as Bill’s friend and colleague in building this relationship over the years, to commend both Israel Bonds and the JCRC for selecting Bill as its special honoree to benefit the State of Israel and the JCRC.

I hope you will join me, and other Jewish and Christian friends of Bill, in attending the reception in Bill’s honor on Tuesday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Katz JCC. In doing so, we recognize and honor the efforts of both Bill and Friends of Israel in strengthening the Jewish State, of enriching the bonds of friendship among Christians and Jews in our community, and in paving the way forward in further joint endeavors.
Alan Respler
Executive Director Emeritus
JCRC of Southern NJ

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