One of The Fellowship's missions is to build bridges between people of faith. And a historic partnership which we continue to work to strengthen is that between African-American Christians and the Jewish people. Writing at Patheos, Eliana Rudee tells of the latest Fellowship-organized tour of the Holy Land that inspired a group of Baptist leaders from the U.S.:
On a chilly Friday morning in Jerusalem, 14 American Baptist leaders filed into Colel Chabad’s Pantry Packers packing plant, ready to prepare food for Israel’s underprivileged. Despite the cold, Michael Seiler, Manager of Liaison Services with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (“The Fellowship”), volunteered his Friday morning to brief the Baptist leaders, promising that this activity would warm everyone’s hearts.
Indeed, hearts were warmed and bridges were built during the group’s weeklong tour around Israel, from February 13-20. For most, this tour represented their first time in Israel, and nearly everyone cited their great excitement about touring the land they invoke daily in Bible passages and having the opportunity to walk where Jesus walked.
The group, part of The Fellowship, learned about “historic bonds” between the Christian and Jewish people through visits to Christian and Jewish holy sites such as the Western Wall, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, Masada, Caesarea, Muhraka (Horn of Carmel), and Meggido. They also made a special visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.
Reverend Samuel C. Tolbert Jr., from Lake Charles Louisiana, led the group. His goal was to bring back to his community the value in “doing what we have been called to do by God,” namely, being a blessing to Israel through missions to Israel. He noted that African American churches are “passing up a lot of opportunities to be blessed,” citing Genesis 12:1-3: “I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.”
In addition to citing religious reasons to support Israel, many Baptist leaders appeal to historical ties between Jews and the African American community, citing that Jews were there for them when they needed it during the civil rights movement, and now Jews need their solidarity. They hope to extend solidarity between the two groups by renewing the historical relationship from the 1960s, when Jews marched (two of them killed) in the Selma Civil Rights March with Martin Luther King Jr.
Upon returning home, Reverent Tolbert said that he was especially grateful to “strengthen our connection to the Israeli people and most importantly, to G-d.”
“I will not go home and preach the same,” said Earlene Coleman, a Pastor at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, representing the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention...