The Words of the Kaufmann Family
Testimony on the Jerusalem Declaration
September 12, 2003
The central chronology of the Jewish Christian Reconciliation pilgrimage to the Holy Land are delineated in a number of sources and essays.
I write, not to repeat what is now widely recounted, but rather to provide a single perspective inside the larger picture.
This effort was delicate beyond words. Potential for disaster was significant, even likely. At least two worlds and two cultures were to meet a moment and surely hell or heaven would prevail.
True Christians of the ACLC traveled in good faith to carry out a great historical task. Leaders such as Dr. Yang, President Jenkins, Archbishop Stallings, C. Phillip Johnson and others undertook the careful, demanding, exciting, and spirit-filled work to lead a community of 132 Christian (and Muslim) leaders from the United States on a pilgrimage through Rome and Israel.
In addition to the Christian, spiritual leadership and guidance, Dr. Wilson of the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) traveled together with the Pilgrims bearing a unique but indispensable mission to the group. Dr. Wilson originally from Jewish roots and traditions taught during the trip with the mission to help Christian and Muslim clergy intensify their sensitivity to the Jewish experience, especially its 2000 year history in diaspora, and the unspeakable persecution under Christians during this time. The Christians had to learn that their call to harmonize with Jews was not a simple matter.
This mission would not have even a remote possibility of success had not these clergy taken their crosses down from their churches before presenting themselves to their Jewish brothers and sisters in repentance.
I took up service in a different part of the equation. The American clergy has enjoyed the benefit of great investment of time, education, and human, and material resources. The ACLC is a deeply grounded conference, whose members have enjoyed steady and significant education and practical time involved in such missions as this trip to Israel.
Jewish leaders however, have had no such history or extensive investment and education. The movement of the Unification family in Israel, while exemplary has never received the kind of resources available to central providential nations. Despite this, in Israel both Unification members and friends of the movement among major religious and political figures have proven remarkably responsive to providential demands. Responsibility for this incredible success must accrue to Reverend and Mrs. Abe, Mr. Hod Ben Zvi, and the phenomenal team of Japanese Missionaries. This superior quality notwithstanding was not sufficient to guaranty success in the million to one shot this pilgrimage was soon to bring.
I traveled to Israel a week to ten days in advance of the Christian delegation. As the Christians toured and studied, Hod Ben Zvi (Israel national leader) and I visited the cornerstone Jewish leaders whose decisions would make or break the condition of reconciliation. Under the guidance of the Reverend and Mrs. Abe (Israel, Eve national messiah couple) and together with the sterling support of indigenous Israeli members (Miri Kamar and Adi Raviv) Hod and I spent day after day in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere holding meetings to introduce, educate, and prepare the core Jewish leadership.
I lived with the members and worked day to day in the Unification center. We each had our respective life and work, a bee hive of focused, discrete assignments and responsibilities. In those days the Christian Clergy arrived and began touring the Holy Land.
By day we would continue our mission of meeting and education of Jewish leaders (while the Unification family continued their mission of conference preparation, and mobilization for conference participation), and by night Hod, Mr. Abe and I would go to the conference hotel to meet with the ACLC leadership, Dr. Wilson, and other volunteers. We hammered our way through the program, and other aspects of the main day and main purpose of the journey.
This program preparation was no simple matter, everything had to be designed perfectly so as to create the one in a million chance that the moment of reconciliation would be blessed by God, and history could move forward to a new era. The exact order of speakers, the exact topics, and a thousand things had to be considered and decided upon during these weary late night confabs.
We fought and argued through the issues, but never outside of love and common devotion to God, True Parents, the people of God, and the Will of God. We remain grateful to our elders Mrs. Erikawa, Mr. Abe, and Dr. Yang who held the center and kept the bright line of God's central desire before us without modification or equivocation.
One thing eluded us however, try as we would, until well past the 11th hour. We just could NOT come up with the exact content of the declaration which singularly would define the mission as a success or failure.
The trickiest part was that all people from both sides of the reconciliation effort would have to repent publicly for their past failures as stewards of God's providence and covenant. Somehow the Jews too would be asked to repent. The likelihood of achieving this was the part which seemed as remote as a distant star. We could not find our way around the simple and unbearable fact is that for 2000 years the Jews have been tortured, killed, and hideously persecuted in the name of Jesus. How on earth could they be asked to repent for anything remotely connected to the single dominant source of their unspeakable suffering for millennia.
Our debates and discussions went round and round in circles. No one was satisfied. The light of hope eluded us. We could not find the words, the "angle," the enunciation which stood a chance to win in its moment of history.
The final moment had drawn near. It was 1 am the night before the symposium day, and we were hardly at even a beginning. We were trapped beneath the concrete ceiling of even the most brilliant of our reasoning capabilities, but nothing would yield. What on earth could make the universal call to repentance viable? What could give that call a chance at a sufficient response in its moment? Our best efforts kept looking like nothing more impressive than mere horse-trading. "If we repent for the history of anti-Semitism wrought by our ancestors, will you repent for the role of your ancestors in the death of a good man (Jesus)?" It wasn't working. It didn't feel right. Had we come to trade guilt? We'd hit an absolute wall, we'd wandered into pitch black, but the leaders clung close together in faith.
In a moment a fissure in the heavenly firmament allowed a ray to true light to shine through and the declaration cracked through its shell to be born. What made shared repentance possible was NOT finding the perfect wording of a fair trade. It was possible because the saints of th spiritual world had already declared their oneness and common beliefs in the true providence of God (most particularly in the Clouds of Witnesses, published ___ (date____).
The elements of each part of repentance rested in a unified balance on the solid bedrock of the Clouds revelation. The already accomplished oneness of Christians and Jews. All we had to do was open the way once again for these historical leaders and founders to speak aloud to their descendants in faith. To speak aloud to the world in a clear voice. With the Clouds woven throughout the tapestry of the text, The Jerusalem Declaration was ready. It's moment though, still to come.
It's moment would revolve around key representative figures from each believing community present. The Christian would be Archbishop George Augustus Stallings. The Jew, Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan, Itzhak Bar Dea.
At breakfast that morning I sat to brief Archbishop Stallings on the plan for the presentation of the declaration. Taj happened by and joined us. Taj explained that he had been having revelations and clear guidance from God for weeks on this very matter, and allowed that he wanted to share his insights with the Archbishop. Taj explained that the only chance for the declaration to succeed would be for a Christian leader and Christians present to repent absolutely, wholly, unconditionally and without ANY reservation or conditions to the Jewish brothers and sisters. When Archbishop Stallings led of the day with the opening keynote, it clearly seemed that our time and Taj's words were also manifest in his remarks. His address set the day beautifully on a hopeful course.
For his part, on the same panel, Rabbi Bar Dea likewise moved all present toward a heart and purpose for reconciliation. The day proceeded marvelously under blessing with only negligible parts which might have been improved. There were further presentations from distinguished Israeli leaders, as well as a little fun and entertainment to break up the day. A part of the program which seemed enormously successful and important were the small group sessions.
These occurred regularly throughout the day, with mixed groups under the moderation of carefully briefed group leaders from both respective traditions. It is possible that the miraculous success might have stumbled were it not for the close and intimate bonds that developed throughout the day at small group sessions. The topics were explicit and focused on the difficult issues of the day. Thus we did NOT simply rely on ramping up a bunch of cheerleading for the moment of the declaration. The investment and preparation went deep into the community, and though much is made of Rabbi Bar Dea's role in the signing, I trust that the solid ground of reconciliation had been firmly built far beyond the public role he played in the moment.
At the end of the day's work, the declaration was introduced. It was read by Archbishop Stallings, held up and translated by Israeli Minister of Infrastructure, Baruch Shalev, and signed by Stallings, Bar Dea, and Abdelsalam Hosain Mamasra. It should be noted that at the time of this writing, Rabbi Bar Dea has publicly expressed second thoughts for his signing. We hope that his concerns and the pressures from his constituencies soon dissolve, so that he can retain the glorious role he played in that moment. But this is his own way. The Rabbi continues his intense devotion to interreligious reconciliation in his own ministry, and in collaboration with the mission of the IIFWP. The habit of celebrity veneration which tempts us to focus too heavily on individuals, is thankfully avoidable in this instance of the Jerusalem declaration. To focus solely on Rabbi Bar Dea would do a great disservice to the hundreds of significant Jewish leaders present who invested deeply in the process of the day, and met the call of God, each in their own integrity and commitment solemnly and gratefully signing the declaration.
In preparation for the moment of the presentation of the declaration, many of us in the leadership took extreme precautions that the matter be handled with utmost integrity and forthrightness. No one was to be put on the spot or otherwise manipulated in the process. The declaration was read slowly, clearly, and without drama, emotion, or expectation. Mr. Shalev translated completely, fully, and directly. As such the moment of the reading was one of the most dramatic and frightening moments of my life. It had come to the point where the single most difficult charge in the history of religion was playing out before our eyes. The time slowed down to a crawl. My heart ripped through my chest for what felt like hours.
I removed myself from any distraction or conversation. I stood in an inaccessible place in the hall, and just looked, listened, and prayed. After the reading the Archbishop, assuming nothing, turned and asked if the Rabbi would sign this joint declaration of repentance, and make a new beginning together with him. The Rabbi, as you've read elsewhere, said, I will sign it if my Muslim brother will come with us to sign it. Taj brought forward from his table Sheikh Abdelsalam, and the three brothers collapsed into an embrace, a virtually physical oneness, which shot lightening crackling into the far reaches of heaven.
The heavens and the spiritual world opened like a cloud burst, literally raining on all present. The document glistened golden under the passing of the pen one to another. People stood as if in a downpour after a drought, reveling in the end of a curse, and the promise of Spring.
This miracle should provide an occasion for repentance, and invite deeper reflection on the person and work of Reverend Moon.
Dr. Frank Kaufmann
Inter Religious Federation for World Peace
4 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036
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