In 1995, and again in 2015, the Montana Synod entered into an agreement with the Montana Association of Jewish communities, pledging to learn to understand one another better, and to support one another as we seek to be God's people in this world. We pledged to be, among other things, good neighbors.
During the last several weeks, some of our Jewish neighbors have experienced prejudice and intimidation, based on their being Jewish. Whitefish has been a focal point, but targeting of Jews for harassment has taken place in other places as well. This is not acceptable.
Many people have responded with support for the Jewish community. Churches have posted a "Montana Menorah" in their windows during Hanukkah, as a sign of solidarity. Human rights groups have made statements. And city governments have voted to stand against white supremacy and hate.
This is not the first time that Montana has seen anti-Semitism. In the 1990's, someone threw a brick through the window of a Billings home with a Menorah in it, and the community responded with putting pictures of Menorahs in hundreds of windows. The effort was led by Margie MacDonald, director of the Montana Association of Churches, and the ecumenical and interfaith response to "Not in Our Town" was strong. In response, the Montana Synod entered into dialogue with the Montana Association of Jewish Communities and forged an agreement of mutual respect and dialogue.
It was around the same time that the ELCA adopted a Declaration to the Jewish Community, repudiating the anti-Jewish statements of Martin Luther, many of which have been used to justify violence and prejudice, including the Holocaust. As a denomination, and as a Synod, we have gone on record against anti-Semitism in all forms. I encourage congregations to read and study the Montana Synod Agreement and the ELCA Declaration and be in conversation with Jewish neighbors, seeking common goals and working together. One congregation, Bethel Lutheran in Great Falls, has been the home to the local Jewish community for over a decade.
I conclude with a quote from the 1994 ELCA Declaration to the Jewish Community:
"Grieving the complicity of our own tradition within this history of hatred, moreover, we express our urgent desire to live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for the Jewish people. We recognize in anti-Semitism a contradiction and an affront to the Gospel, a violation of our hope and calling, and we pledge this church to oppose the deadly working of such bigotry, both within our own circles and in the society around us. Finally, we pray for the continued blessing of the Blessed One upon the increasing cooperation and understanding between Lutheran Christians and the Jewish community."
You can find links to:
Agreement between Montana Synod ELCA and MAJCO
Declaration of ELCA to Jewish Community
Jessica Crist, Bishop