This post was modified on November 9th to include details of Rev. Eklof’s correspondence with a local synagogue.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane in Washington state, created quite a stir recently when they hosted the Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME) who showed the film “Occupation of the American Mind” to the congregation. When UUJME proposed inviting the larger Spokane community to view the film, the Rev. Todd Eklof decided to put it to a congregational vote. The congregation was supposed to vote on Sunday, October 28, but in light of the horrific shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in the interim, the vote was postponed.
The mere prospect of showing this film, which shows the unbalanced media coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the effort by the Israeli government to portray Israel in a good light whatever its actions, ruffled some feathers. Rev. Eklof received a letter from the local synagogue, signed by its Rabbi and Board President, insisting that he refrain from showing the film, whether to members or to the public. The charge was that the film is anti-Semitic because it promotes the “trope” insinuating “Jews are in control of the media.” In order to maintain good relations with the local Jewish community, while staying true to his Unitarian values, which uphold a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, Rev. Eklof offered to “have them work with me on discussing this Palestinian issue in a way that was honest, yet not offensive,” but his offer was rejected.
This is not the first time that a UU congregation has shown this film. The UU Church of Marblehead, in Massachusetts, has done so, and they too were criticized and even targeted by protesters who gathered outside the church when the film was being shown. This experience was subsequently made into a documentary, Road to Beloved Community.
To view the letter that CUSJ President Margaret Rao wrote to Reverend Todd Eklof, click here.
The takeaway from all this is that criticism of Israel is not criticism of Judaism and is not antisemitic, and that UUs must and will stand on the side of love and justice, even when it is unpopular or discomfiting to do so.