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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

August 15, 2014  RSS feed
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Text: T T T

Eckerd College bucks Presbyterians on divestment


Rev. Doug MacMahon, chaplain at Eckerd College, wrote “… this decision of the Presbyterian Church (USA) does not represent the position of Eckerd College or its Center for Spiritual Life.” Rev. Doug MacMahon, chaplain at Eckerd College, wrote “… this decision of the Presbyterian Church (USA) does not represent the position of Eckerd College or its Center for Spiritual Life.” When the General Convention of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted in June to divest from three American firms in accordance with the international BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) Movement against Israel, one Presbyterian institution in the Tampa Bay area – Eckerd College – rejected that stance.

The institution was founded in 1958 as Florida Presbyterian College, but was renamed

Eckerd College in 1972.

Not long after the vote to divest in Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions, three firms doing business in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Eckerd’s chaplain, the Rev. Doug MacMahon, posted comments on the web page of the college’s Center for Spiritual Life, rejecting the divestment vote.

“We are writing today to clarify that this decision of the Presbyterian Church (USA) does not represent the position of Eckerd College or its Center for Spiritual Life,” Rev. MacMahon’s notice stated. “Furthermore, we recognize and regret the tremendous hurt the church’s action has caused the Jewish community in the United States and throughout the world.”

Rev. MacMahon’s statement noted that since its founding, “Eckerd College has been related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and values its ongoing relationship to the larger church.

“In addition, Eckerd is a member of the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities. The College, however, is an independent entity and, as such, is not bound by the decisions of the Presbyterian Church (USA). While the church and the college maintain a relation- ship characterized by mutual respect, the positions of the church on various social and policy matters are not always reflective of the positions of Eckerd College.

“While we recognize that there are vitally important issues to be addressed in the Israeli Palestinian conflict, Eckerd College urges continuing dialogue rather than actions such as selective divestment, which only serve to foster further divisiveness.”

The stance by Eckerd drew praise from Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, executive director of Hillels of the Florida Suncoast, which has a Hillel chapter on the Eckerd campus.

“The courage that it took Eckerd College to stand up to its parent organization is profound,” Rabbi Rosenthal said. “Although, like anyone who exhibits courage, the [Eckerd] Administration would say they’re just doing what is right. What I say is … as the campus rabbi, I am proud to be affiliated with Eckerd College. In fact, I haven’t been this proud since, well … since [Eckerd President Ronald R. Eastman III] issued a scathing condemnation of the American Studies Association’s call for an academic boycott of Israel back in January.”


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