Israeli President Addresses Black Christian Leaders, Rev. A.R. Bernard’s Congregation in Brooklyn, Receives Extremely Warm Welcome

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with Pastor and Christian Cultural Center Founder A. R. Bernard, Brooklyn, U.S., Jan. 25, 2015. Photo by Mark Neiman/GPO
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with Pastor and Christian Cultural Center Founder A. R. Bernard, Brooklyn, U.S., Jan. 25, 2015. Photo by Mark Neiman/GPO

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin launched his first official visit to the United States on Sunday at Brooklyn’s Christian Cultural Center, a predominately Black megachurch and the largest church in New York City.

Speaking to the some 2,500 black congregants, including Senior Pastor Reverand Dr. A.R. Bernard and Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rivlin invoked the famous civil rights leader.

“I also have a dream—I have a dream that once again God will knock on our door,” Rivlin said. “I dream that Jerusalem, which is a microcosm for the world, will serve as a model for coexistence between different communities and religions. We, the Jews and Muslims, are the children of Abraham; We are all the children of God.”

Rivlin also mentioned that Jews and blacks have a shared history of struggle, and warned against Holocaust denial.

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SOURCE: The Algemeiner

When Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries announced that “The President of Israel is in da house”, thousands of devout African-American Christians broke out in enthusiastic applause. By the time Reuven Rivlin finished his signature folksy deliverance of his succinct “I also have a dream speech”, the crowd at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn was begging for more. It was an incongruous yet utterly heart-warming launch of Rivlin’s first visit to the United States as the tenth President of Israel.

In an event that contrasted sharply with the negative atmosphere generated in recent days by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s planned speech in Congress – and which also differed dramatically from run of the mill appearances of most visiting Israeli politicians before Jewish audiences – Rivlin succeeded in charming his crowd and, admittedly, delighting the handful of Israelis in the audience as well. He linked the Holocaust, Zionism and the establishment of Israel with African-American liberation from slavery and the Civil Rights movement, garnishing with an “I also have a dream” nod to Martin Luther King that “Jerusalem will serve as a model of coexistence.”

The warmth shown to Rivlin by the crowd in New York only highlighted the frost currently being directed at Netanyahu by the White House in Washington. In fact, 24 hours before his departure from Israel on Saturday night, the administration suddenly initiated contacts with the Presidents’ House in Jerusalem in an effort to arrange a last-minute meeting between Rivlin and Obama, upon the latter’s return from India and Saudi Arabia. Rivlin’s office cited “schedule conflicts” as having scuttled the effort, though it also stands to reason that he preferred to steer clear of the raging war of words surrounding Netanyahu’s scheduled address to Congress at the beginning of March.

If Rivlin’s own timetable won’t get upended by the winter storm slated to hit the New York area on Monday afternoon, the president is scheduled to launch a Yad Vashem exhibition at UN headquarters on Monday evening, to meet with Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and to address the General Assembly on Tuesday in honor of International Holocaust Day. On Monday morning he will travel to West Point where he will lay a wreath at the grave of Colonel Micky Marcus, the American officer who volunteered to assist the fledgling Israeli army in the 1948 War of Independence and was killed by friendly fire.

Rivlin is also slated to meet with Henry Kissinger as well as Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo of New York and to visit the 9/11 memorial in downtown Manhattan. But the departure from the regular run of such visits is Rivlin’s meeting on Wednesday with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz and the Hispanic community – and the spiritual celebration that launched his visit on Sunday morning at the Christian Cultural Center (CCC) in the Flatlands neighborhood in Brooklyn, a few miles west of Kennedy Airport.

The church’s famous gospel choir and the crowd of thousands sang “Baruch Hashem Adonai” “Jehovah Jireh you are my provider” and other hymns as they awaited Rivlin in a church that is the largest in New York and thus holds 3-4 prayer services every Sunday to cater to its members. After short introductions by Jeffries and Israeli Consul General Ido Aharoni, Pastor and CCC Founder A. R. Bernard introduced Rivlin as a “moral compass” who speaks out for civil rights of minorities, especially Israeli Arabs. Then it was the president’s turn to deliver his carefully written speech that strikingly hit home with his audience.

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SOURCE: Haaretz – Chemi Shalev

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