SOJOURN Calls on JNF Southeast to Reverse Decision to Honor Anti-Gay Baptist Preacher

The Southern Jewish Resource Network Calls on Jewish National Fund's Southeast Zone to Reverse Decision to Honor Anti-Gay Baptist Preacher

Dr. Charles Stanley is slated to receive the Tree of Life Award at the 12th Annual Jack Hirsch Memorial Breakfast on April 23, 2015

Atlanta, GA - The staff and board of the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity (SOJOURN) have called upon the leadership of the Jewish National Fund's Southeast Zone to reverse their decision to honor noted anti-gay Baptist preacher, Dr. Charles Stanley. 

To emphasize their profound disappointment with JNF Southeast's decision, the staff and board of SOJOURN have sent the following letter to the JNF Southeast Leadership and the chairpeople of the Jack Hirsch Memorial Breakfast:


To: Beth Gluck, Director, JNF Southern Region

      Alan Lubel and Alan Wolk, Southeast Co-Presidents

     Julie & Danny Kleinman and Charlotte & Joel Marks, 12th Annual Jack Hirsch Memorial Breakfast Co-Chairs

On behalf of the staff, the board, and supporters of SOJOURN: The Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity, we wish to express our extreme disappointment in the choice of Dr. Charles Stanley as the recipient of the Tree of Life Award at this year’s Jack Hirsch Memorial Breakfast and strongly urge you to reconsider your decision. 

Dr. Stanley has a sordid history of virulent homophobic statements and actions. He has publicly called AIDS God’s punishment for America’s acceptance of homosexuality and called homosexuality “destructive behavior.” He has incorrectly claimed that being gay is a choice and stated that “medical research has proven, absolutely unquestionably, that the person can be free from homosexuality if they want to.” He has said that “God does not agree with the lifestyle of the homosexual” and that accepting gay people is “an act of disobedience to God.” And at one time, acting on his convictions, Dr. Stanley hired armed guards on horseback to roam the streets in order to keep gay pride marchers away from his church and distant from his congregants.

Dr. Stanley is an offensive and unsuitable choice for the Tree of Life Award. While his views as a Christian pastor on Israel may be in line with those of the Jewish National Fund, his views on homosexuality and the place of non-Christians in the world are simply incompatible with Jewish ethics and values, and are at odds with Israel’s outstanding record of progressive inclusion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community within its own borders. Choosing Dr. Stanley as your honoree sends the message to Atlanta’s LGBT and ally community that we are not welcome as supporters of JNF. It is simply impossible to separate Dr. Stanley’s long standing, vehement, and dangerous anti-LGBT practices from his pro-Israel advocacy. 

We know that you have received messages of concern from many members of the community including several rabbis about this controversial decision in an attempt to rectify this situation in a discrete manner. Your responses to these concerns have been inadequate in that they defend your decision and do not convey any awareness of the impropriety of honoring Dr. Stanley.

JNF’s Southeast Zone President, in response to these concerns, went so far as to share his hope “to see a large turnout from the gay and lesbian community to show Dr. Stanley the diversity of our organization in support of Israel.” His shortsighted request of the LGBT community shows JNF’s insensitivity and lack of understanding of the divisiveness the choice of Dr. Stanley brings.

We understand the complications and implications of disinviting Dr. Stanley, but we must insist that JNF do so. We cannot, in good conscience, encourage our community members to support an organization that would align itself with one of our community’s biggest detractors. This pains us greatly because we know of the incredible impact JNF has – and will continue to have – on the health and safety of the State of Israel.

Working together, we can turn this into a phenomenal opportunity to have an honest and productive discussion about our entire Jewish community and our collective responsibility to and love for Israel. Please do the right thing and acknowledge the mistake that was made, make amends with the LGBT/progressive Jewish community that is so invested in JNF’s success, and use this as an opening for meaningful dialogue.

Most sincerely,

Leanne Rubenstein, President

Rebecca Stapel-Wax, Executive Director


cc:  Ronald Lauder, JNF Chairman

      Jeffrey Levine, JNF President

      Russell Robinson, JNF CEO



Click here to add your name to SOJOURN's Community Letter to JNF.





The Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity (SOJOURN) promotes increased understanding and acceptance of individuals across the entire spectrum of gender and sexual orientation in the Southeast through education, outreach and advocacy, inspired by Jewish and universal ethics and ideals. 





Robbie Medwed

Robbie Medwed began working with SOJOURN when it was known as The Rainbow Center as a volunteer in 2008. He served as chair of the TRC Advisory Board and as co-chair of Purim off Ponce (2010, 2011) before moving into his current role as Assistant Director, where he oversees SOJOURN's educational programming and outreach, including our award-winning workshops and training seminars. Robbie holds a master's degree in Jewish education from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and has written curricula and nationally-recognized inclusive programs for the Marcus JCC of Atlanta, BBYO, USY, Camp Ramah, the Jewish Teen Funders Network, Babaganewz, and JewishGPS. Robbie is also a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and cyclist. Robbie can be reached at [email protected]