Simon Wiesenthal Center Says Anti-Semitic Church Leader Should Resign

January 27, 2022

Grassroots Presbyterian group calls on Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II to acknowledge “hate-filled words” 

LOS ANGELES – The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said that the leader of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, should resign for continuing to spout anti-Semitic and hate-filled false comments about American Jews and Israel.   

“Not just because he is morally blind. Not just because he is hypocritical. But because his raging indifference to violent acts of Jew-hatred are legitimized by his own radical politics thinly wrapped in theological tinder, “ said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, SWC’s Associate Dean and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Director of Interfaith Affairs in a new op-ed.

The SWC cited Nelson’s initial anti-Semitic statement on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Jan. 17, where he accused Israel of “21st Century slavery” and then used a classic antisemitic trope calling on the American Jews community to use its “influence” with the U.S, government to end Israel’s “immoral enslavement.” 

But after a public outcry against Nelson by both Jews and Christians, the Presbyterian leader, rather than apologize, doubled down on his antisemitic sentiments this week, and called his critics “uniformed.” 

“He should leave his post — now, because his raging indifference to violent acts of Jew-hatred are legitimized by his own radical politics thinly wrapped in theological tinder,” said Cooper.

SWC also welcomed a new statement critical of Nelson from a grassroots church called Presbyterians for Middle East Peace (PFMEP) that calls on Nelson to “acknowledge his hate-filled words” for continuing to spout false and dangerous antisemitic attacks against American Jews and the State of Israel. 

PFMEP criticized Nelson for the second time in a week and called for immediate action. “An acknowledgment by the Stated Clerk that the words he wrote were harmful to the Jewish community and interfaith work is needed. Now.”  

“We applaud PFMEP for having the courage to stand up to hate and anti-Semitism in their own house,” said Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, SWC’s Director of UN Relations & Strategic Partnerships. “We appreciate their commitment to continuing a positive relationship between Presbyterians and the Jewish people.”

PFMEP is a grassroots group of Presbyterian lay and clergy volunteers with a solid history of working with Jews in interfaith dialogue and who “want the PCUSA to be an effective peacemaker in the Middle East.”

PFMEP also sharply criticized Nelson, who as Stated Clerk is the highest-ranking official in the Presbyterian Church, for failing to address the Jan. 15 Sabbath attack on a Texas synagogue by a Muslim terrorist who held the rabbi and three worshippers hostage for 10 hours before law enforcement fatally shot him after the hostages escaped.

“It has now been over a week since the attack in Colleyville, and unlike our brothers and sisters in other mainline denominations, there have been no words from PCUSA to condemn the attack nor words of support for our Jewish neighbors who once again are under assault by anti-Semitism,” PFMEP said. 

SWC also took Nelson to task for repeating the long-standing anti-Semitic trope about Jews having too much influence in the U.S. government – especially when the hostage-taking Texas terrorist expressed the same false beliefs.  

“.. he [Nelson] gave a shout-out to the ugly conspiracy theory that is feeding so much of the recent explosion of anti-Semitism around the world, and in the U.S.: Jews have too much power, especially over the American government,” they said. “Nelson’s dog-whistles confirm him as dangerous anti-Semite.” 

For further information contact the Center’s Communications department at, join the Center on Facebook, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent directly to your Twitter feed.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).

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