Jews Are Called Upon To Reassess Their Views of Christianity, Recognizing We Worship The Same God
Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
A statement drafted by four Jewish scholars and endorsed by more than 150 others calls upon Jews to reassess their views of Christians and Christianity—and to reflect on the idea that Jews and Christians worship the same God and take their authority from the same book, the Bible.
Titled "Dabru Emet"—Hebrew for "Speak The Truth'—the document was drafted by Dr. Tikva Frymer-Kensky of the University of Chicago Divinity School, Dr. David Novak of the University of Toronto, Dr. Peter W. Ochs of the University of Virginia and Dr. Michael A. Signer of the University of Notre Dame. The four said they were responding to "a dramatic and unprecedented shift in Jewish and Christian relations" in recent years following statements of "remorse" from Christians about the past treatment of Jews.
As part of their eight points, which appeared in a full page advertisement in The New York Times (Sept.10, 2000), the scholars asked Jews to consider that:
· Christians appreciate that Israel was given to Jews as "the physical center of the covenant between them and God."
· Jews and Christians accept the moral principles of the Torah, the Jewish Bible.
· Nazism was not "an inevitable outcome of Christianity."
· The, irreconcilable difference between Jews and Christians will not be settled until God redeems the entire world and not resolved by "one community insisting it has interpreted Scripture, more accurately than the other."
· An improved relationship between Jews and Christians will not weaken Jewish practice nor accelerate the cultural and religious assimilation of Jews. Christianity originated within Judaism but is not an extension of it.
· Jews and Christians must work together for justice and peace.
Rabbi Samuel Sandmel, resident Jewish scholar at the Baltimore-based Institute for Jewish and Christian Studies, which facilitated discussions leading to the document, said it is unique because it deals with Christianity "from a theological perspective." (Washington Post, Sept. 9, 2000)
Supporters, who come from all of Judaism's major denominations, hope the document will prompt Jews to learn more about Christianity and "approach the Christian world in a more nuanced way," Sandmel added.
Reconstructionist Rabbi Sidney Schwartz, president of the Washington Institute for Jewish leadership and Values, said he finds "more anti-Christian bias on the part of Jews" than the other way around.
"We're not going to be a traitor of our own faith by joining with other faiths" for social action and other activities, says Schwartz, who founded the E Pluribus Unum project, which brings Jews, Catholics and Protestants together to work on faith-based social justice projects.
Dr. Ochs of the University of Virginia said: "We want to acknowledge the good work that they're doing. Christians are trying to recover the Jewish nature of Christianity" and change things that are not consistent with the Jewish roots of their religion.
He pointed out that while relations between Catholics and Jews receive a lot of attention, many of the mainline Protestant denominations have taken important steps over the past two decades in repairing their relationships with Jews.
Among the signatories to the statement are such figures as Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Orthodox Rabbi Irving Greenberg, president of the Jewish Life Network and chair of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
The first point in the declaration declares, "Jews and Christians worship the same God. Before the rise of Christianity, Jews were the only worshippers of the God of Israel. But Christians also worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; creator of heaven and earth. While Christian worship is not a viable religious choice for Jews, as Jewish theologians we rejoice that, through Christianity, hundreds of millions of people have entered into relationship with the God of Israel."