The Importance of Jewish-Christian Relations
By Patrick McInerney
25 February 2015
Jewish-Christian relations are important for five reasons:
1. Self-Understanding: We Christians cannot understand ourselves apart from Judaism. Jesus Christ lived and died a faithful Jew. His mother, Mary, foster father, Joseph, apostles, disciples and most of the first generation of “followers of the way” were all observant Jews. Christians accept the books of Jewish scripture as part of God’s revelation, using them to cast light onto Jesus and re-interpreting them in the light of Jesus. Many Christian prayers, rituals and theology have origins in Jewish observance. For all these reasons, we Christians can only understand ourselves by appreciating our ancestral roots in Judaism.
2. Engagement with Otherness: The “parting of the ways” between Jew and Christian is the first time that the nascent Church had to deal with otherness, its own otherness from the Jewish tradition from which it emerged, and the enduring identity of the Jewish communities who did not accept the Christian claims (see St Paul’s agonized reflection on this dilemma in Romans 9-10). The breakdown of the symbiosis that had prevailed in the first decades had fateful consequences for the Jews in the centuries that followed.
The first followers of Jesus were all Jews. During the first decades after the resurrection, the Jesus movement was a movement within Judaism, the disciples continuing to attend the Temple and the Synagogue, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Certainly, Gentiles were incorporated into the Jesus movement, and their obligations/freedom from observing Jewish law was a major debate among the Judaeo-Christians at that time, as recounted in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Pauline literature.
After the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD the relations became more strained. There are intimations of the animosity between Christians and Jews in the later New Testament writings, especially in the Johannnine community who had perhaps by then been expelled from the synagogue. As the Jesus movement spread more in the Hellenic and Roman worlds, the Judaeo-Christian community at Jerusalem lost its prominence and the Jesus movement and Jewish practice evolved into the distinct traditions of “Christianity” and “Rabbinic Judaism” as the twin (rival) offspring of ancient Israel.
However, the degree of separation varied from time to time and from place to place; and even in the fourth century some Christian leaders were railing against their fellow Christians for attending the Synagogue e.g. Chrysostom (c. 347–407)
The consolidation of Christianity after Constantine and its establishment as Empire rendered the Jewish communities a minority in the imperial world of Christendom. Over the centuries that followed, the Jews often suffered persecution and harassment, culminating in the industrialised horrors of the Shoah in 20th century Europe.
2. Commonalities: Jews and Christians have much in common:
- We have a common ancestry in ancient Israel.
- We share a common faith from Abraham (though conceived differently in each tradition).
- We have a common revelation through the prophets.
- We have a common scripture in the Old Testament (though not of course as regards the New Testament).
- We are both the beneficiaries of a divine covenant.
Built on these shared confessions, the relationship between Jews and Christians is different from the relationship with believers from all other religions. Because of this affinity, in the Vatican bureaucracy the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews does not come under the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (which deals with all other religions), but under the Council for Promoting Christian Unity (though functionally distinct from it).
On the one hand, holding all these things in common makes the relationship between Jews and Christians easier to develop as it is grounded in a common heritage. On the other hand, the very closeness of the relationship can make our theological (and political) differences seem all the more problematic.
In addition, the long history of Christian animosity and persecution of Jews has added deep barriers of mistrust. In the last century, the achievement of Zionist aspirations for a Jewish homeland, the politics of nationhood and settlement in Israel, and the displacement of the Palestinians have added political complexity to the historical and theological issues. There is much work to be done to resolve all these complex and intertwined issues.
3. The Transforming Power of Dialogue: In the last decades there has been a tremendous change in Jewish-Christian Relations. This has been brought about by the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ) first proposed in 1947, by charismatic leaders from both communities (such as Pope John XXIII), by the teaching of Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate, and by the sustained work of Christian-Jewish committees at local, national and international levels. The transformation in the relationship—centuries of “teaching of contempt” have been turned around and replaced by teaching of respect and human dignity—is one of the most dramatic in human history and is nothing less than a miracle. This transformation makes it a worthy topic for research. It shows the benefits of interreligious dialogue, of letting go of ancient suspicions, of getting to know one another, and building understanding.
4. An Example and a Model: Finally, this transformation from the old to the new relationship between Jews and Christians is a model and example for Christian relations with believers from other religions besides Judaism; and also for relations between believers from different religions.
Websites on Judaism
Israel and Judaism Studies
This Israel and Judaism Studies (IJS) website is a service of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the official roof-body of the Jewish Community in New South Wales. The site provides basic information about Judaism and the history of Israel.
It is specifically designed to meet the requirements of the NSW secondary school syllabus in Modern History and in Studies of Religion. It is hoped that this material will also be of interest to university students and to the general reader.
Resources for teachers are also provided here, including details of interschool and interfaith youth activities, professional development and tertiary courses, general adult education and Jewish community education programs.
Judaism 101 is an online encyclopedia of Judaism, covering Jewish beliefs, people, places, things, language, scripture, holidays, practices and customs.
My Jewish Learning
MyJewishLearning.com is the leading transdenominational website of Jewish information and education. Offering articles and resources on all aspects of Judaism and Jewish life, the site is geared toward adults of all ages and backgrounds, from the casual reader looking for interesting insights, to non-Jews searching for a better understanding of Jewish culture, to experienced learners wishing to delve deeper into specific topic areas.
This site has been built and designed keeping in mind the needs of Reform Jews, unaffiliated Jews and those wishing to learn more about Reform Judaism. The content has been developed by a wide variety of educators, rabbis, cantors and laypersons who are active participants in Reform Jewish life. Many people and organizations have been instrumental in making this website a reality.
Websites on Jewish-Christian Relations
Commission of the Holy See for Relations with the Jews
The Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews was established in 1974. It is the official body in the Vatican for relations between Judaism and the Catholic Church. As a sign of the close bond between Judaism and Christianity, this Commission is not under the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (which deals with relations with all other religions), but works within the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The website contains official documents on Catholic-Jewish relations.
International Council of Christians and Jews
The ICCJ serves as the umbrella organization of 40 national Jewish-Christian dialogue organizations world-wide. The ICCJ member organizations world-wide over the past five decades have been successfully engaged in the historic renewal of Jewish-Christian relations.
This site, sponsored by the International Council of Christians and Jews, is devoted to fostering mutual respect and understanding between Christians and Jews around the world. Here you will find articles, reviews, reports, official statements, and study resources on Jewish-Christian relations, as well as links to many related organizations.
The Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding and Cooperation (CCJUC)
In January of 2008, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and David Nekrutman established the first Orthodox Jewish institution, the Hertog Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation (CJCUC), to religiously dialogue and actively cooperate with Christians. In less than a decade, CJCUC has moved to the forefront of theological advancements in Jewish-Christian relations. CJCUC has changed the paradigm by interfacing with tens of thousands of Christians through bible studies, faith based events that bring Jews and Christians together, and providing humanitarian aid.
For website: http://cjcuc.org/
Our Catholic-Jewish Dialogues, USCCB
Over the last twenty-five years, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has engaged in two official dialogues with the Jewish community. The dialogues continue to meet once or twice a year, and have addressed such topics as moral education in public schools, pornography, holocaust revisionism, the death penalty, religious hatred, children and the environment, and the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
The dialogue with the National Council of Synagogues continues today under the direction of Rabbi Gil Rosenthal, Executive Director of the National Council of Synagogues and the Most Rev. Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Atlanta. A dialogue with the Orthodox Union continues under the chairmanship of Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, former President of the Orthodox Union, and Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Center, New York.
The USCCB’s Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations, which later merged into the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, has produced many documents in the development of Catholic-Jewish Relations in the United States.
Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations
Founded in 1967 at St Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, in response to the Vatican II’s call for Catholic-Jewish dialogue, the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations has been a steady participant in this unfolding interfaith rapprochement. Flowing from the Catholic and Jesuit identity of Saint Joseph’s University, the Institute’s mission is to increase knowledge and deepen understanding between the Jewish and Catholic communities. The Institute pursues a vision of shalom (or “right relationship”) between Catholics and Jews in partnership with scholars and religious leaders around the nation and the world.
The Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations
This is an association of centers and institutes in the United States and Canada devoted to enhancing mutual understanding between Jews and Christians. It is dedicated to research, publication, educational programming, and interreligious dialogue that respect the religious integrity and self-understanding of the various strands of the Jewish and Christian traditions.
Of particular use is the online library, Dialogika, which has a collection of documents concerning relations between Jews and Christians that have been issued by various ecclesiastical, synagogal, civic, and interreligious organizations in the aftermath of the Shoah (Holocaust):
The Institute for Christian-Jewish Studies (ICJS)
The Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies (ICJS) is a non-profit organization that concentrates its educational expertise on the dual tasks of disarming religious hatred and establishing new models of interfaith understanding.
Center for Christian-Jewish Learning, Boston College
The Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College is dedicated to the growth of new and mutually enriching relationships between Christians and Jews. The Center applies the scholarly resources of a Catholic university to the task of encouraging mutual knowledge between Christians and Jews at every level.
Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations is the open-access electronic journal of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations and is published by the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College.
The Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding, Sacred Heart University
The Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding of Sacred Heart University seeks to contribute to the creation of a world of greater respect, cooperation and peace by educating Christians and Jews for a dialogue that is based on knowledge and truth about God and one another. The Center promotes scholarship, trains future religious leaders, educates teachers and leaders of parishes and synagogues, and serves as a leader in promoting Christian-Jewish understanding in the United States and throughout the world.
It has a comprehensive list of documents and statements, and educational resources and articles.
The Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies
Established in 1953 at Seton Hall University by Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher, the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies is the oldest institution in the world dedicated to Catholic-Jewish relations and is the founder of the only Jewish-Christian studies graduate program in the United States.
The Woolf Institute
The Woolf Institute is a global leader in the academic study of relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims. Established in Cambridge (UK) in 1998, with close links to the city’s famous University, the Institute is recognized around the world for the excellence of its research, teaching, policy and public education programmes.
Bat Kol Institute
Jewish Studies for Christians using Jewish sources in a Jewish milieu (since 1983)
Bat Kol Institute is an international association of Christian women and men who are committed to study the Word of God within its Jewish context and to incorporate these studies into their Christian self-understanding in a manner that respects the integrity of both traditions.
Bearing Faithful Witness: United Church–Jewish Relations Today
Bearing Faithful Witness provides guidelines for the relationship with Jews and Judaism and for the related interpretation of scripture within The United Church of Canada. It seeks to be a faithful expression of our understanding of United Church–Jewish relations. The group study guide is a useful tool for reflection about relationships with our Jewish neighbours.
For website: http://www.united-church.ca/partners/relations/interfaith
To download pdf: http://www.united-church.ca/files/partners/relations/witness.pdf
4 Pioneers in Jewish-Christian Relations (Video)
“… you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in … to share the rich root of the olive tree … remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you.” — Romans 11:17-18
“No responsible person could dispute that more progress has been made in [Christian]-Jewish relations in the last fifty years than was made in the previous two millennia.”
— Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, speaking in the year 2000
There are many high-profile figures in Jewish-Christian relations. In Voices Together, the Interfaith Ministry of Scarboro Missions in cooperation with Salt + Light Media highlights four of these individuals: What are some of the “catalyst” factors that led them to become involved? What are some of their concrete contributions and what messages from their life and work are of ongoing relevance for this dialogue today and in the future?
It is our aim with these four short videos, that these individuals become better known by a younger generation, who are perhaps less familiar with the development of this dialogue in the last 50 or 60 years:
- Victor Goldbloom
- Sister Charlotte Klein, NDS
- Mary Boys, SNJM
- Edward Kessler
Through these videos, we invite you to explore the lives and stories of four individuals whose efforts have helped to bring about a historic transformation, which is continuing in our own lifetime.
There is still much to be done in this field. Jewish-Christian dialogue has not lost any relevance or importance. Jewish-Christian relations remain a key aspect of our theological life, and essential to our self-understanding as Christians in many areas of theology.
We are excited to realize that the Christian relationship to Judaism is a broad and stimulating field, with many “angles” to be explored and pursued. We hope that our audiences will be empowered to appreciate how important the influence of a single person can be, and also be encouraged to learn more, and become involved in local dialogue efforts where they live.
Christian-Jewish Relations: A Transformed Relationship
The history of relations between Christians and Jews has often been bitter, harsh and violent—a relationship of distance rather than of nearness. Beginning in the wake of the Second World War and the Shoah (Holocaust), Christians around the world have been engaged in a dramatic re-thinking of their relationship to Judaism and the Jewish people. This dramatic transformation is virtually unparalleled in religious history. As Pope Francis said in 2015,
“Our fragmented humanity, mistrust and pride have been overcome … in such a way that trust and fraternity between us have continued to grow. We are strangers no more, but friends, and brothers and sisters.”
The result has been a wonderful flourishing of dialogue and interfaith activity between these two ancient faith traditions, on the local, national and international levels.
This transformation was inspired in large part by the Second Vatican Council’s 1965 document Nostra Aetate (On the Church’s Relationship to Non-Christian Religions), and the many powerful statements, helpful guidelines and historic events that have flowed from it over the past half-century.
Voices Together highlights four individuals. On the Web site of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, you can learn about other pioneers and contemporary voices in modern Catholic-Jewish relations.
Scarboro Missions is pleased that it has been able to develop and share these resources in Jewish-Christian relations, for the use of students, educators and faith discussion groups in both the Jewish and Christian communities. We hope that they will help to make this progress better known, and to promote relationships of friendship, respect and mutuality which can build upon and deepen this dialogue.
Documents on Jewish-Christian Relations
1965 Vatican II. Nostra Aetate
Often regarded as the major “breakthrough” document in Catholic-Jewish relations, NA has become a model for many other statements between Jews and Christians as well as for inter-faith dialogue between Christianity and other religious traditions. NA formally rejected the teachings of contempt, supercessionism and deicide (the “killing of God”).
1974 Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate
This is the first of a series of Vatican documents that began to work with the “real life” issues that came out of NA, with special focus on education and teaching, using Jewish sources to explain Judaism.
1982, World Council of Churches, "Ecumenical Considerations on Jewish-Christian Dialogue"
In 1975 the Consultation on the Church and the Jewish People (CCJP) voted to begin the process that has borne fruit in these Ecumenical Considerations on Jewish-Christian dialogue. The first step was to request preparatory papers from the various regions with experience in Jewish-Christian dialogue. When the Central Committee adopted “Guidelines on Dialogue” in 1979, work on developing specific suggestions for Jewish-Christian dialogue began and, after a period of drafting and revisions, a draft was presented for comments to the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), the CCJP’s primary Jewish dialogue partner. After discussion in the DFI Working Group in 1980, a revised draft was circulated among interested persons in the churches and comments solicited. Many and substantial comments and suggestions were received.
When it met in London Colney, England, in June 1981, the CCJP adopted its final revisions and submitted them to the DFI Working Group, which adopted them at its meeting in Bali, Indonesia, 2 January 1982, having made its own revisions at a few points. On the advice of the February 1982 WCC Executive Committee, various concerned member churches and various members of the CCJP were further consulted in order to revise and re-order the text. The result, “Ecumenical Considerations on Jewish-Christian Dialogue”, was “received and commended to the churches for study and action” by the Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches at Geneva on 16 July 1982.
When it adopted “Guidelines on Dialogue” in 1979, the Central Committee commended them to the member churches “for their consideration and discussion, testing and evaluation, and for their elaboration in each specific situation”. These “Ecumenical Considerations on Jewish-Christian Dialogue” constitute one such elaboration for dialogue with people of a particular faith. It is anticipated that other specific dialogues with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Marxists, and others will in the future lead to the formulation of additional “Ecumenical considerations” relative to dialogue with such adherents of particular faiths and ideologies. In every case, these” Ecumenical considerations” should be understood as stages along the way, to be amplified and refined as deeper and wider dialogue provides greater and more sensitive insight into relationships among the diverse peoples of God’s one world.
For full text see: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-programmes/interreligious-dialogue-and-cooperation/interreligious-trust-and-respect/ecumenical-considerations-on-jewish-christian-dialogue
1985, Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. "Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church."
Further development on the 1974 document with a call to re-write religious education textbooks, history texts and demonstrate sensitivity to portrayal of Jews and Judaism in the media.
1988, USCCB, God’s Mercy Endures Forever: Guidelines on the Presentation of Jews and Judaism in Catholic Preaching
Guide from the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy
US Catholic bishops statement designed to help clergy in preparing and delivering homilies that were in accord with contemporary Biblical and Liturgical scholarship. It encouraged preachers to avoid stereotyping Jews and Judaism and examined the seasons of the Catholic liturgical year where mention of Jews and Judaism were prominent – Advent, Lent and Holy Week. Of particular note is the warning to avoid doing anything that would look as though Christians were appropriating Jewish rituals and “baptising” them, such as the “celebration” of Seder meals at Passover.
1994 The Council of Christians and Jews (Victoria). Rightly Explaining the Word of Truth: Guidelines for Christian Clergy and Teachers in their use of the New Testament with reference to the New Testament's presentation of Jews and Judaism
An Australian document that addresses, in an ecumenical context, the presentation of Jews and Judaism in the New Testament. It is a document co-authored by Jews and Christians and is one of the best examples of inter-faith dialogue in action.
1997, John Paul II. "Address to Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission."
John Paul II’s commitment to Catholic-Jewish reconciliation is evident in this short text where he encourages Christians to see themselves and their sacred texts firmly grounded in the “history of the People of Israel”.
Familiarity with the Hebrew scriptures is “fundamental for a correct understanding of the mystery of Christ and Christian identity.”
“Jesus’ human identity is determined on the basis of his bond with the people of Israel, with the dynasty of David and his descent from Abraham.”
1998, USCCB, Criteria for the Evaluation of Dramatizations of the Passion, Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
Similar to the USCCB’s 1998 document, Guidelines on the Presentation of Jews and Judaism in Catholic Preaching, this new document provides criteria on how to present the passion without inadvertently stigmatizing the Jewish people through an uncritical use of NT accounts. Since Holy Week is the high point of the liturgical year and involves commemorating the events leading up to and including the death of Jesus Christ, it is important that “extra liturgical depictions of the sacred mysteries conform to the highest possible standards of biblical interpretation and theological sensitivity”.
1998, Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah." (1998)
A document that took over ten years to create and which has in turn created much controversy. It was the first step in recognition of the culpability of many who called themselves Christians who participated in the murder of European Jewry during the Shoah (Holocaust). However the text falls short of admitting that official church teaching at the time played a role in the development of the murderous anti-Semitism of the National Socialists.
1999, International Theological Commission. "Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past." (2000)
An unprecedented action of John Paul II was to seek forgiveness from many different groups and religious families as part of the preparation for the Great Jubilee of 2000. Among the specially named groups were the Jews. During his visit to Israel later in that year, John Paul put a copy of the prayer asking for God’s forgiveness into HaKotel (The Western Wall) in Jerusalem.
2000, 10 September, Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies (ICJS), Dabru Emet: A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity, 2000
Dabru Emet (Speak Truth): The Jewish-Christian relationship has, throughout its history, been a turbulent one. Recognizing the growing degree of acceptance and tolerance on the part of Christians towards Jews, leaders of the Jewish community felt that these positive changes deserved a public and considered response. Published in 2000 as a full page spread in The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, and other newspapers, Dabru Emet sought to put on public record the most current Jewish perspectives on Christianity.
Web page: http://www.icjs.org/resources/dabru-emet
Link to text: http://www.icjs.org/dabru-emet/text-version
2002, Reflections on Covenant and Mission
Consultation of the National Council of Synagogues and delegates of the Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (BCEIA), 12 August 2002
A sign of the maturing dialogue between Catholics and Jews, this document explored several key themes of relevance to both traditions. Although the document came under criticism, mostly from the Christian side, that it was “watering” down the singular salvific action of Christ in the new covenant, the outcome has been a rich and deep dialogue that has continued.
Pdf file: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/jewish/upload/Reflections-on-Covenant-and-Mission.pdf
2002, The Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible
The preface of this document was written by Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). Ratzinger says unambiguously that Christians have much to learn from the Jewish sacred texts by studying them through Jewish lenses and through Jewish scholarship.
2009, International Council of Christians and Jews, The Berlin Document - “A Time for Recommitment: Jewish Christian Dialogue 70 Years after War and Shoah”
Another document of the maturing relationship between Jews and Christians. Jews are challenged to recognise the steps taken by the Christian Churches since 1945 to seek reconciliation and deeper understanding of Jews and Judaism. There is a section that reviews the history of the post-war relationship as well as the joint endeavours for the sake of social justice and the environment.
Link to page on ICCJ Website: http://www.iccj.org/Berlin-Document.3595.0.html
PDF in English: http://www.iccj.org/fileadmin/ICCJ/pdf-Dateien/A_Time_for_Recommitment_engl.pdf
Español PDF in Spanish: http://www.iccj.org/fileadmin/ICCJ/pdf-Dateien/Tiempo_de_renovar_span.pdf
2013, International Council of Christians and Jews. “As Long as You Believe in a Living God, You Must Have Hope.”
This is a radical document in the sense that it reaches into the heart of both Judaism and Christianity to try and come to a common approach to the protracted conflicts in the Middle East. There is pain in this text as Jews and Christians wrestle with integrity and honesty over the divisions in Israel / Palestine and the suffering caused to each community and the need to be open to dialogue with Islam.
PDF file in English: http://www.iccj.org/redaktion/upload_pdf/201305102052530.ICCJ-Pentecost-2013.pdf
2015, Orthodox Rabbinic Statement on Christianity
Orthodox Rabbinic Statement on Christianity
3 December 2015
To Do the Will of Our Father in Heaven:
Toward a Partnership between Jews and Christians
After nearly two millennia of mutual hostility and alienation, we Orthodox Rabbis who lead communities, institutions and seminaries in Israel, the United States and Europe recognize the historic opportunity now before us. We seek to do the will of our Father in Heaven by accepting the hand offered to us by our Christian brothers and sisters. Jews and Christians must work together as partners to address the moral challenges of our era.
- The Shoah ended 70 years ago. It was the warped climax to centuries of disrespect, oppression and rejection of Jews and the consequent enmity that developed between Jews and Christians. In retrospect it is clear that the failure to break through this contempt and engage in constructive dialogue for the good of humankind weakened resistance to evil forces of anti-Semitism that engulfed the world in murder and genocide.
- We recognize that since the Second Vatican Council the official teachings of the Catholic Church about Judaism have changed fundamentally and irrevocably. The promulgation of Nostra Aetate fifty years ago started the process of reconciliation between our two communities. Nostra Aetate and the later official Church documents it inspired unequivocally reject any form of anti-Semitism, affirm the eternal Covenant between G-d and the Jewish people, reject deicide and stress the unique relationship between Christians and Jews, who were called “our elder brothers” by Pope John Paul II and “our fathers in faith” by Pope Benedict XVI. On this basis, Catholics and other Christian officials started an honest dialogue with Jews that has grown during the last five decades. We appreciate the Church’s affirmation of Israel’s unique place in sacred history and the ultimate world redemption. Today Jews have experienced sincere love and respect from many Christians that have been expressed in many dialogue initiatives, meetings and conferences around the world.
- As did Maimonides and Yehudah Halevi, we acknowledge that Christianity is neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations. In separating Judaism and Christianity, G-d willed a separation between partners with significant theological differences, not a separation between enemies. Rabbi Jacob Emden wrote that “Jesus brought a double goodness to the world. On the one hand he strengthened the Torah of Moses majestically… and not one of our Sages spoke out more emphatically concerning the immutability of the Torah. On the other hand he removed idols from the nations and obligated them in the seven commandments of Noah so that they would not behave like animals of the field, and instilled them firmly with moral traits…..Christians are congregations that work for the sake of heaven who are destined to endure, whose intent is for the sake of heaven and whose reward will not denied.” Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch taught us that Christians “have accepted the Jewish Bible of the Old Testament as a book of Divine revelation. They profess their belief in the G-d of Heaven and Earth as proclaimed in the Bible and they acknowledge the sovereignty of Divine Providence.” Now that the Catholic Church has acknowledged the eternal Covenant between G-d and Israel, we Jews can acknowledge the ongoing constructive validity of Christianity as our partner in world redemption, without any fear that this will be exploited for missionary purposes. As stated by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s Bilateral Commission with the Holy See under the leadership of Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, “We are no longer enemies, but unequivocal partners in articulating the essential moral values for the survival and welfare of humanity”. Neither of us can achieve G-d’s mission in this world alone.
- Both Jews and Christians have a common covenantal mission to perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Almighty, so that all humanity will call on His name and abominations will be removed from the earth. We understand the hesitation of both sides to affirm this truth and we call on our communities to overcome these fears in order to establish a relationship of trust and respect. Rabbi Hirsch also taught that the Talmud puts Christians “with regard to the duties between man and man on exactly the same level as Jews. They have a claim to the benefit of all the duties not only of justice but also of active human brotherly love.” In the past relations between Christians and Jews were often seen through the adversarial relationship of Esau and Jacob, yet Rabbi Naftali Zvi Berliner (Netziv) already understood at the end of the 19th century that Jews and Christians are destined by G-d to be loving partners: “In the future when the children of Esau are moved by pure spirit to recognize the people of Israel and their virtues, then we will also be moved to recognize that Esau is our brother.”
- We Jews and Christians have more in common than what divides us: the ethical monotheism of Abraham; the relationship with the One Creator of Heaven and Earth, Who loves and cares for all of us; Jewish Sacred Scriptures; a belief in a binding tradition; and the values of life, family, compassionate righteousness, justice, inalienable freedom, universal love and ultimate world peace. Rabbi Moses Rivkis (Be’er Hagoleh) confirms this and wrote that “the Sages made reference only to the idolator of their day who did not believe in the creation of the world, the Exodus, G-d’s miraculous deeds and the divinely given law. In contrast, the people among whom we are scattered believe in all these essentials of religion.”
- Our partnership in no way minimizes the ongoing differences between the two communities and two religions. We believe that G-d employs many messengers to reveal His truth, while we affirm the fundamental ethical obligations that all people have before G-d that Judaism has always taught through the universal Noahide covenant.
- In imitating G-d, Jews and Christians must offer models of service, unconditional love and holiness. We are all created in G-d’s Holy Image, and Jews and Christians will remain dedicated to the Covenant by playing an active role together in redeeming the world.
Initial signatories (in alphabetical order):
Rabbi Jehoshua Ahrens (Germany)
Rabbi Marc Angel (United States)
Rabbi Isak Asiel (Chief Rabbi of Serbia)
Rabbi David Bigman (Israel)
Rabbi David Bollag (Switzerland)
Rabbi David Brodman (Israel)
Rabbi Natan Lopez Cardozo (Israel)
Rav Yehudah Gilad (Israel)
Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein (Israel)
Rabbi Irving Greenberg (United States)
Rabbi Marc Raphael Guedj (Switzerland)
Rabbi Eugene Korn (Israel)
Rabbi Daniel Landes (Israel)
Rabbi Steven Langnas (Germany)
Rabbi Benjamin Lau (Israel)
Rabbi Simon Livson (Chief Rabbi of Finland)
Rabbi Asher Lopatin (United States)
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (Israel)
Rabbi David Rosen (Israel)
Rabbi Naftali Rothenberg (Israel)
Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger (Israel)
Rabbi Shmuel Sirat (France)
Rabbi Daniel Sperber (Israel)
Rabbi Jeremiah Wohlberg (United States)
Rabbi Alan Yuter (Israel)
To see the original document on the website of the Centre for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC) see: http://cjcuc.com/site/2015/12/03/orthodox-rabbinic-statement-on-christianity/
2015, Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, "The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable"
The Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews has published the document “The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable: a Reflection on Theological Questions Pertaining to Catholic-Jewish Relations on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of ‘Nostra Aetate’ (No. 4)”.
For a summary see: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/summary-of-vatican-s-new-document-on-catholic-jewish-relations?utm_campaign=dailyhtml&utm_content=[ZE151210]%20The%20world%20seen%20from%20Rome&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dispatch&utm_term=Image
For the document, “The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable“, see: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/relations-jews-docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20151210_ebraismo-nostra-aetate_en.html
For the response to the new Vatican “Reflection” from the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), the official representative of world Jewry to the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, see: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/jewish-consortium-comments-on-new-vatican-reflection-300191505.html.
For an introduction by Catholic News Service from The Tablet 10/12/15 entitled, “Catholic Church has no missionary initiative directed towards Jews, Vatican commission reports“, see http://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/2898/0/catholic-church-has-no-missionary-initiative-directed-towards-jews-vatican-commission-reports
For comment by Gaia Pianigiana of The New York Times in her article entitled “Vatican Says Catholics Should Not Try to Convert Jews” see: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/11/world/europe/vatican-says-catholics-should-not-try-to-convert-jews.html?_r=0
For John L Allen jnr’s article, “Vatican document on Jews proves that revolution is the new routine” see: http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/12/10/vatican-document-on-jews-proves-that-revolution-is-the-new-routine/
Milestones in Modern Jewish-Christian Relations
Compiled by Sr Lucy Thorson NDS and Murray Watson
… you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in … to share the rich root of the olive tree … remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you.
Since the Second World War, the Catholic Church has been involved in a deliberate process of rethinking its relationship to Judaism and the Jewish people. Especially in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, Catholic-Jewish relations have improved tremendously on local, national and international levels.
As several Jewish and Catholic leaders have noted, there have probably been more positive encounters between Jews and Catholics in the last sixty years than in the previous fifteen hundred. These years have been a time of renewal, hope and growing cooperation between these two faiths evidenced by the multitude of Catholic-Jewish dialogue groups, organizations and institutions that have emerged throughout the world since Vatican II.
The following listing of events provides a taste of how relations between Catholics and Jews have been changing and developing in recent decades – and this is a journey that has only just begun.
For PDF File see: Adobe Acrobat
For PowerPoint presentation see: Powerpoint Presentation (PPS)
For French see: Version Française (French Version)
Prepared and distributed by Scarboro Missions Interfaith Department
2685 Kingston Rd., Toronto, Ontario (Canada)
Phone: Web Site: http://www.scarboromissions.ca
To contact Sister Lucy Thorson: [email protected]
To contact Murray Watson: [email protected]
Permission to Reprint this Document
We encourage the reproduction and use of this document for educational purposes.
Published by Scarboro Missions (Toronto, Canada)
Copyright © Scarboro Missions 2014
Current Dialogue, November 2016
The November 2012 issue of the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) Current Dialogue has a section on “Is there a Special Relationship between Christianity and Judaism?”
At the close of the 50th year since promulgation of Vatican II’s declaration on Christian relations with other religions, relations between Christians and Jews, and between Christians and Muslims, are freshly explored in the just-released issue 58 of Current Dialogue.
To open the web-page see: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/what-we-do/current-dialogue-magazine/
To open and download the pdf see: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/what-we-do/current-dialogue-magazine/PrinterproofCurrentDialogue_582016DRAFTfinalCDL.PDF
2016, "Between Jerusalem and Rome"
Between Jerusalem and Rome – כלל ופרט בין ירושלים לרומי
The declaration “Between Jerusalem and Rome”, an important contemporary Jewish Orthodox reflection on the relationship between Judaism and Christianity was elaborated in the context of the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the declaration of Vatican II which transformed the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards other world religions, particularly with Judaism. Dated of Rosh Chodesh Adar I, 5776 (10 February 2016), this text has been adopted in March 2016 by the Conference of European Rabbis and the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America.
To download the pdf click here: Between Jerusalem and Rome
To download the pdf of the 2017 version with supplementary notes click here: Between Jerusalem & Rome: Reflections of 50 Years of Nostra Aetate.
For CJCUC website: http://cjcuc.org/2017/08/31/between-jerusalem-and-rome/
For the Tablet report on the presentation of this document to the Vatican see below:
Rabbis present ‘milestone’ document on Christian-Jewish relations
06 September 2017 | by Christopher Lamb , Christa Pongratz-Lippitt
The rabbis were in Rome to present the first official declaration on Christianity by rabbinical organizations, ‘Between Jerusalem and Rome’
Relations between Catholics and Jews have become “increasingly friendly and fraternal”, Pope Francis said on being presented with a document by rabbis from Europe, America and Israel on 31 August that was described by German bishops as “a milestone in Christian-Jewish relations”.
The rabbis were in Rome to present the first official declaration on Christianity by rabbinical organizations, “Between Jerusalem and Rome”. The document was in part a response to the Second Vatican Council’s landmark document, Nostra Aetate, which sought to make relations between the Church and other religions, Judaism in particular, more positive.
Representatives of the Conference of European Rabbis, the Rabbinical Council of America, and the Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel all met with the Pope in the Vatican to present the document. Addressing Francis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, said that the Jewish community had initially responded with skepticism to Nostra Aetate but the Church had made a “genuine and profound” change following its publication.
The Vatican II document condemns all forms of anti-semitism, which is increasing in Europe and the Middle East. A poll by the Anti-Defamation League in 2015 for the first time measured Muslim attitudes to Jews in Western Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. It found that 75 per cent of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa embraced anti-semitic stereotypes and attitudes, while an average of 55 per cent of Western European Muslims did so. Solidarity with Jews was expressed by a majority of Western Europeans. In his own remarks, the Pope said the “ongoing implementation” of Nostra Aetate continued to improve relations between the faiths.
Bishop Ulrich Neymeyr of Erfurt, who is who is responsible for relations with Judaism in the German bishops’ conference, said in the eyes of the conference the document represented a “milestone in Christian-Jewish relations”. “It is the first official declaration on Christianity by rabbinical organizations”, he said in a statement published on the conference’s website. “The declaration thoroughly appreciates the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration Nostra Aetate and the post-conciliar proclamations by Popes (on Christian-Jewish relations) up to the present day as a turning point in Christian-Jewish relations … The rabbis do not conceal the theological differences between Judaism and Christianity but say that ‘Christians deserve a special status as they adore the Creator of Heaven and Earth who liberated the people of Israel from bondage…’” the statement said. “That is why they [the Jews] see Christians ‘as our partners, close allies and brothers in our mutual search for a better world in which peace, social justice and security prevail’.”
“We are trying to strengthen our partnership and cooperation with Catholics at a time when religious communities are faced with extremist violence on the one hand, and lack of understanding on the part of a world which has become increasingly hostile to religion on the other”, the Chief Rabbi of Vienna, Arie Folger, who co-authored the Rabbis’ Declaration and was one of the three rabbis who presented it to the Pope, said in a statement published on the Vienna Jewish community’s website.
2019, Faith and Order Commission, The Church of England, "God’s Unfailing Word: Theological and Practical Perspectives on Christian–Jewish Relations"
This important and timely study is rooted in the belief that the relationship between Judaism and Christianity is a gift of God to the church to be received with gratitude, respect and care, so that we may learn more fully about God’s purposes for the world.
It offers a theological exploration of that relationship that is mindful of the prejudice and persecution experienced by the Jewish community throughout history, not least from the Christian church, and is intended as antidote to antisemitism.
Part One explores the distinctive relationship between Judaism and Christianity and traces its troubled history.
Part Two considers critical contemporary issues and reflects on how the Church should conduct itself appropriately in its mission and evangelism, teaching and preaching, ethical practices and attitudes towards Israel and Palestine.
For summary of content and key passages see: https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2019/22-november/news/uk/god-s-unfailing-word-key-passages
For response by the Council of Christians and Jews see: http://www.ccj.org.uk/ccj-statement-on-gods-unfailing-word/
For media report on the publication see: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/church-england-teaching-document-calls-repentance-over-role-christians
For media commentary see: https://christiantoday.com/article/church-of-england-calls-christians-to-repentance-over-role-in-antisemitism/133655.htm
To download the pdf file click here: God’s Unfailing Word
To purchase hard copy see ChurchPublishing: https://www.chpublishing.co.uk/books/9780715111611/gods-unfailing-word
2023, ACBC, Walking Together: Catholics with Jews in the Australian Context
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has launched a new document to highlight Christianity’s unique relationship with Judaism and to celebrate the positive relationship the two faiths enjoy in Australia.
To download pdf of document see: Walking Together
For ACBC Media Release see: Media Release
For media article see: New document highlights Catholics, Jews ‘walking together’