Minutes of Meeting

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March 16, 1999

Location: Sears Recital Hall, University of Dayton

Meeting Topic: Recovering Christianity's Jewish Roots

Speaker: Rev. John Pawlikowski, O.S.M., Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, Illinois

Respondents: Dave Riley, Director of the Archdiocese Religious Education Office in Dayton; Rabbi Shmuel Klatzkin, Adjunct Professor of Religion, Wright State University


Felix Garfunkel called the open meeting to order at about 7:30 PM. He gave a short history of the Dayton Christian Jewish Dialogue. Felix then introduced Rev. John Pawlikowski. He is internationally renowned for his contributions to the continuing reconciliation of Christians and Jews. Rev. Pawlikowski is a Priest of the Servite order. He is the author of more than 10 books and has numerous articles in journals. Along with his many involvements with organizations in the area of Christian-Jewish relations, he is an active member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council (which manages the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC). Rev. Pawlikowski is currently working on a new book on non-Jewish victims of the Nazis.

Rev. Pawlikowski began his presentation by noting that he attended the first National Workshop on Christian Jewish Relations which was held in Dayton in 1973. He applauded the work of the Dayton Christian Jewish Dialogue. Rev. Pawlikowski said he would speak about where we have come from and where we should go in the field of Christian-Jewish relations. He observed that anti-Semitism is a shadow over the Cross. A recent Vatican document stated that racism is a sin. Since racism includes anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism is also a sin. The Pope has emphasized the fundamental sinfulness of anti-Semitism. There has been progress in removing anti-Semitism from Catholic teaching materials. But there is still much to be done.

There have been anti-Semitic incidents recently in some American communities. There have also been notable cases when communities threatened by anti-Semitic and racist incidents have come together to confront the anti-Semitism and racism. For example, in Billings, Montana, after some anti-Semitic incidents, Jewish menorahs were displayed in Christian homes and churches to show solidarity against anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, the ugly incidents persist. An example is Jasper, Texas, where an African-American man was killed in a racist incident. We should not lull ourselves into the belief that we are immune from these incidents. In Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, a Catholic church was burned down, and the priest of the church suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of a challenge from the racist group, Aryan Nations. By coincidence, the mayor of Coeur d'Alene had been a liberator of one of the concentration camps in Europe at the end of World War II. Partly as a result of this experience, he led the fight against racism and bias in Coeur d'Alene. The anti-Semitism that has characterized much of American history will not be eliminated easily. One of the things that we have discovered from Billings is that the bonding of the religious communities allowed them to join together to confront racism and anti-Semitism.

Unfortunately, through the ages, the Christian Scriptures have often been interpreted in anti-Semitic ways. A book by Heinz Schreckenberg demonstrates the negative portrayal of Jews in Christian art through the ages. The most famous example is the cathedral in Strasbourg, France. Cathedral artworks portray the Church as a vibrant woman; in contrast, the synagogue is portrayed as a bedraggled old woman. Another example is the Princeton University Chapel. Windows in this chapel show scenes from the Hebrew Bible such that the sun can never shine on them; windows with scenes from Christian Scriptures are placed so that the sun frequently shines on them.

More attention is needed to the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. Fortunately, Catholic textbooks no longer contain the blatant charge that the Jews killed Jesus. There has been a recent trend to explain in the textbooks that Jesus was killed because of the sinfulness of all Christians. However, recent writings have restored some Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus. An example of this is a book by Father Ray Brown. Rev. Pawlikowski stated that it is not anti-Semitic to say that some members of the Jewish establishment may have collaborated with the Romans in the killing of Jesus. But we must emphasize that those Jews were not respected by their Jewish peers. Any collaboration must be posited in a very restricted sense. The Vatican document on non-Christian religions says that there is no basis for the popular charge of Jewish complicity in the killing of Jesus. Rev. Pawlikowski stated that Christian anti-Semitism, bad as it was, never advocated the destruction of the Jewish people. However, Christian teaching did favor marginalization and misery for the Jewish people. The Nazis raised traditional Christian anti-Semitism to a higher level. The real challenge for Christians is to affirm that Jews are part and parcel of the covenental tradition. Even after the coming of Christ, Jews still participate in the covenant with God. Rev. Pawlikowski asked the audience, if you took an exit poll of Christian worshipers at Good Friday or Easters services, would they see Jews in a positive way? Rev. Pawlikowski has attended Christian services where all readings from the Hebrew Scripture are in the dark and readings from the Christian scriptures are done in the light. A reading from the Advent Vesper service said that there is no way to understand a psalm from the Hebrew Scriptures except through Jesus Christ. This is an insult to Jews who are engaged in studying their own Scriptures. Vatican II documents say clearly that we must study the Hebrew Scriptures in their own right and not just look at them through the eyes of Jesus Christ.

Jesus lived in a Jewish world. He led a Jewish renewal movement. Pharisees themselves were a renewal movement. Even though there are some condemnations of Pharisees in the Christian Scriptures, Jesus was closer to the Pharisaic movement than to any other group.

Recent research poses a new challenge to Christians and Jews engaged in dialogue. Now that we have thrown out the notion that the Jewish covenant is superseded, how do we visualize the new relationship? Some have advocated a two-covenant approach. Others have called the relationship a mother-daughter relationship. Professor Hayim Perelauter has visualized the relationship as that of siblings. Other concepts portrayed the relationship as that of fraternal twins or partners in waiting. The earlier conceptions tended to convey the idea that Christianity followed Judaism. The imagery we use for the relationship must recognize that Christianity comes out of the Pharisaic branch of Judaism, not the Sadducaic branch. Therefore Christianity and Judaism emerged out of a common group. It is hoped that Jews and Christians can learn to tell the story of this period in the same way. Sometimes, Christian and Jewish teachers work together on a common lesson plan and then present it to their respective Christian and Jewish classes. The first stage has been to remove anti-Semitic teaching from Christian teaching materials.

What now for the Jewish community? Will Jews find that the encounter with Christians can have some spiritual significance for themselves? Prof. Michael Signer from Notre Dame is a member of a group of Jews that is trying to develop an understanding of Christian theology and its significance for Judaism. Jews may somehow come to understand that Christianity is carrying on the Jewish legacy. Can we restore the combined social commitment of Christians and Jews to social justice that existed in the 1930's? During that period, John Ryan of the National Catholic Welfare Conference led a coalition with Jews and Protestants that was aligned with Roosevelt and the New Deal. Father Coughlin (an influential anti-Semitic Catholic priest who had a large radio audience) thus labeled Ryan the Right Reverend New Dealer. This positive experience of alliance between Catholics and Jews contributed to the atmosphere that, in turn, led to the positive statements from Vatican II on the Jewish people, including Nostra Aetate. It is interesting to note that Nostra Aetate may not have survived without the support of American Catholics. Many feared the document. For example, Christian communities in Arab lands opposed it. However, American Bishops supported the statement strongly. Why did they feel so strongly about the statement? The interaction with Jews in the 30's and 40's had laid the foundation. In the 30's and 40's there was this marvelous collaboration without any development of theological reconciliation. Rev. Pawlikowski emphasized that more collaboration on social issues is needed currently. The United States is becoming a much more diverse society. The social tensions created by this diversity must be faced. Jews and Christians in dialogue need to forge alliances in defense of human dignity. Rev. Pawlikowski noted that he has recently visited Yad Vashem (memorial to the Holocaust) in Jerusalem. He was powerfully moved by the recently added children's exhibit. Rev. Pawlikowski noted that large numbers of children around the world are currently enslaved to our commercial system, e.g., children working in factories in underdeveloped countries. These powerful realities need to be addressed through a joint effort of Christians and Jews.

Rev. Pawlikowski concluded his presentation with some comments on the recent Vatican document on the Shoah, We Remember.1 He observed that the document is very positive but disappoints in some areas. Holocaust education is mandated and Holocaust denial is condemned. At this point, Rev. Pawlikowski noted as an aside that David Duke may be elected to office in Louisiana and he is a Holocaust denier. Ironically, the area he is running in is mostly Catholic. Therefore, Catholics will be significantly involved in his election.

Whatever ones views about We Remember, it has sparked many discussions among theologians and educators. Unfortunately, the document fails to link anti-Semitism with the tradition of Catholic teaching over the centuries. In defense of the document, Cardinal Cassidy has acknowledged that wayward people (people who have strayed from Catholic teaching by promoting anti-Semitism) refers not only to lay people but also to Church officials. However, the document fails to recognize the link between Christian anti-Semitism and Nazism. Also, the document fails to adequately recognize the losses in the Holocaust of groups other than Jews, such as Poles, disabled people, and political undesirables. Classical anti-Semitism provided a seedbed for collaboration with and support of the Nazis. Also We Remember is somewhat weak on the subject of the role of Pope Pius XII. The criticisms of Pius XII have come from some Catholics, including Jacques Maritain, as well as Jews. Rev. Pawlikowski expressed the view that any effort to promote Pius's canonization is premature at this point. A lot of research needs to be done on him--particularly how his contemporaries saw him. These views have been quite mixed. Unfortunately, some Catholic groups have ignored much of the historical data on Pius.

In spite of all these problems, Rev. Pawlikowski stated that he is still a positive person with respect to the prospects for improved Christian-Jewish relations. If we continue to be engaged in dialogue, we can make a long-term difference. Rev. Pawlikowski concluded his formal presentation at 8:40 PM.


Rabbi Klatzkin's Presentation

Felix introduced Rabbi Shmuel Klatzkin. Rabbi Klatzkin and his wife Naomi have lived in Dayton for approximately nine years. He was ordained at Hebrew Union College and studied previously at Brandeis University. He currently is Adjunct Professor of Religion at Wright State University, teaches at Dayton Jewish School, and is the Associate Rabbi at Chabad House of Greater Dayton.

Rabbi Klatzkin thanked Rev. Pawlikowski for his truth-seeking words. He quoted Maimonides, one of the many thinkers who have plaques on this building, the Jesse Philips Humanities Center. Maimonides's words are engraved on the facade of the building, "seek the truth wherever you find it." Rabbi Klatzkin stated that we must find the courage to use all the truth that we have. A quest of any teacher of religion is of authenticity. Rabbi Klatzkin told the story of a professor who was teaching ethics at a university. A student challenged the professor about the inconsistency of his teaching ethics and his carrying on an affair with the wife of another man. In response the professor said, "you do not need to be a triangle to teach geometry."

Rabbi Klatzkin raised the question of how we face the problems of dealing with the Holocaust? How do we human beings deal with evil? An eloquent answer is in the Book of Job. Words alone cannot provide a sufficient answer for the problem of evil. The only answer to evil actions is good actions. Now we must do something good in response. The scriptural traditions that we share speak of there being only one god. The creator created a world with the potentiality of both good and evil. At a certain point, the doctrinal differences between our religions are not so important as what we do. The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement, said that, whenever we see something evil in another person, that event has come to us for a purpose. We feel pain partly because there is a part of that person in us. Rabbi Klatzkin noted that when Scripture talks about the pivotal event of God's revelation at Mount Sinai, right before the giving of the Law, the word referring to the Jewish people switches from plural to singular form. Thus the unity of the Jewish people was the precondition for the divine revelation. Another teaching is that the Torah, the Jewish People, and God are one. We are truly called upon to be one with each other, one with God's teaching, and one with God. The Jewish people have a unique role. Rabbi Klatzkin told a story about a great teacher in the Chabad tradition and his son. While walking in the forest with his father, the son pulled a leaf off a tree and shredded it without thinking. The father asked the son to think about the linkage of that leaf to all of creation. The lesson of this story is treasuring each other for the unique gift that each of us brings. Maimonides at the end of his comprehensive code of Jewish law wrote of the distinction between the laws of kings and the laws of the Messiah. Christian censorship has expunged sections of Maimonides's writing where he rejected claims of the Church for the messianic nature of Jesus as well as sections where Maimonides wrote positively about the effects of Christianity. Maimonides wrote that human beings cannot understand God's ways. Even though Jews may disagree with Christian doctrine that Jesus is the Messiah, they should appreciate that, as a result of Hebraic influences, throughout the world, people are talking about the Messiah. Let us hope for the day when God will be one and God's name will be one.

Dave Riley's Presentation

Felix introduced Dave Riley. Dave is the Director of the Dayton Religious Education Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He is married and is the father of three children.

Dave began his remarks at about 9:00 PM by stating that he is a religious educator for the Catholic Church. Thus, he will address the topic from a more pastoral point of view. He identified himself as a convert to the Jewish perspective on Scriptures. The book by Philip Cunningham, Education for Shalom, had a great effect on him. This book was a survey of religious education textbooks with respect to their coverage of Jews and Judaism. Most of the remarks about Judaism in current textbooks point to the pivotal role of the Jewish people. However, as late as 1961, teachings about Jews and Judaism were quite deficient. In 15 years, vast changes were made. Most current textbooks acknowledge that Jesus was a Jew. The biggest problem has been the uncritical use of New Testament language. Judaism is sometimes portrayed as a legalistic and burdensome religion. Similarly, the Pharisees are sometimes portrayed as hypocrites and opponents of Jesus. There has also been a tendency to read post resurrection debates back into Jesus's time. Responsibility for Jesus's death is not explicitly placed on Jews but the Biblical (Christian Scriptures) language tends to leave that impression. Another problem in some textbooks is the contention that the Hebrew Covenant is obsolete. The Catechism often uses Scripture in an uncritical way. Another problem is the failure to consider the self-understanding of Jews of their own religion. Supersessionist language is often used in the textbooks. Publishers have been submitting their textbooks to a committee for evaluation of their conformance with the Catechism. Dave's concern is that this will result in textbooks that have poorer coverage of Jews and Judaism. He feels there should be more inclusivity in formation courses. There should also be more information about modern Judaism. Some textbooks seem to portray Judaism as having died out after Jesus. A much more respectful attitude toward Judaism is needed. Dave stated that a lot that is in the textbooks is not intentionally insulting, but it comes out that way. Dave concluded his presentation at about 9:15 PM.

Open Discussion

Felix opened the floor to questions and comments from the audience.

Jerry said that he now realizes that Catholicism is not a monolithic religion, even though there is a hierarchical structure. Rev. Pawlikowski replied that the worst accusations have been removed from the teaching materials. However, many problems remain. Although there are criticisms of the new Catechism, the original version was worse. One of the things we have learned is that it is impossible for Christians to talk about themselves without reference to Jews. One textbook series caters to conservative Catholic thinking. Fortunately, it is not widely used, but if there is a change in ecclesiastical leadership, this series could become more popular. Jerry asked whether supersessionism is still taught. Rev. Pawlikowski replied that it is not taught explicitly.

Dave Riley noted that there is a great diversity of Catholic religion textbooks in this country. Fortunately, the conservative ones are not widely used. Father Heft said he serves on the committee reviewing textbooks. One of the problems he sees is that if we push the search for common ground too far, it will be hard to understand the difference between Christianity and Judaism. He feels that dealing openly with the difference is as important as clearing away the debris of negative teaching with respect to Jews and Judaism. Rev. Pawlikowski acknowledged that Jim is raising an important issue; some groups want to discard all the doctrines that make Christianity different from Judaism. He challenged those in attendance with the question: is there a way of expressing our Christological understanding that does not invalidate Jewish understandings? For example, the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures were challenging Judaism, but they can also be seen as challenging Christians. We must rely on modern scholarship to better understand how we have understood the writings of the prophets as validating Christianity.

Erica Garfunkel raised the question of whether Catechism classes have addressed the issue of whether the Crucifixion story has caused a lot of anti-Semitism. Maureen Tilley observed that she grew up in a household that was an agglomeration of Christianity and Judaism. Her mother said that the important point is not who killed Jesus, but rather it is the theological message of Jesus's death. Dave agreed.

Someone addressed a question to Rabbi Klatzkin: what are Jewish children learning about Christianity? Klatzkin replied that, living in a predominantly Christian society, one cannot help but learn a lot about Christianity. On the other hand, in areas of Jewish concentration, such as some Jewish neighborhoods of New York City, there is very little involvement with Christians. Rabbi Klatzkin said that the main question is whether there is a unique Jewish message that can be taught while not shutting out the influence of other religions. The task that faces the Jewish People is not being disillusioned, but staying proud and strong, and having full confidence that God's message is for all people.

Rev. Pawlikowski noted that currently there are some promising programs that address Christians and Jews learning about each others religions. One is conducted by the American Jewish Committee. There are also several Catholic-Jewish teaching institutes at different universities around the country.

Arthur acknowledged that Christian-Jewish understanding may have worked well in the United States; he asked Rev. Pawlikowski whether Christian-Jewish collaboration programs have worked well in other countries. In response, Rev. Pawlikowski noted that in Central and South America, Jews are associated with liberals and this poses some problems for collaboration. Nevertheless, there have been some instances of collaboration in Latin American countries. In Poland, there are so few Jews left that there is minimal opportunity for collaboration. Nevertheless, surprisingly some Jews play important roles in Polish life. He noted that many Polish Jewish children escaped death in the Holocaust by being taken into convents, where they were often Baptized. Some of these hidden Jews are now rediscovering their Jewish identity.

Felix thanked all the participants. He invited members of the audience who are not Dialogue members to attend Dialogue meetings which are normally held on the second Sunday of each month in Alumni Hall at 7:30 PM.

The meeting adjourned at about 9:45 PM.

Respectfully submitted

Ken Rosenzweig, Secretary

1 We Remember: a Reflection on the "Shoah", March 16, 1998, Vatican Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews.
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