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Christians and Jews Building Bridges – Marcus Braybrooke

September 26, 2015

cajbbThe book starts with a brief history of the Council of Christians and Jews, why it was set up and what it has achieved so far. There are details of various officers and volunteers and thanks for their contribitions. Local groups are acknowledged and valued.

He mentions its many educational resources, some of which I have used successfully.

Many suspect that CCJ gives unqualified support for the state of Israel, which makes it problematic for those Christians who side with the Palestinian cause. Actually, CCJ’s statements are nuanced and our author tells it how it is.

The author is mistaken on the issue of the Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews. Although Pope Benedict allowed the used of the old Tridentine Mass, there is no mass on Good Friday so this collect would not be used. Instead, a revised form of the Solemn Liturgy would be used which has already removed the offending words.

CAJBB 2Quotations:

CCJ took the lead in making the fruits of this ‘minor revolution’ known in many journal articles, magazine features and lectures. Two land-mark conferences on ‘The Parting of the Ways’ were arranged by CCJ and Birmingham’s Centre for the Study of Judaism and Jewish-Christian Relations – led by Rabbi Dr Norman Solomon – at Selly Oak. These showed that Christianity did not displace Judaism, but that both Rabbinic Judaism and the Christian Church were creative responses to the shared heritage of the Hebrew Bible.

‘Antisemitism’ was the word used by Wilhelm Man (1819­1904), who founded the League of Anti-Semites. It was a racist doctrine based on the false assumption that, just as languages are differentiated as having ‘Aryan’ or ‘Semitic’ roots, so there are corresponding racial groups of which the Aryan one is superior. This quasi-scientific misuse of the theory of evolution expressed itself not only in antisemitism, but also in apartheid and some nineteenth century imperialist attitudes. Marr deliberately chose the word ‘antisemitism’ rather than the existing term Judenhass (Jew-hatred), which had religious overtones.

In January 2001, the city of Leicester condemned the antisemitism of its foundation. Simon de Montfort’s charter of about 1231 stated that ‘No Jew or Jewess in my time, or in the time of any of my heirs to the end of the world, shall inhabit or remain, or obtain residence in the city of Leicester.’ Jews have in fact been living in Leicester since the early 1840s and some people criticised the Council’s action as ‘political correctness run wild.’ The leader of the Council, Councillor Ross Willmot, said that renouncing the Charter re-emphasised Leicester’s high tolerance of all cultures, particularly in advance of the National Holocaust Memorial Day. The hate mail received by the Council only went to demonstrate the importance of the action. ‘There is still antisemitism here.’ Councillor Willmot, who is from a Jewish background, also said that the event was very personal for him. ‘I would not be allowed to be leader of the Council because I would not be allowed to be in this city.’

Antisemitism often masquerades as anti-Zionism. Criticism of the policies of Israeli governments may be acceptable, but such criticism easily turns into a denial of Israel’s right to exist and even of Jews right to life. Soon after the Gaza campaign — two hundred and twenty anti-Semitic incidents were recorded by the police. ‘Jewish buildings are daubed with anti-Semitic graffiti. Jews are attacked in the street. … Anti-Israel demonstrators shout’ “Kill the Jews”, “Be afraid, Jews,” “Heil Hitler,” and “Jews to the gas”. Worshippers on their way to the synagogue at which I pray,’ said the Chief Rabbi, ‘are shouted at by a passer-by with the words, “Hitler should have finished the job.”‘ By contrast criticism, for example, of the actions of the USA in Iraq does not become a call to kill all Americans.

The problem is that few perpetrators of prejudice are likely to have much contact with CCJ or to be willing to listen to reason. Many are hostile to any form of religion. The responsible leaders, however, of all faith communities in Britain, working together through the Inter Faith Network for the UK, of which CCJ is an active member, are united in working for tolerance and understanding and in promoting the ethical values that they share. Congregations need to make this a higher priority.

Jane Clements insisted that ‘Criticism of Israeli governments and concern for the plight of Palestinians is not antisemitism,’

Members of CCJ – whether Jewish or Christian – are firmly committed to Israel’s right to exist and support its people. This does not mean that they are uncritical of some policies of the Israeli government or the actions of some members of the security forces or settlers in the West Bank. In 1995, at the April meeting of the Executive, Mrs Beryl Norman expressed concern about the Israeli government’s treatment of ex-patriate Christians, with specific reference to the non-renewal of visas. At the September meeting in the same year, David Craig said that some people were having difficulty going to their holy places. It was agreed that a letter should be sent to the Israeli ambassador.

Jonathan Gorsky, as CCJ’s Deputy Education Officer, has on several occasions courageously challenged the hard-line views of some in the Jewish community, emphasising the human tragedy of the conflict. ‘The impact of military confrontation is profound and painful.’ he wrote, ‘Young men, who were but school boys a few years ago …hurt by pelting stones and stung by abusive taunts …over-react … The memory of lost friends overwhelms their sense of decency.’ When we pray for the peace of the Holy Land we must hear the narratives of Israelis and of Palestinians and help each to listen to the other, so dispelling images of conflict and violence and slowly creating a new and more promising reality. Israelis and Palestinians are people, just as we are, with families, children, hopes, sorrows, joys and aspirations. Their lives are distorted by an embattled and violent political context and we must pursue peace with understanding, patience and great sensitivity to the experience of both societies.

In another article entitled ‘Unto Thy Seed I Will Give This Land,’ Jonathan Gorsky gave a critical account of the Settlement Movement. ‘The settlements,’ he wrote ‘continue to have a drastic impact on both Palestinians and Israeli politics, with the Palestinians further embittered and inflamed by the overwhelming trials of their daily existence and the Israeli security barrier which has encroached on yet more Palestinian land.’ Jonathan Gorsky argued that all this had weakened the efforts of moderate Palestinians and had played into the hands of Hamas. He also stated that half of Israelis wanted the settlement project to end. ‘Religious leaders,’ he said, ‘must take their courage in both hands and make statements that will be highly unpopular, but might ultimately rekindle the politics of hope. It is possible and necessary for the Israelis and Palestinians to live together. The alternative is quite unthinkable.’

Pope Benedict XVI has always maintained the position that we can only speak of a single covenant linking / Jews and Christians. Professor John Pawlikowsi, a Roman Catholic theologian who was a former President of the International Council of Christians and Jews, has said that fOr Pope Benedict, ‘Any talk of dual covenants is tantamount to heresy… Pre­eschatologically (that is before last days) there exist two different paths. Ratzinger clearly affirms that the Jewish community advances to final salvation through continuing obedience to its revealed covenantal tradition. In the end Christ will confirm that Jewish covenant.

People were – and always are – amazed to learn that fish and chips were introduced by Jewish and Irish immigrants.

Lord Jakobovits was a keen supporter of Israel but bravely expressed concern ‘for the inhuman conditions of thousands of Palestinians in wretched refugee camps’ and recognised ‘the justice of some Arab claims even when they conflict with ours.’

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has said that Christianity is being wiped out from public life in the name of equality. The Archbishop of Canterbury, when he was asked about the Church’s participation in public debate, replied ‘The foot is still in the door, even if it is being squashed very painfully.’ In 2011, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, used his Easter message to attack ‘aggressive secularism’, saying that the enemies of Christianity want to ‘take God from the public sphere’. The Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks of Aldgate, has warned that Europe was dying because the growth of secularism.

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