NEWSLETTER No. 55/2 – September 2003


Christian & Jewish


"Passion" film threatens to put dialogue back into the dark ages

The portrayal of Jesus Christ's final 12 hours in the about-to-be released Mel Gibson film "The Passion" has already caused controversy among groups representing evangelical interests and those more concerned with righting the wrongs of religious teachings over the past centuries.

One leading academic has already warned that the film could provoke "one of the great crises in Christian-Jewish relations" in the US.
Undoubtedly this will be replicated in other parts of the world, Australia included.

Historical inaccuracies

A panel of three Jewish and six Catholic scholars – ICCJ International President, Dr. John Pawlikowski among them – who have studied a draft script have concluded that the film, if indeed produced according to that draft script, will contribute to furthering antisemitism and theological misunderstandings through its historical inaccuracies and unequivocal bias against Jews.

The draft portrays the Jews of the day as bloodthirsty and vengeful. It threatens to revive the worst traditions of the Passion plays which have caused cauldrons of deadly harm to the Jewish communities of Europe throughout the ages. (According to the draft script, for example, Jews are seen constructing the cross on which Jesus was to be crucified in the synagogue!)

The panel of reviewers concluded that the film's effect would represent a dramatic negation of the work of reconciliation and understanding of the past three or four decades.

Gibson claims he is not anti-semitic. He has been quoted as saying that antisemitism is contrary to his personal beliefs. At the same time he is the major supporter of a "traditionalist" Catholic church in Los Angeles, a spinoff from mainstream Catholicism which rejects the Second Vatican Council that, among

other statements, clearly absolved the Jews of being collectively responsible for Christ's death. He maintains the film is not meant to upset Jewish people. "I think it's just meant to tell the truth" he claimed. At the same time he expressed the hope that the film has the power to evangelise!

Issues go beyond the film

Dean and founder of the Los Angeles based Wiesenthal Centre, Rabbi Marvin Hier is adamant the ramifications of the issue go far beyond the film itself.

"This is a story for which millions paid with their lives. They were burned at the stake, killed in notorious pogroms and it is without doubt one of those ideas which served as the foundations of the Holocaust.

"We have a right to be concerned", Rabbi Hier told a media conference.

Shiboleths of bias

Dr. Pawlikowski condemned the film after having seen the draft script

The message for those equally concerned in Australia is equally clear. While the scope of the film in its present form – its sound track is in Latin and Aramaic and as yet there are no subtitles – may be limited, there is no question that it will serve the cause of those who propel the power to evangelise and those for whom antisemitism is endemic to their make up.

It therefore will obviously become an inevitable priority to explain the inaccuracies, the shibboleths of bias, prejudice and intolerance of truth which are inherent in this specific phenomenon, in particular to those in our society insecure and lacking in ability to see the wider implications of narrow-minded self-interests.


What's on . . .

The month of August witnessed a whirlwind itinerary propel the International President of the Council to five Australian capital cities in less than two weeks. His gruelling schedule saw Dr. John Pawlikowksi jet into Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth and then undertake the sleep-preventing Perth?Sydney?Chicago flights in order to keep abreast of a program of engagements and academic responsibilities which would easily exhaust a man half his age.

Giving to the Australian CCJ a prodigious proportion of his time in what was in fact a private visit to this country, Dr. Pawlikowski was acclaimed by his audiences for his erudite addresses, discussions with the media and during a number of private meetings which were arranged with church and synagogue leaders. His contribution during the briefest of visits provided inspiration to local CCJ executive members. As a result it is to be expected that efforts throughout Australia will now be renewed for people of goodwill to put their shoulders disproportionately to the wheel of the work to generate, propagate and generally to elevate inter-denominational understanding on the part of the most widespread constituency possible.
This of course is more important than ever before in the light of the threat looming from the historically inaccurate and radically biased portrayal of the death of Jesus in the Mel Gibson funded The Passion.

It is incumbent on all right thinking people to disown this outrageous distortion of known history. They must speak out to neoate any influence it may have in reversing the specific achievements of the past 3 decades which have brought to the same table and to common understanding the Jewish communities throughout the world and their Christian counterparts.
It would be a tragedy beyond measure were such a distortion of history in the form of common entertainment to unravel the achievements at reconciliation to date and to re-create the antisemitic prejudices of the dark ages in modern times.

Henry Mendelson
602/2 Darling Point Road, NSW 2027
Tel: (02) 9327 3337 Mobile: 0412 564 956
Fax: (02) 9327 4418

ICCJ Conference, Utrecht
(June – July 2003)

Marianne Dacy (NDS)

The theme: Re-imagining the Other; Jews, Christians and Muslims in Modernity attracted between 150-200 participants, Christians, Muslims and Jews - representing 25 of the 32 member countries of the ICCJ. Leading Israeli as well as Muslim scholars were among the lecturers, and workshop topics included Limits of Tolerance and thought; Women in conflict; Burning issues in the trilateral dialogue; Integration of Muslims in Europe; Confronting extremism and extremists in our communities; and Addressing the different historical experiences in the relationship between state and religion.

The concluding addresses were presented by Cardinal William Keeler of the US and Denmarks Chief Rabbi, Bent Melchior.

ICCJ President Fr. John Pawlikowski presented the ICCJ Annual Sir Sigmund Sternberg Award to 99 year old Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, one of the pioneers of the new relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people.

Sir Sigmund Sternberg referred to the role played by Cardinal Willebrands in arranging the visit of Pope John Paul II to the synagogue in Rome, the step which preceded John Paul II's apology at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2000.

In 2004, the ICCJ committee meeting will be in Aachen and the international meeting of 2005 is proposed for Chicago.

Dr. Marianne Dacy, Fr. Pawlikowski and Sr. Trish Madigan


A roundup of some of the programs being planned by Council throughout Australia

Forthcoming functions by CCJ Victoria include a talk by Dr. Marianne Dacy on
September 11 entitled "Imagining the Other", an overview of the ICCJ 2003 Conference in Utrecht, Holland and the launch of Gesher by Archbishop Dennis Hart, Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne on October 30.

September 3: While the Annual General Meeting of the NSW CCJ is planned for St. Andrews House in Sydney's CBD, the Council is also finalising plans for a 3-Choir musical afternoon to be held at St. John's College, University of Sydney on
October 26. The concert will feature the Jewish Choral Society, the Jacobean Singers and the BizanTine Choir.
November 7: The annual Kristallnacht (Night of broken glass) commemoration will again be held in Sydney's Martin Place. Later in the month a symposium will take place, again at St. John's College in which a conversation on interfaith relations will take place between Cardinal Cassidy and Rabbi Dr. John Levi. The event is to be moderated by the ABC's John Crittenden and broadcast on ABC Radio National.

The CCJWA Annual General Meeting for this year is set for Sunday
October 26. This will be followed by the Council's annual Kristallnacht service which this year will be held on
November 9 at St Gerard's Catholic Church in Westminster.

Seasons of Song in Church and Synagogue . . .

at Melbourne's Temple Beth Israel a resounding (in more sense than one) success

The three choirs were at their top form during an afternoon of inspiration in music – The Choir of Temple Beth Israel, incorporating the Wedding Singers, The Choir of Auburn Uniting Church and The Choir of St. Aidan's Uniting Church of North Balwyn provided the Slome Hall audience with a varying program from the liturgy and folklore of the three denominations.

The afternoon began with the chanting of an excerpt from the Torah by Temple Beth Israel senior minister, Rabbi Fred Morgan.
Throughout each of the Choir's renditions, the audience was enthralled by psalms, hymns and anthems from their respective repertoires.
As a bonus to the concert, the audience was hosted to afternoon tea and the opportunity to inspect an Art Exhibition entitled "Images of the Holy Land" by well-known Melbourne artist, Donald Cameron.
Proceeds from the sale of his works were donated to support the work of the Working Group on Christian Jewish Relations of the UCA Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, the organisation responsible for the organising and sponsorship of "Seasons of Song in Church and Synagogue".

The international President's visit

CCJ President, Fr. Prof. John Pawlikowski with
Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen
outside the Sydney Jewish Museum

News from around the States . . .


Cardinal Kasper's conversation with Professor Waller
President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper recently visited Melbourne under the auspices of the Marist Brothers. Cardinal Kasper gave an overview of the current situation in the relationship between the faiths around the world during a spirited presentation at Temple Beth Israel in conversation with Emeritus Professor Louis Waller AO. The issue of antisemitism which has increased in the past 2-3 years was discussed at considerable length, with the Cardinal assuring members of the Jewish community that the Church strongly deplores antisemitism in any form. Educational programs, particularly arranged for the younger generation, he said, is one means of countering this scourge.

Visit of Dr. Pawlikowski to Melbourne
An audience in excess of 250 gathered at Gazzano College recently for the Robert Anderson Oration by Fr. Dr. Pawlikowski. The ICCJ President gave an extensive picture of the current world of dialogue between the two faiths with a range of objectives for those involved in this work. Professor Anderson responded warmly to the Oration given in his honour.

The Adelaide theme: What Challenges does the Holocaust pose for Global Morality and Christian Self-Understanding?

According to Fr. Pawlikowski the callous attitude to life shown by the Nazis extends to the mistreatment not only of Jews or other groups generally who differ but even applies to our entire ecosystem, life itself on our planet. A caring attitude to this is one of the deepest lessons of the Holocaust, Fr. Pawlikowski said. He placed particular stress on the importance of terminology in creating better inter-group dialogue during the well-attended CCJSA function in Adelaide.
Fr. Pawlikowski also addressed issues specifically relating to Jewish-Christian dialogue, suggesting that a reappraisal of traditional Christian exegesis of the New Testament, of traditional views that God's grace and salvation does not work through Judaism, and similar views must be adjusted to the reality of the continuing and experiential Jewish covenantal bond to God.
Co-Chair of the SACCJ, Rev. Margaret Polkinghorne, gave the thanks of the audience to Fr. Pawlikowski


News from around The first half of 2003 has seen considerable programming beginning with the Pesach/Easter season. It was felt that it would be helpful for Perth's Jewish and
Christian communities to explore the meanings of the Passover and Easter in a workshop situation during which lay people of both faith communities explained the meanings of these festivals to them personally, followed by group discussions. It is quite evident that workshops such as these are valuable tools in promoting the education of Christians and Jews so as to appreciate each other's distinctive beliefs and practices and their common ground.
The year's second event for 2003 was the Murdoch University lecture by Dr David Gilad who was brought to Australia by the University's Department of Theology as a visiting scholar in Hebrew Bible Studies. Jointly organised by CCJWA and the University's Theological Department the lecture presented a scholarly overview of the historical and ideological roots of orthodoxy and the issues of the day. Dr Gilad went on to explain there was not one monolithic orthodox view of the modern State of Israel but many. He then concluded his talk by acknowledging that there are deep underlying theological problems in Israel today and though he conceded that the modern State is an advance on the old messianism, he left his audience with the question as to how the old and new might be reconciled. "Only Elijah the Prophet can tell", was his answer.
Highlight of the year was ICCJ President, Fr. Dr. John Pawlikowski's talk, again at Murdoch University, on the topic of Re-imaging Christian Jewish Relations: Implications for Christian and Jewish Identity.
CCJWA's AGM for this year is set for Sunday 26 October. Kristallnacht service is to be held on November 9 at St Gerard's Catholic Church in Westminster.

In the ACT…

Rev Prof Pawlikowski delivered the Ray Brown Memorial Lecture in honour of Ray Brown, a Catholic layman who founded the ACT Christian Jewish Dialogue in 1987, at Canberra's Centre for Christianity and Culture.

The ICCJ President presented the Ray Brown Memorial Lecture at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Canberra. Seen above with Gary Fellman (left), President of the ACT Jewish Community and Terry Craig, Convenor of the ACT Christian Jewish Dialogue and CCJ Branch in the ACT

The culture of forgetting
Some psychoanalytic, religious and philosophical Perspectives

Pauline Kennedy

I was ten years old when I saw the tattooed number on the arm of an ashen-faced man serving behind the counter of our local milk bar in West Brunswick. He did not answer me when I asked him to explain this mark. I think I learned about the Holocaust from my mother. More than forty years later, including fifteen years as a Catholic nun, I continue to be deeply distressed by antisemitism.

Robert Manne, a political scientist, secular Jew and one of Australia's leading cultural critics wrote a book entitled 'The Culture of Forgetting', after a literary scandal in 1995. As shown by Manne, the awarding of a prize for an antisemitic novel exposed 'a dangerously low level of political and historical understanding in Australian society and a disturbing lack of critical sharpness and moral poise' Glendinnen 1998). From my training and practice as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, I've started to reflect on ways that insights from 'the talking cure' might cast some light on unethical and irrational 'thinking' in our society.

Interpretation of personal histories
While the 'ethics of psychoanalysis' may be an open question (Lacan 1959-1960), psychoanalysis has much to say about 'forgetting' and the interpretation of personal histories. It is a common experience in therapy to observe that people repeat or act out what they cannot or must not remember. This 'forgetting', at some unconscious level, resulting in the return of the repressed, may also be observed, I propose, in societies, which persecute particular groups of people with frightening regularity. The questions I ask, as a Christian and a Catholic relate to this terrible forgetting throughout two thousand years of persecution of the Jewish people:

What truths have been forgotten about Jewish and Christian history? Why does group membership make it easy for individuals to

repress a capacity for violence, and to scapegoat perceived enemies? Reflections on this latter question are for another time. As to the former one, the following thoughts are offered, as a small part of the answer.

Ordinary consciousness
It has been said that the strength of psychoanalysis lies in its 'ethics of speaking well, of the truthful word'(Rodriguez 1995). Antisemitism in a variety of Christianities indicates that some blindingly obvious truths need to be faced, below the level of 'ordinary consciousness.' Such truths include the following:

  • Jesus was a Jew who lived and died as a Jew. Jesus is an authentically Jewish personality: all that he strives for and does, endures and feels, says and keeps silent about has the stamp of a Jewish nature, is in the mould of Jewish idealism…' Rabbi Leo Baeck, 1873 -1956. (Kung 1995).
  • Christianity was a minor Jewish sect for many years after the death of Jesus.
  • The accusation that the Jewish race is responsible for the death of Christ is a
    profoundly racist and distorted version of the facts. It is as absurd as saying
    that all Italians are also responsible, because the executioners were Roman.
  • The Gospels underline the love of one's neighbour, including one's enemy', imagined or otherwise.
  • Some people have destructive and crippling images of the Divine.


  • Apple, R. (1999) Radio National Religion Report interview, August 4.
  • Cassidy, E. (1998) We Remember: A reflection on the Shoah,
  • Clendinnen, I (1998) Reading the Holocaust, Text Publication.
  • Hill, P. (1997) Lacan for beginners, Writers and Readers, Pub. Inc.
  • Kung, H. (1995) Judaism – The religious situation of our time, SCM Press Ltd.
  • Rodriguez, L. (1995) The Ethics of Psychoanalysis and the malaise of our culture, in Analysis.
  • Zizek, S. (1995) The Sublime object of Ideology, Verso, New York, p.48.

The Truth about the Pharisees

Rabbi Raymond Apple AM RFD

The Pharisees have had a bad press for centuries. Despite their proven humanity, sincerity and piety, they have been constantly excoriated as a reprehensible group of egalistic, selfrighteous hypocrites who symbolise all that is worst in the religious character. The New Testament gives the impression that Jesus was adamantly opposed to the movement and all it stood for; Jews who know the real worth of the Pharisees understand how the gospel writers got it so wrong. Christian scholarship – Travers Herford, George Foot Moore, James W. Parkes and E. P. Sanders in particular – has attempted to rehabilitate the movement but much more needs to be done to put the record straight.

The Pharisees were one of three main sects in late Second Temple Judaism. The others were the Sadducees and Essenes. It is with the Sadducees that the Pharisees need to be particularly contrasted. Though some claim that the Sadducees were not so much a religious movement as a socio-economic party based on the Temple priesthood and the upper echelons of Judean society, there were also philosophical differences between their views and those of the Pharisees. The main difference concerned the status of Torah sheb'al peh, the Oral Teaching.

A revolutionary scholarly class
To the Pharisees, the Oral Teaching was exegesis of the Pentateuch to make the Torah into the "inheritance of the community of Israel". Jewish knowledge was available to every Jew; Jewish leadership was for those who had acquired Torah, regardless of priestly or other lineage. Ellis Rivkin calls the Pharisees "a revolutionary scholar class".

No wonder Josephus, a major source of information on the period, informs us that the people loved the Pharisees. In modern terms we would say that the Pharisees empowered the people – or rather made it possible for the people to be empowered by Torah. Rarely did the Pharisee party hold political power; hardly ever were they political activists. They had no love for the Roman overlords and did not acknowledge the pretensions of the Roman rulers – their principle was "Our Father, our King, we have no King but You" – but they were prepared to make some accommodation with the Roman power provided they could continue their piety, study and teaching.

Pharisee in contradistinction to Sadducee
After the destruction of the Temple the Sadducees fell away, though leaving some residual traces, but the Pharisees remained. However, since the name Pharisee had meaning mostly in contradistinction to the Sadducees, from this time onwards little is heard of Pharisees as such and they become Rabbinic Judaism in the process making it possible for Judaism to survive the catastrophe and to regroup its spiritual, cultural and intellectual forces.

The rabbinic literature redacted at a later stage incorporates earlier material and is therefore a valuable source on the Pharisees, but we immediately discover a problem.

The name Pharisee is not always used in the same sense. Sometimes it indicates Pharisee as against Sadducee. Sometimes it denotes separatists (from a Hebrew root that means to separate oneself), because the movement urged separation from transgression. At times it even means "heretic", understanding the same root as suggesting "outsider" – in this sense it is a mocking criticism of them by their opponents. So we need to check the word Pharisee against its various contexts.

A similar exercise is necessary when looking at New Testament references. But first a word of warning. To present Jesus as anti-Pharisee, in whatever sense the word is used, is historically quite anomalous. The Pharisaic ethic of love, compassion, patience, sincerity, humility and hope is amply documented; it is simply not possible to suggest that Jesus had any quarrel with these principles. Nor is it likely that Pharisees were actively seeking to have him put to death. If he had differences of opinion with them, these were "in club" dialogue, because this is how the sages worked. Matthew 23 sharpens the story beyond recognition (and some of the supposed conflicts could simply never have occurred).

Jesus is not usually referred to as a member of the three main sects of the time, but his sympathies were closer to the Pharisees than to any other group.
If references to Jesus having problems with Pharisees have a factual basis, the term
Pharisee cannot indicate Pharisee as against Sadducee, because Jesus' views do not allow sympathy with the Sadducees. Does it indicate Pharisee as separatist? Possibly, if as some suggest he has in mind certain factions (e.g. the Shammaites) amongst the movement. Does it indicate "heretic"? Probably not, since Jesus does not appear to have taken sides in the internal conflicts which gave rise to this derisory name.
The most likely answer is that, when criticising self-righteousness, hypocrisy, spiritual blindness, outward piety, perverse teaching, etc., he is echoing the Pharisees' own condemnation of attitudes that can surface in any otherwise genuine religious movement. So why does he utter criticism (whether the texts quote his own words or later writers' more hostile views) of Pharisees as such?

For this we have to go to the rabbinic sources themselves. In a well-known passage in Avot d'Rabbi Natan we find an ancient listing of seven classes of Pharisee, five of whom are sternly criticised. The five are the Shoulder Pharisee who parades his good deeds; the Bruised Pharisee who lets himself suffer injury rather than look at a woman, the Pestle Pharisee who walks with his head down like a pestle in the mortar, and the Ever Reckoning Pharisee who is constantly looking for a good deed to counteract his neglect.

The sages of the time actually refer to "Pharisaic plagues". Why do the authors of this rabbinic passage criticise Pharisees? It is a criticism from within the movement, nor does it imply that all members of the group are hypocrites or sinners. It is a group saying "Let us try to be the best possible representatives of our group". What then is Jesus doing? Not condemning Pharisaism across the board but quoting a well-known internal position of the time. To suggest otherwise is careless and unhistorical. It unjustly maligns a sincerely pious, devoted group, a special group with a finely tuned conscience.
Their name deserves to be honoured and not allowed to become a pejorative term of abuse.

Mel Gibson suspects that a Jew Named Jesus was killed by Jews and
thus deprived his type of Christians from the joy of killing that particular Jew.

LOS ANGELES ? Mel Gibson and his parents are under fire today from a leading Jewish group for reportedly anti-semitic impulses in the former's new film and the latter's denial that Al Qaeda executed the Sept. 11 attacks.

The actor's father, Hutton Gibson, told The New York Times he flatly rejected that the terrorist group led by Usama bin Laden had any role in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon Sept. 11. "Anybody can put out a passenger list," the elder Gibson told The Times. "So what happened? They were crashed by remote control." He and the actor's mother, Joye Gibson, also told The Times that the Holocaust was a fabrication manufactured to hide an arrangement between Adolf Hitler and "financiers" to move Jews out of Germany to the Middle East to fight Arabs.

"Go and ask an undertaker or the guy who operates the crematorium what it takes to get rid of a dead body," Hutton Gibson told The Times. "It takes one liter of petrol and 20 minutes. Now six million?" Said Joye Gibson: "That weren't even that many Jews in all of Europe."

Rabbi Marvin Hier, head