NEWSLETTER No: 58 – July 2004


Christian & Jewish

Council conference concludes ?Education is the way forward”

A historic stepping stone in the work of the Australian Council of Christians and Jews ? its first National Conference, which took place in Melbourne over the June Queen?s Birthday Long Weekend — found its focus on the need for greater educational initiatives. Two of the Conference agenda panel presentations placed the spotlight on the Harmony program, recently undertaken for students of a Jewish, Catholic and Muslim school and the ongoing need to establish and maintain a spirit of mutual understanding and acceptance by the younger generation. ?By concentrating on this constituency it is to be hoped that much of the current divisiveness, ignorance and misunderstandings can be prevented in future generations”, the Council?s National President, Henry Mendelson said. Two conference workshops saw a start being made to analysing the directions which the Council needs to take if its work of fostering dialogue and understanding between the faiths can be grown. Participation from wide ranging viewpoints in a think tank session at the conclusion of the second workshop resulted in a series of discussion papers which are in the process of being prepared for consideration by the ACCJ Executive.

Stronger communications Topics covered a wide spectrum of recommendations which the Australian Council intends to make to its international body (the organisation is represented in over 30 countries) and which it will aim to implement over the coming years. These included stronger communications, greater emphasis on fund raising and an out-reach to community groups. However it was the emphasis on education which captured the imagination of delegates, with Councils in the Australian States encouraged to undertake initiatives involving younger people. ?Education is the way forward”, the conference was told by Uniting Church Director of Education, Margaret Scanlon. The school, she pointed out, can be a ?hospitality centre” for interfaith relationships which will develop curiosity and provide a cross denominational perspective. This was reinforced by Council for Christian Education?s Jill Simmonds and Bialik College Director of Jewish Studies, Zvi Civins.

Tribute to Council

?Schools are the microcosm of multiculturism”, Mrs. Simmonds said, while Principal of Xavier College, John Finn summed up the basic priorities for interfaith understanding and dialogue when he said ?we cannot live with other people unless we know who they are, where they come from and what they believe”. Victorian Supreme Court Judge, Justice Stephen Charles, who chaired the panel session concluded that ?there is hope for a society which encourages people of one persuasion to live in harmony and understanding with another”. He paid tribute to the Council of Christians and Jews the work of which, he said, was today more important than ever.

Conference Participants


Rabbi Raymond Apple asks:
where are the Jews ? and the Christians?

Direction, Communication, Education …it all amounted to a highly successful conference

The Australian Council?s first national conference was a triumph in itself, not merely that it had happened in the first place but that it foreshadowed new directions, new forms of communication and a new emphasis on education. The education component (?Education is the way forward”) is undoubtedly seen as the most important outcome of the conference (see Page 1) Directions for future priorities by the Australian Council and more importantly ? by the International Council were the subject of vigorous and positive outcome discussions at the first of the two conference workshops. One of the workshops topics dealing with the Harmony program which three schools in Melbourne have instituted made a huge impact on conference participants. The inspiration to extend a similar initiative to other States has been taken to heart by the Executive of the Australian Council which now has the ball well and truly at its feet to instil the necessary enthusiasm and the install the required planning to set such a program in motion. A more aggressive approach to communication as a means to showcase the work of the Council throughout Australia was unveiled. The concept was universally agreed that once the overall community understands more the work of the Council and the ever growing need for its principles to be applied to Australia?s social orbit the greater will be the support it can expect. It was however generally recognised that a great deal of effort will need to be applied into directions which will see more direct initiatives between the Australian Council and State bodies. No comment on the conference would be complete without reference to the enthusiastically received Victoria Chorale concert on the conference opening night. This initiative, made possible by the Victorian Council set the tone of warm friendship and positive dialogue prevalent throughout the entire weekend. Overall, the general reaction by many of the delegates was extremely positive. The step forward exemplified by this the first ever national conference was evidence the Council had taken an important step forward in the effort to put its individual stamp on the work of interfaith dialogue. Most importantly it has encouraged the Council to set a date and its sights on next year?s conference in Sydney for October 2005.

Interfaith events do not always bring large numbers. Both Christians and Jews sometimes prefer to remain in their own comfort zones. Moving out to touch the other is sometimes too frightening. One can understand the reserve and reluctance. It is clearly the product of centuries of history and brainwashing. The fear of the other remains very real for some. But important as history is, the future is even more important. Only if we recognise that the other actually exists and that we have our conscience and commitment will we be able to build a work that respects what Jonathan Sacks calls the dignity of difference. Only if we recognise the dignity of difference can we make it one world with a chance to survive.

Music adds to the solemnity to Council Shoah service
in the crypt of St. Mary?s Cathedral

Violinist David Angell at the commemoration

Each year the NSW Council of Christians and Jews holds a service to commemorate the horrors of the Holocaust. The event takes place within the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies calendarised Holocaust Week during which a number of important functions and commemorations take place. Most of these, understandably, are held in venues within the Jewish community, and are in the main attended by members of the Jewish community.

The CCJ commemoration, held in the crypt of St. Mary?s Cathedral is intended for the Christian community and is regularly attended by representatives of the various Churches and young people. It is accompanied by solemn music, a series of special readings and the lighting of commemorative candles. The service traditionally ends with the admonition: ?Never Again”.

Sydney students awarded annual Council Medal for excellence in Hebrew studies

This year?s tertiary students in NSW saw not one but two students heading the results of Hebrew Studies. Maria Shankland (Catholic Institute of Sydney – pictured below right) and Joshua Dowton (Southern Cross College) shared top honours for 2004. They were both presented with the specially designed and engraved medal which the NSW Council presents annually in recognition of excellence in Hebrew studies by a non Jewish student. NSW Council president, Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen said that recognising the efforts of students, at both secondary and tertiary level in areas of interfaith interest and activity is one of the areas which the Council is seeking to become more involved than in the past which would be the subject for future planning considerations. ?We hope to be able to extend this area of involvement to include the establishment of scholarships for students throughout the State”, Rabbi Cohen stated.

Victorian Council of Christians and Jews names Hon. Life Members

At its recent Annual General Meeting, the Victorian Council of Christians and Jews nominated three of its long-serving members to the position of Honorary Life member. They are Michael Cohen, Gad Ben-Meir and George Grant. They were nominated by Sr. Mary Lotton who spoke glowingly of the work each had rendered the Council over many years.


Rabbi Raymond Apple

The Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew spells out Jesus? concept of prayer. He tells his followers not to show off when praying or to ?go babbling on like the heathen” (Matthew 6:2-8). He directs them to pray in this fashion:

?Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
Forgive us the wrong we have done,
As we have forgiven those who have wronged us;
Do not bring us to the test,
But save us from evil”
(Matthew 6:7-13; Luke 11:2-4)

It is related that Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he ceased, one of his disciples said: ?Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). The devout Jew of the time believed in Kavvanah, deep concentration on prayer. The Hassidim (early pietists), spent as much as an hour in meditation before they prayed. Maybe it was at such a moment, when Jesus was deeply immersed in pre-devotional contemplation, that his disciples spoke to him. The Talmud offers interesting parallels. While not all strictly contemporary, they illustrate this tradition. For example, Rabbi Eliezer, on concluding the statutory prayers, used to say:

?May it be Your will, O Lord our God, to cause to dwell among us love and brotherhood, peace and friendship. Make our borders rich in disciples and prosper our latter end with good prospect and hope. Set our portion in Paradise and confirm us with good companions and the good impulse.”

Rabbi Alexandri used to say: ?Sovereign of the Universe, it is well known to You that our will is to perform Your will. What prevents us? The evil impulse, which causes a ferment in our heart and the subjection to foreign powers. May it be your will to save us from their hand so that we may again perform the statutes of Your will with a perfect heart.”

A favourite saying of the rabbis of Yavneh was: ?I am God?s creature; my fellow man is God?s creature. My work is in the town, and his work is in the country. I rise early for my work, and he rises early for his. Will you say, ?I do much and he does little?? We have learned that it matters not if one does much or little, provided he directs his heart to his Teacher in heaven” (Ber. 16b).

Echo of the Kaddish

Jesus? prayer combines many of the features of prayers which were common use in Pharisee circles. It is not doctrinal nor does it claim that the Messiah has arrived in the person of Jesus. The first part of the text (?Hallowed be Your Name”) is a prayer for the coming of the Kingdom of God. This echoes the Kaddish, which begins with the paragraph:

?Magnified and hallowed be God?s great name in the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His Kingdom during your life and during your days and during the life of the whole house- hold of Israel, speedily and at a near time.”

The invocation ?Our Father”, in Hebrew Avinu, or simply Abba, as in Luke, is common as a form of address to God in the Jewish liturgy. The full formula, ?Our Father in heaven”, goes back to the Hassidim.Calling God ?Our Father? reflects the statutory benedictions recited three times a day in the Amidah, e.g.: ?Cause us to return, O our Father, to Your law; draw us near, O our King, to Your service.” Or ?Forgive us, our Father, for we have sinned; pardon us, our King, for we have transgressed.”

Messianic theme

The Jewish parallels to the Lord?s Prayer indicate that Jesus was expressing in Luke and Matthew the yearning of his generation for the coming of the Messiah. There is a striking parallel in a first century prayer in the name of Rabbi Eliezer: ?Do Your will in heaven above and give tranquillity of spirit to those that fear You on earth, and do what is good in Your eyes. Blessed are You, who hearkens to prayer”. Some scholars find a messianic theme in the phrase: ?Give us today our daily (apportioned) bread”. Reference is made by such scholars to Rabbi Eliezer of Modin who said: ?He who created the day, created also its provision; so he, who, while having sufficient food for the day says, ?What shall I eat tomorrow??, belongs to the men of little faith, such as were the Israelites at the giving of the manna” (Mekhilta Beshallach II; Sotah 48b). This is parallel to what Jesus says later on in a kind of extended commentary on the Lord?s Prayer. He says: ?Do not be anxious ?. what you shall eat. Take no thought for your life ? O you of little faith, seek first the Kingdom of God.”

Talmud parallel

Elsewhere the Talmud asks: ?For whom is sin pardoned? For him who forgives injury”. This is parallel with what Jesus says in Mark 11:25: ?When you stand praying, if you have a grievance against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you the wrongs you have done”. We come now to the final phrase: ?Do not bring us to the test, but save us from evil” some versions, ?from the evil one”). Again there is a parallel in the Talmud: ?Never should a man subject himself to temptations as David did, saying, ?Examine me, O Lord, and prove me? (Psalm 26:2).” According to James 1:15, sin is the work of Satan. This accounts for the reading, ?But deliver us from the evil one”. The theme of this verse is found with variations in many Hassidic prayers; however, the early Pharisees gradually softened the expression ?the evil one” into ?the evil inclination” (yetzer ha-ra). Other formulations have ”evil accidents” and ?evil companionship”. The idea of Satan as an independent being never figured very strongly in Jewish thought; and it is natural, therefore, for Jesus to soften it into ?things evil”. The passage added in some versions, ?For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever” has its source in I Chronicles 29:11. The almost identical words are used in the synagogue, before the Scroll of the Torah is opened for public reading; it is we not certain how old this ritual is, but it is significant that these words, which may not have been in the original Lord?s Prayer, are used for the liturgical chant with which the prayer was concluded in church worship.
(partly based on an article by Arthur Saul Super)

Choral Arts and the Legacy of Christian Anti-Judaism

Last year the ICJS assembled a remarkable group of scholars in Baltimore to launch an inquiry into the complex interplay of Choral Arts and Christian theology — particularly the enduring legacy of Christian anti-Judaism.

Participants included: Margot Fassler (Director of Sacred Music, Yale Divinity School); Richard Freedman (Professor of Music, Haverford College); Michael Marrisen (Music Department Chair, Swarthmore College); Amy-Jill Levine (Professor of New Testament Studies, Vanderbilt Divinity School); Sanford Sylvan (opera singer); Tom Hall (Director of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society); Rosann Catalano (ICJS Roman Catholic scholar); Charles Arian (ICJS Jewish scholar); John Roberts (Associate ICJS scholar); and Christopher M. Leighton (ICJS Executive Director).

Preliminary goals of the new project were briefly outlined:

To demonstrate how anti-Judaism has found a home in choral music; to convince conductors, performers, and audiences that the problem of anti-Judaism in music exists and needs to be taken seriously; and to suggest ways of educating conductors, performers, and audiences so that anti-Judaism in choral works can be recognized and understood.

?the problem of anti-Judaism in music exists and needs to be taken seriously…; and (we need) to suggest ways of educating conductors, performers, and audiences so that anti-Judaism in choral works can be recognised and understood”

The first meeting on attempted to identify the issues and challenges facing the project and to suggest ways in which to frame these issues and challenges in order to generate future educational responses.

During the one-day conference, the discussion ranged across many topics, including: the importance of teaming musicologists with biblical scholars to help make the transition between religious text and art; fostering understanding of the anti-Judaic elements in the work without destroying the appreciation of the music; and addressing the problems associated with revising or editing the music to remove the objectionable portions.

The discussion attempted to identify clearly the broadest possible audience for the project and at the same time to address the considerable concerns of performers and scholars in the field. As the project moves forward with the support of the Marco Goodman Trust in San Francisco, the ICJS will: Identify four or five themes that need to be taught and choose music to teach these themes (or identify key pieces of music that illustrate anti-Judaism); Increase theological understanding as a crucial component to learning; Present issues in historical segments (e.g., the medieval period, the Renaissance, etc.) that help make the theological concepts easier to understand in context; Identify and bring together a distinguished group of scholars from music and theology for a symposium out of which a volume of essays can be generated along with other resources.

European Lutheran Commission on the Church and the Jewish People: A statement on Anti-semitism

We view with deep concern various expressions of animosity towards Jews in our countries. Jewish dialogue partners describe an increase in antisemitism, which has taken many forms: graffiti on synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, verbal abuse, telephone threats, and even physical violence.

Reports such as the study of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (“”Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002?2003″”) confirm this increase of antisemitism and call for measures to combat it: ””Europe?s political leaders must make it very clear that they do not accept antisemitism and racism by taking a strong leadership position on the issue.”(EUMC 31-3-04). We expect an equally strong attitude from church leaders and from all church members, since from a theological point of view, ””antisemitism is sin against God and humanity”(First Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Amsterdam, 1948, “”The Christian Approach to the Jews””). Likewise the “”Charta Oecumenica ? Guidelines for the Growing Cooperation among the Churches in Europe”(Conference of European Churches and Council of European Bishops? Conferences) states: “”We commit ourselves: to oppose all forms of antisemitism and anti-Judaism in the church and in society; to seek and intensify dialogue with our Jewish sisters and brothers at all levels.”As Lutherans we bear a special responsibility in light of anti-Jewish elements in the Lutheran tradition. This has been an issue at LEKKJ Conferences for years, indeed decades. For example, the LEKKJ Declaration of Driebergen, The Netherlands (1990) states: “”We strongly urge that, within the Lutheran Churches, the anti-Jewish attacks in Luther?s later words and their disastrous consequences be worked on as has been done in the Stockholm statement of 1983. We also urge that the fundamental patterns of Lutheran theology and teaching . . . be reconsidered in view of their effects on the relationship between Christians and Jews.”We regret that these commitments are not yet shared by all church members. This challenge is still an acute problem. Today we see antisemitism showing itself in the form of anti-Zionism. As churches we have close and lasting ties with the Jewish people and with the state of Israel. Our faith also gives us an inherent relationship with Palestinian Christians. Despite efforts to achieve a balanced position, we often see an unbalance favouring the Palestinian point of view within our churches. In the public debate about these issues, we often note antisemitic allusions, as expressed, for example, in the intolerable equation of the Israeli government?s present policies with the National Socialist policy of annihilation. To criticise the policies of the State of Israel is not per se antisemitic. But it becomes so when the very existence of the State of Israel is called into question. In public discussions, anti-Jewish clich?s such as ””retribution”and “”an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”” occur repeatedly. We must state emphatically that political disagreements do not justify attacks on Jews. We further assert: The state of Israel has the right and the obligation to protect itself and its citizens from terror.

This statement was adopted by the European Lutheran Commission on the Church and the Jewish People (LEKKJ), in which 25 Lutheran church bodies in Europe are represented, at its annual meeting in Cluj-Klausenberg, Romania earlier this year.

Previous Newsletter