NEWSLETTER No. 59 – Sept/Oct 2004


Christian & Jewish

Australia to host the 2007 world conference of International body

A historic stepping stone in the work of the Australian Council of Christians and Jews was reported in the last issue of Scene ? the organisation?s first National Conference held in Melbourne over the Queen?s Birthday Long Weekend.

Hot on the heels of its successful conclusion comes the news that the International Council of Christians and Jews has allocated the location of its 2007 World conference and annual meeting to Australia. The event will take place in Sydney during the second week of July.

ACCJ National Executive readies planning for 2007

While to some it may sound a long way off, the Australian Council of Christians and Jews? National Executive, which meets 8 times a year by teleconference is not letting the grass grow under its feet. At the last national link up meeting, it was decided to establish a series of planning priorities and to set in motion the necessary steps to begin the planning process for 2007. Venue details are currently being finalised and will be announced shortly. In the meantime it has been decided that it would be desirable for representatives from Australia to attend the Chicago (2005) and Vienna (2006) International Council conferences.

Marianne Dacy, the Australian Council?s delegate to the Conference writes:

This year?s meeting of the International Council of Christians and Jews was in Aachen, a border town in the northwest of West Germany. The former Aix La Chapelle, Aachen has been at the centre of cross-cultural contacts and interreligious Christian-Jewish-Muslim encounters in Western Europe for many centuries. The marble throne where kings have presided is still on display in the Aachen cathedral where Charlemagne was crowned in the ninth century.

The conference delegates were hosted by the local synagogue which counts among its members a large number of Russian Jews who have arrived within the last ten years. Some borders that once separated countries have become borders that connect peoples. Again, an apparent reverse development has also occurred, where traditional borders did not only not disappear, but have been replaced by new ones between countries, cultures, religious traditions.

Sometimes borders are needed. It was these issues that the four day consultative conference sought to address.

Sternberg award

The official opening was in the historic five hundred year old Coronation Hall of the Aachen Town Hall with the presentation of the 2004 ICCJ International Sir Sigmund Sternberg Award to Sarajevo?s Dr Mustafa Cerec, Grand Mufti of Bosnia. This award is given to individuals whose efforts at interfaith in society have reached beyond the borders of their own countries. Mufti Serec was optimistic in his approach, saying that although today had been the wost of times in some ways, it could be made the best of times if people cooperated together for peace and harmony. Later in the conference two Sir Sigmund Sternberg gold medallions were presented one to a Jew, Prof Jean Halperin and one to a Christian theologian, Dr Stephan Schreiner for their outstanding efforts in interfaith.


The assembly was also addressed by a Palestinian, who spoke emotively of the pain of marginalisation to a mixed audience of Jews, Christians and Muslims. He defined seven types of borders that include survival, separation to retain identity, and marginalisation. Daniel Rossing, a well know figure from Israel, spoke of Israel?s dilemma in the current climate of suicide bombings and the problems facing interfaith today such as the misrepresenting of the eight hundredth anniversary of the death of Maimonides. About eighty people were present at the conference. Next year there will be the full conference in Chicago which will also include the Women?s Conference and the Youth Conference. The latter also took place, at another location, with several members attending the 2004 Aachen conference.

Victorian CCJ explores Jewish, Christian views of Leviticus

A recent CCJ (Vic) evening with Rabbi Fred Morgan from Temple Beth Israel and Dr Mark Brett from the Melbourne College of Divinity explored the Jewish and Christian views of Leviticus 19. Reports say the evening was extremely well attended and that the scholarly discussion which ensued was a challenging one. Seen below in earnest dialogue: Temple Beth Israel?s Rabbi Morgan and Dr. Brett. See here

Higher profile

Fr Dr John Pawlikowski At the annual general meeting Fr John Pawlikowski was re-elected for another term as president. A new general secretary has yet to be appointed, but we should hear the announcement soon. The ICCJ committee expressed disappointment that only five organisations responded to its appeal for feedback on issues that should be addressed in the future [Australia was one of the five. Ed]. These questions will be addressed in the shaping of a new vision for the ICCJ, when more information has been received from member organisations. Other issues which made up the topic-filled agenda of the conference included the ICCJ?s presence at the UN, as well as the need to give the ICCJ a higher profile. The question of younger members and their better integration into the wider conference was also explored by the conference?s delegates.

New Zealand too

Former President Rabbi David Rosen and wife Sharon In all, the Aachen conference was of extreme interest and importance in advancing the work of the ICCJ and it is to be hoped that the topics raised and problems identified will be further developed at next year?s conference in Chicago, the one in 2006 which is scheduled to take place in Vienna and not least, the 2007 conference which the ICCJ has, for the first time in its history, allocated to Australia. It should undoubtedly be stressed that while all the references to the 2007 conference which will take place in Sydney refer to Australia, the New Zealand Council of Christians and Jews will also be invited to participate in the ground breaking antipodean event.


A few weeks ago, SCENE received a letter on the subject of the summation in a book review published in the July issue. The letter writer, a self- acknowledged evangelical Anglican felt the need to express an opinion — as indeed did some other readers of SCENE who, let it be said, kept their opinions to the dinner table.
While Letters to the Editor should never be extended diatribes and therefore are usually edited to a length of no more than 300 or 400 words, this particular letter is published in its entirety in fairness to the writer.
It will not serve any purpose to repeat the “”offending”comments from the reviewer or the views of the writer of the letter (it can be seen here) since both are unequivocal clear in their context.
What needs to be clearly enunciated is that SCENE, from its earliest gestation in its present format, has carried reviews of books which are selected for their relevance to the area of Christian-Jewish dialogue and the examination of issues for both denominations.
Over the years these reviews have been sourced (by courtesy of its Editor) from the Australian Jewish News and more recently from the Internet. They are published on the same basis in SCENE as they are in the Australian Jewish News or any other publication; that is on the basis that the opinions of the reviewers are theirs and not necessarily, if ever, those of the publication.
Perhaps we have been remiss in not making this general publication policy as clear as it should have been. The major point however which needs to be made here is that, while any reader has the right to submit his/her views on anything which is published in SCENE — book reviews or contributions by outside authors such as that by Bishop McGrath, it is basically not the policy of the Editor to publish material merely because it may or may not be in line with the views, faith concepts or value judgements of one group of readers or another. It has been the aim of the editorial content over the past 3-4 years to make each issue of SCENE as diverse in content as possible, given the diversity beliefs and backgrounds of its readership.
To expect that the publication will only carry “”correct”content according to the feelings or views of one or other reader category is seriously to knobble its aim for breadth of material and wide ranging content approach. This is no apology. There is no need for one. It is merely an attempt to set the record straight since this was seemingly needed…

Gospels not historic accounts of the historical events which they narrate

Bishop of San Jose, Patrick McGrath

Writing about the background to the four Gospels (in the context of Mel Gibson?s “”Passion””) the Roman Catholic bishop of San Jose, California, Patrick McGrath commented that these sacred books are not historical accounts of the historical events which they narrate. “”They are theological reflections upon the events that form the core of Christian faith and belief””? he said. He continued: “”The reader can easily misunderstand the gospels when they are viewed through the lens of contemporary conceptions, attitudes and prejudices, as well as those of intervening millennia. The attribution of anti-Semitism to the gospel narratives is one such misunderstanding.

Their own perceptions

“”It is a distortion by Christians who forget these facts: Jesus was a Jew, the apostles were Jews, the writers of the New Testament (as well as the Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Scriptures) were Jews, and the audience for which the Old and New Testaments were written was primarily Jewish.

“”It was not until several generations after the writing of the gospels before Jewish Christians (the first believers in Jesus) began to consider themselves not to be Jews. “”It is an inescapable fact that first-century Jewish writers would depict the drama of the passion of Jesus in light of their own perceptions. We, however, have a responsibility to history as well as to the present to bring a different understanding to our relations with one another. “”Unfortunately, this understanding has not always motivated Catholics in relations with their Jewish brothers and sisters. History relates periods of Christian persecution of Jews, and the direct effects of this persecution still touch us today.

I want to apologise for the Church?s actions Soon after I became bishop of San Jose, I went to Temple Emanu-El to apologise for the Catholic Church's actions that incited or in any way encouraged anti-Semitism. “”An elderly man approached me and related how, when he was a young boy some 70 or 80 years earlier, he had been attacked by other boys who called him ?Christ killer?. ”Even after all of the years, this man broke down in tears at recounting the story. All I could do was offer him a personal apology and to embrace him as a brother.

Humanity forms but one community

“”This most tragic part of our not-so-distant-past was addressed at the Second Vatican Council by the Roman Catholic bishops of the world in the 1965 document, Nostra Aetate.
The bishops wrote, `Humanity forms but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created. . . . The Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this follows from holy scripture. Indeed the Church reproves every form of persecution against whomsoever it may be directed. . . . it deplores all hatreds, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism leveled at any time or from any source against the Jews.'

“”In the nearly 40 years since Nostra Aetate, the relationships between Catholics and non-Christians ? including but not limited to Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists ? have grown. We see ourselves as sisters and brothers, co-workers and friends.

“”In solidarity with Pope John Paul II, who asked for forgiveness during his pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 2000, I apologise to all my brothers and sisters of any faith tradition which has felt prejudice. Let us not allow the mutual respect that has developed to be threatened by an unenlightened reflection on an artistic rendering of the events of 2,000 years ago.

Patrick McGrath, the Bishop of San Jose wrote this column earlier this year for the San Jose Mercury News.

Joint declaration of Buenos Aires 2004 International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee?s 18th Meeting holds out hope for “”fraternal dialogue”to continue to resonate in ever widening circles

Joint Declaration of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee:
””Our commitment to justice is deeply rooted in both our faiths””

Relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people have undergone far-reaching change since the Declaration of the Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate (1965). That Declaration highlighted Christianity?s Jewish roots and the rich spiritual patrimony shared by Jews and Christians.
Over the last quarter century, Pope John Paul II has used every opportunity to promote dialogue between our two faith communities which he sees as intimately related at the very heart of our respective identities.
This fraternal dialogue has engendered mutual understanding and respect. It is our hope that it will continue to resonate in ever-widening circles and touch the minds and hearts of Catholics and Jews ? and the wider community.

Tzedeq and Tzedaqah

The 18th International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee Meeting, held in Buenos Aires earlier this year was devoted to the subject of Tzedeq and Tzedaqah (Justice and Charity) in their theoretical aspects and practical applications.

“”Drawing from our different perspectives, we have renewed our joint commitment to defend and promote human dignity, as deriving from the biblical affirmation that every human being is created in the likeness and image of God (Gen. 1:26). We recall Pope John XXIII?s advocacy of human rights for all God?s children enunciated in his seminal encyclical Pacem in terris (1963) and we pay special tribute to him for initiating the fundamental change in the Catholic-Jewish relationship””, the meeting concluded.

“”Our joint commitment to justice is deeply rooted in both our faiths. We recall the tradition of helping the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the stranger in our midst in accordance with God?s injunction (Ex. 22:20-22; Mt 25:31-46). The Sages of Israel developed a broad doctrine of justice and charity for all, based upon an elevated understanding of the concept of Tzedeq.

“”Building on the Church's tradition, Pope John Paul II, in his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis (1979), reminded Christians that a true relationship with God requires a strong commitment to service of one's neighbour.

“”While God created human beings in their diversity, He endowed them with the same dignity. We share the conviction that every person has the right to be treated with justice and equality. This right includes an equitable sharing of God's bounty and graciousness (chesed)””.

Commitment to the poor

Given the global dimensions of poverty, injustice and discrimination, the meeting saw a clear religious obligation to show concern for the poor and those deprived of their political, social and cultural rights. Jesus, deeply rooted in the Jewish tradition of his day, it declared, made a commitment to the poor a priority of his ministry.

The Talmud affirms that the Holy One, Blessed be God, always cares for the needy. Today, this concern for the poor must embrace the vast numbers on all continents of the hungry, the homeless, the orphan, victims of AIDS, those without adequate medical care and all those who at present lack hope for a better future.

In Jewish tradition, the highest form of charity is removing the obstacles that prevent the poor from rising out of their poverty. In recent years, the Church has emphasized its preferential option for the poor. Jews and Christians have an equal obligation to work for justice with charity (Tzedaqah) which ultimately will lead to Shalom for all humanity. In fidelity to our distinct religious traditions, we see this common commitment to justice and charity as man's cooperation in the Divine plan to bring about a better world.

Immediate challenges

In the light of this common commitment, the meeting recognized the need to address the following immediate challenges:

  • the growing economic disparity among people,
  • the increasing ecological devastation,
  • the negative aspects of globalisation, and the urgent need for international peace-making and reconciliation.

””We therefore, salute the joint initiatives of Catholic and Jewish international and national organisations which have already begun to address the needs of the indigent, the hungry, the sick, the young, the undereducated and the aged”the statement continued. “”Building upon these actions of social justice we pledge ourselves to redouble our efforts to address the pressing needs of all out of our common commitment to justice and charity.””

Positive changes

The meeting noted that as the world approaches the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate – the ground-breaking declaration of the Second Vatican Council which repudiated the deicide charge against Jews, reaffirmed the Jewish roots of Christianity and rejected anti-Semitism — it is imperative to take note of the many positive changes within the Catholic Church with respect to her relationship with the Jewish People. It pointed out that these past forty years of fraternal dialogue stand in stark contrast to almost two millennia of a 'teaching of contempt' and all its painful consequences. Encouragement can be drawn from the fruits of these collective strivings which include the recognition of the unique and unbroken covenantal relationship between God and the Jewish people and the total rejection of anti-Semitism in all its forms, including anti-Zionism as a more recent manifestation of anti-Semitism.

Elimination of prejudice

For its part, the Jewish community has evinced a growing willingness to engage in interreligious dialogue and joint action regarding religious, social and communal issues on the local, national and international levels, as exemplified in the new direct dialogue between the Chief Rabbinate in Israel and the Holy See, the meeting noted. The Jewish community has made strides in educational programming about Christianity; the elimination of prejudice and the importance of Jewish-Christian dialogue.

Additionally, the Jewish community has become aware of, and deplores, the phenomenon of anti-Catholicism in all its forms, manifesting itself in society at large.

A ground breaking addition to the conclusions reached at the meeting was the statement that: “”On the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps, we declare our determination to prevent the re emergence of anti-Semitism which led to genocide and the Shoah.””

Terrorism in Buenos Aires

“”We stand together at this moment in time, following major international conferences on this problem, most recently in Berlin and at the United Nations in New York.

“”We recall the words of Pope John Paul II that anti-Semitism is a sin against God and humanity and we commit ourselves to the struggle against terrorism.””

The delegates noted that the world today is experiencing a new millennium, already stained by the attacks of September 11, 2001 and subsequent terrorist outrages world-wide and that the meeting — the first in South America — took place on the 10th anniversary of two tragic experiences of terrorism in Buenos Aires.

Terror, in all its forms, and killing carried out “”in the name of God”can never be justified. Terror is a sin against man and God. We call on men and women of all faiths to support international efforts to eradicate this threat to life, so that all nations can live together in peace and security on the basis of tzedeq and tzedadah”the delegates concluded. We pledge that the promises we have made to each other in Buenos Aires will be implemented and disseminated throughout our communities so that the work of Justice and Charity shall, indeed, lead to God's greatest gift: peace.

Why do we feel the primal guilt at the horrors dealt upon the Jews


Why do we feel the primal guilt
at the horrors dealt upon the Jews?
It was not us who herded people into ghettoes,
we did not betray our doctors
nor hunt children in shadows
and line shuffling forms against the pit
and shoot. And yet and yet
we feel guilt and it is right
that there is some ineffable weight.

It all adds to that which we hand on.
Only the fool says in his heart
there is no original sin.
All of us inherit the past
accumulated. Theologians and psychotherapists
claim that if we see our sins and repressions
and are able to articulate, then the cloud dissipates.
But that is us, the wrongdoers. What of the victims?

Over the ages hums the song:
””What is the light over the fields?
It is our house in flames, son.
What is the scream, the crying, Father?
It is Mother wailing. She wishes you to run.
Why do you say not to wait, not to yield?
Why must we move on? Have we done wrong?
Others say we have, but that was long ago
And because of it, our paths are further.””
The lament is eternal.

There move among us those who see the soul.
Who by inheriting a past, know more
and so, when they take up the cello, and bow
the strings, we reverberate and resound.
It is as if some psychologists know
our fears, and comfort beyond science.
Or it could be a woman, who hears a silent sigh
and, as a stranger, will say some words
that resonate and heals the deepest pains
and we are made more whole.

This is beyond D.N.A. There is genetics
of the soul. Some essence without bitterness
has been transmitted and transmitted into blessing.
That this is so, is evident; is evidence.
But God! The price is high.

Prolific author and poet, David Wansbrough is Professor of Modern Thought and sometime resident poet at Moscow State University. He has published several volumes of poetry and a number of analytical and thought provoking studies on religious and philosophical topics, including Moscow, a Journey into the Heart, Christianity: an impulse of East and West, Festivals, Seasons and The Southern Sun and Pillar of Salt?— a Metamorphosis of Lives. He serves as Executive Director of the Gavemer Foundation and is a member of the Executive of the NSW Council of Christians and Jews.

Lutheran President in Victoria to launch Gesher 2004

Late October will see the launch of Gesher 2004 by the Rev. David Stoltz, president of the Lutheran Church of Victoria and Tasmania

The Melbourne launch will take place on Thursday, October 28 at 7.30pm in the Faichney Room of the Toorak Uniting Church in Toorak.

In addition to the official launch, the evening will include a report on the 2005 International CCJ meetings in Aachen by the ACCJ?s delegate, Sr. Marianne Dacy.

In addition, CCJ Victoria will use the launch function as an opportunity to introduce its Chairman elect, William Clancy AM , the successor to Michael Cohen in the chairmanship of the Victorian Council.


Rabbi Apple?s last address to Canberra group before retirement

The September function for the Canberra Christian Jewish Dialogue Group (ACT CCJ) was the last of a regular series of visits he has made to the Group as senior Rabbi at the Great Synagogue before he retires later this year. The well-attended talk in the Music Centre of Wesley Centre heard Rabbi Apple discuss the future of Christian-Jewish dialogue. Rabbi Apple was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia in this year?s Queen?s Birthday honours for his work promoting inter-faith dialogue and harmony For over thirty years Rabbi Apple has been at the forefront of Jewish-and Christian interfaith dialogue in Australia. Rabbi Apple was one of the founders of the Christian-Jewish Study Centre in Sydney in 1974 and of the NSW. Council of Christian and Jews in 1988. In addition to his role at Sydney?s Great Synagogue, Rabbi Apple is Senior Rabbi to the Australian Defence Force and Registrar of the Sydney Beth Din. The October and November ACT meetings will feature Father Joseph Reinberger, “”Faith and Poetry, Some Aspects of Dialogue”(October 3) and Tessa Scrine, ACT Bahai Community, on the Bahai faith.

I was intrigued by some comments in the review of the book “”A Moral Reckoning”which appeared in July?s issue of “”Scene””. The references to “”lies perpetrated by the Gospels of the New Testament”” and the comment that the phrase “”Gospel truth”relies “”on a metaphor of truth based upon a falsehood”seemed out of place in the context of this magazine.
As an evangelical Christian I am well aware that historians have differing views of the veracity of the Gospel accounts of the story of Jesus. I am also aware that much of the detail of the Gospels cannot be directly proved or disproved. Nevertheless I believe that there is good historical evidence to encourage me in my conviction that the Gospels present a substantially reliable account of Jesus? ministry, death and resurrection. In that sense, I do indeed believe in “”Gospel truth””.
The big issue, as far as I can see, is the misuse and indeed the abuse of the New Testament: taking particular statements out of their context and applying them in ways that were never envisaged by the New Testament writers.
I acknowledge that the Gospels implicate Jewish people in the death of Jesus: given the claims he made about himself, the attacks he made on the “”establishment””, and the tensions of those times, it is not surprising that the Jewish leaders decided that he should be executed.
The New Testament does describe tensions and even violence between the early church and the Jewish people: to most Jews, the claims of Christians were heretical and blasphemous. These tensions were exacerbated because the early Christians, many of whom were Jews, sought actively to persuade their Jewish brothers and sisters, as well as other people, that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah, and that the Christian gospel fulfilled the hopes and promises of the Torah and the prophets. Tensions were inevitable, and these would have increased with the followers of Jesus.
But what was the godly way for Christians to react to opposition? I find no justification in the New Testament for hatred or violence. It is contrary to the clear teaching of Jesus who taught his followers to show love to all people.
Paul and other New Testament writers made clear that in the face of opposition or persecution, Christians were to show conviction, humility and patience, but to make no attempt at retaliation. By the time most of the New Testament books were being written, the broader threat of persecution came from the Roman Empire. But the principle was the same: Christians with their radical message could expect opposition, but they must respond with love.
As far as the Jewish involvement in Jesus? death is concerned, the New Testament emphasis is very different. Christians are to see the crucifixion as the supreme expression of God?s love: through this event, God identifies with the human race and deals with the reality of evil, to bring about forgiveness of sins and the fullness of salvation.
When I think of who was involved in the death of Jesus, I am reminded of the old spiritual “”Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”My answer ? and that of the New Testament ? is “”Yes. I played my part in his death. I make my own contribution to the sin of the world, for which Jesus died.”How then can I blame any particular race or group of people for their involvement?
But let me make this clear. As a Christian, I am appalled by the violence and hatred perpetrated by established churches and individual Ch