Can We Make Room For Each Other In Christian/Jewish Thought After The Holocaust?

Lecture by Dr. (Rabbi) Eugene Korn, Scholar Jewish Ethics, Law, Theology

Review by Jerome S. Kaufman

The Schmidt College of Arts and Letters at Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL, February 27, 2011 treated us to another scholarly dissertation. Dr. Alan L. Berger, Director, Study for the Center of Values & Violence after Auschwitz, introduced Dr. Eugene Korn, scholar and teacher in the fields of Jewish ethics, law and theology and interfaith relations. Dr. Korn lived in Israel from 1992 -1996, is fluent in Hebrew and has extensive knowledge of Israeli culture and society and also has an arm load of credentials that we have no room to list.

The primary message he presented was that there is no question that Judeo-Christian relations have improved tremendously over the last 100 years. Dr. Korn dates the Holocaust as the watershed event that precipitated this huge change in Christian thinking. He did mention the fact that many main stream establishment American churches – the Episcopalians, the Methodist, the Presbyterians – to name a few, continue to indoctrinate their congregants with anti-Israel sentiment. I personally have always felt that Israel has become the politically correct fall guy for this mindless hatred and it has not disappeared as much as we might hope.

Dr. Korn’s discussion further revolved around the fact that the Catholic Church has indeed made a watershed change in their thinking relative to Jews. This occurred thanks to the great work of Pope John XXIII, the “good Pope” who presided over the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI who, a couple years later, proclaimed the doctrine of Nostra Aetata. This Papal directive categorically refuted the doctrine wherein Catholics supposedly superseded the Jews and their bible (Old Testament) in the eyes of G-d.

Finally, some 1900 years later, this claim of super-cession was modified in the Papal declaration, Nostra Aetata, of October 28, 1965. In this new proclamation, Jews and Catholics are declared to share a common heritage and live together as equals with no form of superiority considered or implied. This great change was enthusiastically embraced a few years later by Pope John Paul II, who was born and raised in Poland and saw personally the destruction of the Jews in his own country. John Paul II, in addition, made the magnificent supportive gesture of the first Papal mission to Israel. He visited the Second Temple Wall in Jerusalem and placed a note of reconciliation within its cracks.

The Nostra Aetata statement pertaining to the Jews and other Non-Christians appears below:

ON OCTOBER 28, 1965

Thus the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God’s saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes that all who believe in Christ-Abraham’s sons according to faith (6)-are included in the same Patriarch’s call, and likewise that the salvation of the Church is mysteriously foreshadowed by the chosen people’s exodus from the land of bondage. The Church, therefore, cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles.(7) Indeed, the Church believes that by His cross Christ, Our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles. making both one in Himself.(8)

How beautiful and how reassuring. Dr. Korn then proceeded modestly to admit, however, that he could not forecast what would happen in years to come. He did declare that this sea change proved that two different peoples could eventually learn to get along but, to me, proved virtually nothing. In this case, it unfortunately took 1900 years to become supposedly resolved. He also took great solace from the fact that the Jews had survived even the onslaught of Adolph Hitler. With these two statements he lost me.

Yes, the Jewish people survived but they have never fully recovered and most likely never will. At the initiation of Hitler’s killing machine, there were approximately 18 million Jews in Europe. At the end there were apx. 12 million. Now, 60 years later, 3 generations, and we number worldwide only 13.3 million Jews. We have not recovered anywhere near the 6 million lost. Even more terrifying is the fact that over 37% of the Jewish population now lives in Israel and we have another maniac, Ahmadinejad of Iran, who openly declares his hatred of Jews and his ambition to destroy Israel with its Jews.

Furthermore, under Islamic theology it is demanded, by Muhammad, that Islam supersede both the Christians, the Jews and any other faith that dares not embrace Islam. This imposed conversion is to come about by whatever means necessary with nuclear war at the top of Ahmadinejad’s list.

What to do? I don’t think proclaiming an optimistic, popular message of peace furthers Jewish or Christian or world interests. I don’t think Jews or Christians or the immediate world can afford to depend upon Islamic fanaticism to run its course in the same manner as that of the Catholic faith. Furthermore, we don’t have 1900 years to see what happens this time. The enemy must be confronted right now and his fanaticism laid to rest. Messages of universal peace and love, although understandably popular, must be placed on hold, at least until the current problem is soundly and irrevocably defeated.

Jerome S. Kaufman



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