Some very interesting facts are disclosed in an article published in the current issued of the Newark “Jewish Chronicle,” by Rabbi Solomon Foster.
Rabbi Foster, who attended the Central Conference of American Rabbis sessions in Detroit, declared there that some of the Christian members of the Good-Will Committee regarded the good-will work as an outpost of Christianity and so reported to their respective bodies.
“Let us consider,” Rabbi Foster writes in the “Chronicle,” “some of the facts that confirm our suspicions that while many Christian leaders and laymen met our Jewish leaders and laymen of all parties in the most friendly and sincere spirit of good-will, there were those behind the scenes who could not help but smile at the ‘innocence of these people.’ In the first place, it was the hardest thing in the world to get the representatives of the Federal Council to a meeting to talk matters over and to formulate our rules of procedure. Excuse after excuse was given for not calling meetings at such and such a time. And not infrequently meetings called for a definite date were changed for what might be called insufficient reasons. When meetings were in session it was not unusual for a prominent member of the committee to be present for a quarter of an hour to participate in a discussion and then to ask to be excused on the ground that there were vital matters in other parts of the Federal Council building that claimed that this procedure was deliberate or insincere, but it did lead to the most complete frustration of every effort at clarity of thought and consistency in act that all who really love good-will need for their guidance. All the while our Jewish people were receiving stirring appeals for money to support the machinery of good-will that was presumably operating as the circulars stated, with the sanction of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America.
FEDERAL COUNCIL TOOK CONTROL
“Another discovery that brought the Jewish leaders to doubt the efficacy of good-will as it was being handled by the Christian group was the fact that the control, management and direction of the seminars, dinners, conferences, etc., were the prerogatives and duties of the Federal Council. The Jewish participants were not, with very few exceptions, and then with limitations, invested with any degree of authority. Everything was carefully arranged so that all we had to do was to endorse and follow the leader or put ourselves in the position of obstructionist or rebel.
“Since no one of the Jewish members of the joint committee on good-will recalls the circumstances of the vote on the very vital matter of proselytizing among Jews, no charge of any kind can be made, but it is illuminating, to say the least, to find in the minutes of meetings of the joint committee on good-will the decision not to recommend to the constituent groups that make up the Federal Council the discontinuance of missionary activities among the Jews. If these same Christian gentlemen in some other group and in some other place had voted to do their best to win the Jews to Christian thoughts and ways, no sensible Jew would have protested, because he would know how to answer and what to do. But think of the anomolous, indelicate and intolerable character of the insult administered to the Jew while being entertained under the hospitable roof of Christian good-will. It would not surprise us to learn that the United Presbyterian General Assembly that criticized the Federal Council for being too liberal towards the Jews, as recorded in the Jewish Daily Bulletin of June 10, cut its appropriation only one-half and not altogether, because the Federal Council was able to prove that its committee on good-will was not quite as benevolent as it seemed, both as the minutes of the joint committee showed and as the reports of the committee to the Federal Council convention itself abundantly reveal.
GOOD-WILL AS UNDERSTOOD BY FEDERAL COUNCIL
“Here is undoubtedly the greatest cause for suspicion that we must regretfully face. The last report (1928) used such phrases to describe the basis of the good-will movement as these: ‘As a committee of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, however, there are vast possibilities for us to practice the principles of love in our relations with the Jews. Contacts and cooperation with Jewish groups and organizations representing different wings of Hebrew life and thought and varied interests have been open to the committee in almost too great a profusion during the last four years of its activities. It is, however, of the utmost importance that Christianity in America should have some outpost of good-will, such as our committee, seeking understanding and cooperation with the contemporary representatives of the race and religion of which Jesus Himself and the prophets were a part. The very existence of this committee is a testimony of inestimable value to the spirit of Christ and His modern disciples.’
“Only an overzealous fanatic on good-will could fail to understand Dr. Anthony’s meaning of the sentence. ‘It is of the utmost importance that Christianity in America should have some outpost of good-will, such as our committee, seeking understanding and cooperation with the contemporary representatives of the race and religion of which Jesus Himself and the prophets were a part.’ An outpost, whether from a military or commercial point of view, represents the advance guard of a host bent on mastery. The outpost, innocent and friendly as it may seem at the beginning, is answerable to those who establish it. An outpost presupposes a feeling of superiority, exploitation, subterfuge and domination. The ‘vast possibilities’ to which Dr. Anthony refers must be the wholesale conversions which the Federal Council hopes to reap among the modern representatives of their race and religion of which Jesus was a part. If Dr. Anthony were actuated by genuine good-will, and cherished sincere regard for the Jewish people and the Jewish religion, as his statements to us implied, how could he have brought himself ironically to state that the contacts and cooperation with Jewish groups and organizations representing different wings of Hebrew life and thought and varied interests have been open to the committee in almost too great a profusion? How could there be too much of real friendship, too much of true understanding, too much of honest cooperation? What he meant, in view of all the circumstances involved, is easy to grasp and simple to state: the Jewish groups have really responded to the appeal of good-will, they have opened their lecture halls, pulpits, societies, conferences, etc., all over the land to hear our messages, but we have not had the time to prepare the special pleaders who, with love on their lips but with contempt in their hearts, go through the land to beguile the sons and daughters of Israel. On our part, we know what to do to meet their overtures in the future. We have known in the past how to judge those who cried ‘peace, peace’ when there was no peace, not to know how to turn a deaf ear to their pleadings, to go about our business when they try to mislead us today,” Rabbi Foster writes.