Austrians Drive for Conversions

While Jews of this city are being subjected to a powerful assault on their economic and material security, Christian zealots motivated by missionary ambitions are attacking them on the spiritual front.

Taking advantage of the intense economic pressure being applied to Jews by the government, which is driving thousands into a state of helplessness, strong Catholic groups have launched a vigorous conversion campaign.

Although previously the Jewish community, harried by economic problems, has taken little cognizance of conversion attempts made by these missionary elements, recent large-scale activities have brought its leaders to a sharp realization of the inroads made upon the community.

A Catholic publication recently announced that several hundred Jews of this city had submitted to baptism and that many more would soon embrace Christianity as a way out of their economic troubles.

JEWISH LEADERS ACT

A new Catholic periodical, “Ful-{SPAN}#ment{/SPAN},” in its first issue discusses possibility of an “understanding” between Christians and Jews and definitely declares that such understanding must revolve around missionary activity to convert Jews to Christianity. The publication features two articles by Johannes Oesterreicher, a converted Jew, who goes to considerable pains to point out that salvation for Jews will be found only when they submit to baptism.

These open and veiled attempts, veiled when they are disguised under the expressed desire to create an understanding between the two faiths, have finally stimulated leaders of the Jewish community into defensive action.

Chief Rabbi Dr. Feuchtwang, speaking in the Central Temple here, lashed out at the conversionist movement in no uncertain terms.

SEES VEILED HOSTILITY

“We Jews,” Dr. Feuchtwang said, “are profoundly grateful to our sister and daughter religions, Christianity and Islam, for spreading the divine teachings among the nations of the earth in spreading the belief and eternal justice of God.

“We recognize their achievements, we are gratified at their success. We appreciate and we honor their leaders and their teachings, because and insofar as they are teachings of the highest human ethics. But what is the sense of coming again to us with these teachings which proceed from our spirit, and artificially create a Jewish question of them? What do they want of us? This whole artificially created Jewish question is nothing more than an imposition. What is now suddenly being called putting order into the Jewish question is, in reality, an attempt to diminish our rights and at bottom is a masked hostility to Jews.”

NEED ‘CONVERSION’ TO OWN FAITH

The Stimme, organ of the Austrian Zionist Federation, comments as follows on the conversion campaign: “Now we know what is wanted of us. Behind all these fine words there is nothing else than a new missionary campaign. The Jews are to be brought to the baptismal front. It is certainly interesting to trace the progress of this missionary movement. It started with the book published by the ex-Minister Czermek and was continued in secret conversations with Jews who had no authority to negotiate with regard to the regulation of the Jewish question in Austria.

“This irresponsible activity was stopped at the time by the responsible representatives of Vienna Jewry. That was followed by a second publication in which a Konfessionslose Jew, a baptised Jew, and a Jesuit, Father Bangha, dealt with the Jewish question. Then another Jesuit, Father Bichlmaier carried on the work, and now there is this. There is no doubt that Christians have very little understanding of Judaism. If Father Bichlmaier really intends in his fulfillment to speak of the wisdom of the Talmud and of Chasiddic religious fervor, he may find a field of activity among his brothers in faith. He might do a lot of good among the Catholic organizations which are now conducting a camouflaged boycott against Jewish business men.

“We Jews have no enmity against the Catholic church. There is no doubt that Jews need a missionary movement in the direction of bringing home to them the knowledge of Judaism and of religion. But this missionary movement must be carried on by Jews among Jews. Christians would do better to do their missionary work among Christians. That seems to us the only way to satisfy the differences between us.”

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