Menu JTA Search

Leaders of All Faith, Newspapers Score Coughlin’s “challenge” to Jews

Catholic Protestant and Jewish leaders and metropolitan newspapers joined today in criticizing Father Charles E. Coughlin’s “challenge” to the Jews voiced at the convention of the Union for Social Justice in which he asked the Jews to abandon what he called the Jewish doctrine of “an eye for an eye” and replace it with the Christian doctrine of Brotherhood.

Among those who condemned the “challenge” were Dr. Frank Gavin, professor of Church History at the General Theological Seminary, New York; Monsignor John A. Ryan of the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.; Rev. R. A. McGowan, of Washington, assistant director of the Department of Social Action of the National Catholic Welfare Conference; Prof. Louis Finkelstein, assistant to the president of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and Rabbi Louis I. Newman of New York.

The New York Post, in a leading editorial, asks about Father Coughlin’s “challenge”:

“Was it not a sly way to inject discord instead of brotherhood, ill-feeling instead of Christian charity into a campaign bitter enough already?”

The Jewish Day charged that the radio priest “falsifies the Bible and creates a prejudice against the Jews in the minds and thoughts of thousands of Americans who heard him and in millions who heard his speech.” The Jewish Morning Journal also condemned the address.

Benjamin Gassman, a lawyer of 1 East 42nd Street, said he was calling a mass meeting in protest against Father Coughlin’s “malicious libel on the Jewish race.”

The Storm of criticism resulted from the following statement the Detroit priest made at the Cleveland convention Sunday:

“We are a Christian organization in that we believe in the principle of ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’ With that principle I challenge every Jew in this nation to tell me that he does or does not believe in it. I am not asking the Jews of the United States to accept Christianity and all of its beliefs, but since their system of ‘a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye’ has failed, that they accept Christ’s principles of brotherhood.”

Prof. Gavin said in part:

“No good purpose can be served by raising a ‘bogey man, ‘ namely, the Jew, and then charging him impliedly and almost explicitly with being responsible for the Augean stables in present-day world affairs. It reminds one of the doctrine ‘neutrality in principle’ while shipping instruments of slaughter to both sides. We need no ‘Inquisition’ to challenge Jews to accept a principle which they first taught the world and which is taught in every Jewish synagogue in the world. I feel certain that the highly respected and enlightened church to which Father Coughlin belongs would not approve such a misleading and sorrow-laden statement as he has made.”

Monsignor Ryan tersely said: “Father Coughlin’s reference to ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ is bad exegesis, bad history and bad argument. It is unjust to Jews and unfortunate in the political campaign.”

Father McGowan asserted:

“Father Coughlin forgets the remarkable work for economic justice done by the Central Conference of American Rabbis during the past fifteen years that I know of. The Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference has joined with them on at least a dozen occasions during that period in pleas for social justice.”

Professor Finkelstein said that there is no need for challenging the Jew either on his love for his fellowmen or on his loyalty to the American flag. Two thousand years have not embittered the Jew, he declared, against those who have maligned him. The loyalty of the to the American flag is beyond doubt, he added, emphasizing that others may love America merely as the country of their birth, but the Jew not only loves America but reveres her a the sacred embodiment the fundamental principle announced by his ancestors, the prophets, to the world that “All men are made in God’s image.”

NEXT STORY