Rabbi Eisendrath Advises Jews to Change Their Stand on Jesus

Dr. Maurice N. Eisendrath, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, advised Jewry today to re-assess and revise its attitude toward Jesus and to interpret Jesus “as a positive and prophetic Spirit in the stream of Jewish tradition.”

Addressing the 47th biannual convention of the Reform organization, Dr. Eisendrath referred to the fact that the Catholic Church’s Ecumenical Council at the Vatican has new begun to debate a decree condemning anti-Semitism and clearing the Jews of guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus. But, he said, “inter-religious understanding, based on mutual respect, is not a one-way street.”

He deplored the fact that some Jewish scholars have minimized the significance of Jesus by pointing to the Jewish origins of Jesus’ teachings. Later Hebrew prophets, whose works are exalted by Jewish scholars, had also based their teachings on the doctrines propounded by earlier prophets, he stated.

“How long,” he asked, “shall we continue pompously to aver that the chief contribution of Jesus’ was simply a rehash of all that has been said before by his Jewish ancestors? How long before we can admit that His influence was a beneficial one–not only to the pagans but to the Jews of his time as well, and that only those who later took His name in vain profane His teaching?”

“Needless to say, Jews never can and never will accept Jesus as the Messiah or as the Son of God,” he stated. “But, despite this constant reality, there is room for improved understanding and openness to change in interpreting Jesus as a positive and prophetic spirit in the stream of the Jewish tradition.” He urged Jewish scholars to examine “our own statements, our own facts, our own interpretations of the significance of the life of Jesus, the Jew.”

At the UAHC’s General Assembly today, charges were voiced by a Protestant theologian and by a rabbi that church and synagogue membership are often expanded at the expense of basic standards, and that leaders of both Christian churches and synagogues are chosen chiefly from among socially and economically prominent members. These criticisms were made by Dr. Franklin H. Littell, professor of church history at the University of Chicago and the Chicago Theological Seminary, and Rabbi Albert S. Goldstein, of Temple Ohavei Shalom, Brookline, Mass.

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