Menu JTA Search

Jewish Leaders Hail Declaration; Regret the Changes in Text

Jewish leaders all over the world hailed the declaration adopted by the Ecumenical Council last Friday exonerating the Jewish people from the Crucifixion charge and deploring anti-Semitism. However, certain reservations were noted in the Jewish statements. Their general attitude was that the Jewish people will judge the importance of the declaration primarily by the seriousness with which it will be implemented.

Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, said today that the Ecumenical Council’s declaration “does away with the centuries-old accusation which was the basis of many persecutions and cruel injustices committed by the Catholic Church against the Jewish people.” However, he added that “at the same time it is to be regretted that the original draft approved by an overwhelming majority of the Council last year was seriously weakened, especially in the passage concerning anti-Semitism.” He said that to “deplore” anti-Semitism after the Nazi period was certainly inadequate.

Morris B. Abram, president of the American Jewish Committee, said that adoption by the Vatican Council of the declaration on the Jews was “an act of justice long overdue,” but he expressed keen regret over some of its assertions on the ground that they might “give rise to misunderstandings.” Mr. Abram stated the hope that the declaration — especially its repudiation of the “invidious” charge of the collective guilt of the Jews for the death of Jesus, and its rejection of anti-Semitism — would afford “new opportunities for improved interreligious understanding and cooperation throughout the world.”

The ultimate significance of the declaration, Mr. Abram stressed, would depend on “the manner and vigor with which the affirmative principles embodied in this declaration will be carried out.” In that connection, he said that the American Jewish Committee had been heartened to learn of the creation recently of a special Commission on Catholic-Jewish Relations by the American hierarchy.

Dr. Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress, greeted the Council’s action on the Jews as a manifestation of “good will” whose ultimate importance will be tested in the way Catholic parishes carry it out in day-to-day practice. He noted the Ecumenical Council’s “repudiation of Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus” and its rejection of anti-Semitism as incompatible with Catholic teachings. He voiced disappointment, however, that the declaration was not as “clear and forthright as might have been expected.”

CONFERENCE OF JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS HOPES FOR PRACTICAL EFFECTS

Dr. William Wexler, president of B’nai B’rith, speaking as co-chairman of the World Conference of Jewish Organizations, expressed “appreciation of the evident good will and sincere feeling for human freedom” which impelled so many leaders of the Catholic Church “to strive for a public repudiation by their Church of the movements which seek to distort Catholic teachings and to exploit these distortions in the service of anti-Semitism.”

However, he said, “the true significance of the Ecumenical Council’s statement will be determined by the practical effects it has on those to whom it is addressed.”

The National Conference of Christians and Jews praised the declaration of the Ecumenical Council. Dr. Sterling W. Brown, the president of the National Conference, said: “The statement issued by the Vatican Council forbidding anti-Semitism, or any teaching that would hint of such prejudice as unacceptable and immoral is a definite gain. Jews, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox members should join together in welcoming this lethal blow to the centuries-long disease of anti-Semitism.”

The New York Times, analyzing the Vatican declaration, said that there was a widespread feeling that the declaration “had been watered down” and that the controversy over the test of the statement in the Ecumenical Council “has already blunted its intended effect. It was meant to be a word of love and friendship. It has already been the source of bitterness and disappointment — a reason for shame and anguish on the part of many Catholics and of suspicion and rancor on the part of many Jews.”

NEXT STORY