AJC Warned That Jews, Christians Must Step Up Ecumenical Advances

An American Jewish leader expressed fears here today that the “dramatic and significant” advances in mutual understanding among Christians and Jews during the past year may be jeopardized if both groups do not accelerate efforts to learn more about each other.

The warning was contained in a report by Philip E. Hoffman, chairman of the board of governors of the American Jewish Committee, which will be prepared for presentation tomorrow at the opening session here of the annual meeting of the organization’s national executive board. The report by Mr. Hoffman, who has just returned from a study mission of inter religious developments in Western Europe, was keyed to the first anniversary, tomorrow, of the passage by the Ecumenical Council in Rome of its historic declaration on Catholic relations with Jews.

Mr. Hoffman cited numerous techniques used by national, regional and local bodies of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox and Jews in “enthusiastic efforts among school children, teenagers, college and university students, seminarians, clergymen and adults” — all eager to “join in a movement” given “historic impetus” by the Ecumenical Council. These include inter religious visits, dialogues at every level “from scholars to housewives, ” more chairs of Jewish learning, preparation of new religious textbooks and other teaching materials eliminating passages offensive to other groups, and expanded educational and interpretive publications.

SEES MUTUAL DEFICIENCIES IN UNDERSTANDING BY MANY FAITHS

He held that, nevertheless, a deep mutual ignorance remains and “much of Christian thinking is completely inadequate about the living Jewish community, the synagogue, and Judaism as relevant expressions of an unbroken and vital way.” At the same time, he cautions, Jews are also generally in serious need of developing new categories of thinking and understanding about Christians and Christianity.

Norman S. Rabb, of Boston, chairman of the Committee’s inter religious affairs committee, reported on an audience he had earlier this month with Pope Paul VI, at which he discussed the organization’s program in Jewish-Christian relations.

Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, the Committee’s director of interreligious affairs, reported on the four day International Colloquium on Judaism and Christianity, held last week in Cambridge, Mass., at the Harvard University Divinity School, which was attended by 100 scholars from Western Europe, Israel and the United States. He called the event “an unprecedented and major breakthrough on the highest levels of academic scholarship.”

The French Jewish community, which had been tending toward assimilation, has become more aware of Judaism and Jewish tradition as a result of the influx of widespread immigration from North Africa, according to another report to be submitted to the meeting. French Jewry has grown from a post-World War II population of 150,000 to more than 500,000 to become the fourth largest Jewish community in the world.

American Jewish Committee leaders from all over the country gathered here tonight for tomorrow’s opening of the executive board’s annual meeting, which will last through Sunday.

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