NEW YORK (Dec. 16)
Jewish religious and lay leaders who have responded so far to the Vatican-approved statement on Catholic-Jewish relations have hailed the document as one of major importance with far-reaching consequences for future inter-faith relations.
A spokesman for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Balfour Brickner, said the statement was “a further indication of the seriousness with which Roman Catholicism has entered into its modern phase of understanding in relation to the contemporary Jew and historical Judaism.”
Dr. Louis Finkelstein, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the rabbinical training institution of Conservative Judaism, welcomed the document as a way to help “eradicate misconceptions through continuous dialogue, great understanding and generosity.”
The statement, which proposes unprecedented steps to improve Catholic attitudes toward the Jewish people, Judaism and Israel, was made public last Wednesday by Lawrence Cardinal Shehan, Archbishop of Baltimore. The occasion was a program held at Loyola College in Baltimore under the sponsorship of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League and various Christian institutions. Harold Schiff, the ADL’s director of research and evaluation, said it would serve to overcome the “ghetto mentality” of many Jewish and Catholic laymen and move them in the direction their leaders are taking.
Rabbi Arthur J. Lelyveld, president of the American Jewish Congress, said his organization welcomed “this expression of fellowship and reciprocal regard among the faith communities.” He said one of the important aspects of the document was its recognition of “the indispensable role of the land of Israel in Jewish life.”
Last week the Synagogue Council of America, the representative organization of the lay and rabbinic branches of American Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, promised to give the document “the most careful and respectful study.” They said however that a statement of such importance “should not elicit a quick and easy response.”
Rabbi Brickner, director of the national committee on interfaith activities of the Reform movement remarked that “one might wish that the official statements of both American and world Protestantism were as forthright in their recognition of the place which Jews and Judaism occupy in their own Protestant theology and practical ethic.”