Special to the JTA Readers Digest Article Termed Anti-semitic; Magazine Denies Charge

A Readers Digest article which repeats the allegation that Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus brought an angry protest from an official of a Jewish organization and subscriber to the mass circulation monthly and a disclaimer from its Senior Staff Editor that either the Digest or the author of the article “is in any way anti- Semitic.”

The article, titled “The End is Life,” was extracted from “The Magnificent Defeat,” a paperback book published in 1966 by the Seabury Press Inc. of New York. The author, Frederick Buechner, was described by the Digest as an ordained Presbyterian minister and author of several other books. The extract appeared in the magazine’s April issue, coinciding with the Easter and Passover holidays.

The opening paragraph of Buechner’s article reads: “Heaven knows the old men had put Pilate through plenty already: Insisting that he try the man for offenses against Jewish piety when as far as he was concerned, Jewish piety could not have mattered less; then threatening to inform against him if he did not yield to their pressure and have the man executed, which, of course, he finally did, although not before announcing first that as far as he was concerned, the man was innocent….”

Later in the article, Buechner wrote that “Beneath the fear that the Jewish elders spoke about to Pilate lay another fear, the fear that the man whom they had crucified would really come alive again as he promised. That the body that now lay dead in its tomb, disfigured by the mutilations of the Cross, would start up in its grave-clothes and move toward them with unspeakable power….” At the end of the Buechner article the Readers Digest advised readers how to obtain reprints.

CHRIST-KILLER MYTH REVIVED

Mrs. Shifra Hoffman, executive director of “Shuva,” the aliya movement of the Jewish Defense League, protested in a letter to Readers Digest managing editor Edward T. Thompson that “Reverend Buechner’s view of the Resurrection means revival of the infamous ‘Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus’ myth which, together with the equally infamous “blood libel’…some were foolish enough to believe ecumenism had forever laid to rest.”

Mrs. Hoffman provided the Jewish Telegraphic Agency with copies of her letter and of the reply she received from Senior Staff Editor Jeremy Dole who expressed “astonishment” at her protest. Dole wrote, “You have given an interpretation to Frederick Buechner’s opening paragraph that we don’t believe is justified. I can assure you neither Mr. Buechner nor his article nor the Digest is in any way anti-Semitic.”

Mrs. Hoffman, who informed Readers Digest that she was cancelling her subscription, said in her letter she is urging other subscribers to do likewise to protest against “the bigotry you (Readers Digest) sanction.”

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