FALLSBURG. N.Y. (May. 24)
Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox rabbinic body, today sharply criticized secular Jewish agencies who had undertaken to be in the forefront of Christian-Jewish dialogue and who speak in the name of religion which they themselves fail to practice.
In an address at the 40th annual convention of the organization at the Pine View Hotel, Schonfeld declared: “Religious dialogue can only be engaged by people who are themselves spiritually committed to faith and practice and who are competent in areas of theological scholarship. Jewish secular agencies have arrogated to themselves the right to render pronouncements on matters of religious import and have become the self-appointed spokesmen of the Jewish faith.”
Only knowledgeable and practicing Jews are therefore qualified to represent the Jewish outlook. Schonfeld stated. “It is impossible for someone who is not himself totally committed to his faith to be able to transmit the meaning and depths of the Jewish faith to another faith community.”
URGES RE-EVALUATION OF RELATIONSHIPS
Schonfeld also called for a re-evaluation of Christian-Jewish relationships in general and especially as they effect the Western world’s attitude to Israel, “We are deeply frustrated by the apparent inability of Christian theologians to grasp the unique relationship of the Jewish faith to the Land of Israel,” he said. “The centrality of the land in the faith of Israel is clearly apparent to anyone who reads the Bible.”
He called upon Christian leadership to “acknowledge this special link of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and to manifest their understanding through their support of Israel in her present plight of isolation.”
As an example of the bankruptcy of the Christian-Jewish dialogues, Schonfeld cited the failure of the Vatican to establish diplomatic relations with Israel while on the other hand speaking sympathetically of those Palestinian terrorists whose program is to dismember the Jewish State. “Thousands of Christians are being murdered in Lebanon,” the rabbi declared, “without evoking the protest of the Christian community. This is shockingly inexplicable. At the same time, however, voices are heard from high ecclesiastical sources denouncing Israel when, in self-defense, it resorts to methods which seek to control violence in the Western Bank and to ensure the tranquility of the population.”
ATTACKS JEWISH PRESSURE ON ISRAEL
Schonfeld was also critical of secular and liberal American Jewish leaders who are pressuring Israel to make drastic territorial concessions. “It is only within the general framework of direct negotiations between Israel and her Arab neighbors that the solution to the disposition of these lands can be found,” he said. “Whether or not certain territories will be returned is not the issue. The issue is whether the world will understand that the West Bank has historically been part of the Jewish nation.
“It is a serious mistake and an historic distortion to speak of the West Bank as occupied territory. One can speak of it as disputed land which is also claimed by Arabs. But Jews ought never to speak of Bethlehem, the birthplace of King David; Hebron, the burial place of the Patriarchs; and Shechem (Nablus), where much of the Torah was given and where the grave of Joseph is found, as occupied land.”
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chairman of the convention, called upon President Ford and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger to continue the traditional American solidarity with Israel in strengthening the only functioning democracy in the Middle East.