NEW YORK (Jan. 29)
Theodore Freedman, director of the national intergroup relations division of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said that the controversy over the conference sponsored by the American Jewish Congress at the University of Lucerne in cooperation with the Vatican Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews “is both unwarranted and overstated.”
Freedman’s statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was in response to the polemic in the Jewish world over the creation by the American Jewish Congress of an Institute for Jewish-Christian Relations to promote dialogue on theological issues. The Institute’s first annual conference which took place in Lucerne earlier this month, on “The Authority and Interpretation of Scripture in Judaism and Christianity,” was attended by scholars from all over the world.
The Institute, which is affiliated with the AJCongress, is co-sponsored by the Institute for Christian-Jewish Research of the Theological Faculty of Lucerne, a Roman Catholic institution, in cooperation with the Vatican Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews.
The Lucerne conference was criticized by the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) which was set up nearly 20 years ago as the official representative organization of the manifold voices of World Jewry and recognized as such by the Vatican. IJCIC comprises representatives of the World Jewish Congress, Synagogue Council of America, American Jewish Committee, ADL, and the Israel Jewish Council for Interreligious Consultations.
The nub of the controversy is that IJCIC representatives claim that the AJCongress’ new Institute is being used by the Vatican to circumvent IJCIC. Furthermore, representatives of Orthodox Jewry say they object to any form of theological dialogue. The AJCongress insists that the Institute operates solely on an academic level with no representational character and does not seek to usurp the role of IJCIC.
STATEMENT BY FREEDMAN
Freedman, in his statement, said:
“The controversy which has been generated over the conference sponsored by the American Jewish Congress at the University of Lucerne in co-operation with the Vatican Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews is both unwarranted and overstated.
“While it is correct that IJCIC and the Vatican Commission view each other in a special relationship for discussions on matters of Jewish concern and that the consortium of organizations within IJCIC constitutes an important and significant segment of the Jewish world, there need not be exclusivity in that relationship either by IJCIC or the Vatican.
“The Anti-Defamation League which is a part of the consultative process within IJCIC at the same time reserves for itself and to other Jewish organizations the right to engage in interreligious dialogue with whatever party they choose, while at the same time being aware of and sensitive to the complexities of the ongoing discussions with world church bodies.
“On the question of the dialogue on theological issues, the Orthodox community through its membership to the Synagogue Council exercises considerable influence over IJCIC decisions as to the topics within the dialogue with the Vatican. At the same time, it should be noted that topics other than social or political have been included in the agenda of previous IJCIC/Vatican consultations which could be viewed as theological, without polemics or medieval disputations, but rather as a mature and scholarly exchange of views.”
Informed sources told the JTA that a letter is being sent to the Vatican Commisssion by IJCIC which will express sentiments of “dismay” and “concern” that the AJCongress’ venture “may be misconstrued as an attempt to break the unity of the Jewish people.”
Freedman, in his statement, said that to his knowledge “no such letter has been prepared as yet and the Anti-Defamation League will be signatory only after an appropriate review of its contents.”