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Controversy Continues over Theological Conference in Lucerne

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The recent conference of the American Jewish Congress and the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews in Lucerne was deplored today by the Synagogue Council of America (SCA) as “jeopardizing” 18 years of “unified and unifying” Jewish consultations with the Vatican.

At the same time, the Rabbinical Council of America, a constituent agency of the SCA, also criticized the AJCongress for holding the conference because it “has divided the solidarity of the Jewish community” in dealing with representatives of the Vatican.

In its statement- the SCA, the organization representing the rabbinic and congregational arms of American Judaism, said that although the SCA “recognizes the right of any Jewish group to hold discussions with representatives of the Christian community, it deplores” the conference on The Authority and Interpretation of Scripture in Judaism and Christianity. The meeting was held January 16-18.

Continuing, the statement said: “The SCA has aIways maintained that fruitful discussions with other representative international Christian organizations can take place only when the subject matter is acceptable to all segments of the Jewish religious community and when the spokesmen are truly representative of the entire spectrum of Jewish sensitivities.

IJCIC REPRESENTS JEWISH COMMUNITY

“In order to preserve Jewish unity in relationship with international Christian organizations, the SCA, helped found the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) and serves as its American Secretariat. This agency is charged with the responsibility of representing the world Jewish community in all consultations with international religious organizations.”

In addition to the SCA, IJCIC includes the World Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, and the Israel Jewish Council for Interreligious Consultations.

The SCA statement also noted that the Lucerne conference jeopardized the “united and unifying approach which we deem vital to effective relationships with non-Jewish religious bodies. The SCA reaffirms its commitment to maintaining this well established and official vehicle for interreligious consultations and the guidelines governing its procedures.”

The Rabbinical Council of America statement, issued by its president, Rabbi Gilbert Klaperman, stressed that it is not opposed to interfaith relations and discussions on social, political and welfare issues “as long as they did not deal with theologica subjects.” Klaperman noted that the Jewish community has not engaged in public dialogue on theological matters with Catholics and Protestants. He pointed out that IJCIC has been the umbrella organ ization that dealt with official representatives of Catholic and Protestant churches.

In another separate statement, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, president of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, said: “I am absolutely against any dialogue between Jews and Christians, even on political, social and ethical issues and especially on theological issues. It has been the opinion of the Agudas Harabonim for many years and I feel that no Orthodox Jew is permitted to participate in such meetings.”

These statements were issued in response to the creation by the AJCongress of an Institute for Jewish-Christian Relations to promote dialogue on theological issues. The conference in Lucerne, attended by scholars from all over the world, was the first annual meeting of the Institute which 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 .

The AJCongress insists that its Institute, which was formed last month, operates solely on an academic level with no representational character and does not seek to usurp the role of IJCIC.

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