Leaders of Australian Jewry were engaged in a public controversy with the Rev. Dr. James Black, Minister of the Independent (Presbyterian) Church of Edinburgh, Scotland, who visited here.
The Rev. Dr. Black, who came to attend the annual meeting of the Council of Churches, called forth a strong protest of several ministers of Jewish congregations of Melbourne when he launched an anti-Jewish attack in an address he delivered at the Council meeting.
“Jews who have lost their religion and know no God are the greatest social problem of today,’ ‘declared Dr. Black in his address. “I was sent to the Conference of the World Missionary Council at Jerusalem to represent the Jews. It was a remarkable thing to send a Scotchman to represent Jews but I represented Christian work among Jews, which is a different thing. We have often forgotten that the greatest enemy of the Christian Church was Judaism and that there are fifteen million Jews in the world, Jews whose ancient hatred has been untouched by Christianity.
“The liberated Jew is your modern agnostic; he is a great danger because he is the most talented man in the world. The Conference at Jerusalem had prayed that the whole Christian Church should work for a solution of this problem.”
A letter protesting against Dr. Black’s statements, signed by the ministers of the several Jewish congregations here, was published by the daily press.
“Dr. Black’s statement,” declares the letter,” that Judaism is the greatest enemy of the Christian Church and that there are fifteen million Jews in the world whose ancient hatred has been untouched by Christianity, is, to say the least, unfortunate. The history of our people from the dark ages onward shows that the ancient Christian love and charity were often forgotten by Christians in their treatment of Jews. In obedience to the commands in the Book of Leviticus and elsewhere, to love one’s neighbor as oneself, the Jews have ever tried to live in peace and accord with their neighbors, unless prevented by clerical fanaticism or blind prejudice. We Jews have not the monopoly of agnostics. We think that Dr. Black and his zealous colleagues would serve the cause of humanity and Christianity much better were they to seek to extend the platform of social, philanthropic and moral endeavor on which the members of all religions could ultimately and unitedly stand.”
A reply to the protest made on behalf of the Jewish community by Rabbi Brodie, Rabbi J. Danglow and Rabbi Mestel was published by Rev. Black ni the Melbourne “Argus”:
“I still claim that the Jerusalem conference held last April was fully entitled to group Judasim along with other world religions as non-Christian and even anti-Christian,” said Dr. Black in his statement.
“They are anti-Christian just as Christianity, in its essence, is anti-Judaistic. If we believe our religion is the truth we must hold it to be the truth against all others.”
Dr. Black quoted the testimony of European Rabbis, “who mournfully lament that the wonderful liberation that has come to Jewry in Europe has had a most unsettling effect and their wonderful opportunity of entering universities had added to this danger.
“In the course of my address to the Victorian Council of Churches,” he said, “I pointed to the menace of the irreligious Jew in Central Europe and I instanced the fact that many leaders of social chaos have been agnostic Jews–Bela Kun in Hungary and Trotzky in Russia and others of his breed. These are facts, and if the Rabbis who protest do not like facts, I have nothing further to say.”
Suggesting to Dr. Black that “there is to our mind a great field of endeavor still open to teach Christians in Eastern Europe the elementary lessons of justice, fair play and Christian charity, as also to win back Christian agnostics to their faith,” the Jewish clergy have issued a statement in answer to Dr. Black’s “explanation.”
“A religion may claim to possess the truth and yet not necessarily be against all other religion,” says the declaration. “Least of all should this be the case in the relationship of Judaism and Christianity, which is that of parent and daughter. Granted that the Jewish youth of mid-Europe is forsaking the synagogue, a supposition which does not necessarily mean the total abandonment of the Jewish people nor an utter hopelessness of youth’s reattachment to the Jewish faith and that consequently it is becoming a social menace, the natural suggestion and remedy should be the strong advocacy and pious hope of their return to the Jewish fold from which they have sprung rather than attempted conversion to another faith.
“The truth of the matter in East and Mid-Europe is that social dangers and instability are to be apprehended not from Jews, whether religious or agnostic, but from the constant irritation, economic boycotts, educational restrictions. We refer to the Numerus Clausus, which is constantly renewed to debar Jews from universities, the passive countenancing of outrages against Jews provoked by the Government and rulers in those parts of the world. Trotzky is as much a Jew as Lenin is a Christian,” the rabbis’ declaration concludes.
Dr. Black has returned to Scotland via Canada.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.