The sincerity of the efforts to promote good-will between Jews and Christians, sponsored by the Committee on Good-Will Between Jews and Christians, a sub-committee of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, in cooperation with the Central Conference of American Rabbis and other Jewish bodies in the United States was challenged by Louis Marshall, president of the American Jewish Committee, in correspondence with Rev. Alfred Williams Anthony, made public today. The challenge came when the continuation of Christian missionary work among Jews was insisted upon.
Charges that the work of the good-will committees in recent years, carried on through the media of good-will dinners and good-will conferences between Jews and Christians, were merely "a smoke screen" to cover the efforts of Christian missionaries to convert Jews to Christianity were brought into the open in the correspondence, which was released through the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by the American Jewish Committee.
The controversy developed following a meeting of the Good-Will Committee of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America held on June 6 with the participation of representatives of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. At this meeting it was brought out that some leaders in the Federal Council are being criticized for their liberal attitude and actions regarding Jews. The United Presbyterian General Assembly recently cut in half its appropriation to the Federal Council because of the Assembly’s objections to the Council’s liberal policies, including its good-will program. One of the reasons given by the United Presbyterian General Asembly for its threat to leave the Federal Council was the assertion that Dr. S. Parkes Cadinian, (Continued on Page 3)
"SMOKE SCREEN" CHARGE AIRED
It was following these developments that Dr. Alfred Williams Anthony, who initiated the work of the Committee on Good-Will when he was executive secretary of the Home Missions Council, addressed a communication, under date of June 8, to Louis Marshall, asking him whether there was any truth in the report that he had stated that the Committee on Good-Will "had the ulterior motive of converting the Jews -in other words that our program was a smoke screen, and that we are practicing duplicity."
In the correspondence which ensued, the major issue developed as to whether the continuation of missionary propaganda work among Jews is consonant with the principles of good-will between Jews and Christians and with the principle of religious liberty of the American Constitution. Dr. Anthony insisted that Christian denominations cannot give up their attempts to spread the Christian gospel among the Jews and asesrted that protests on the part of Jews against such efforts are an attempt to "muzzle" Christians. Mr. Marshall, declaring the "smoke screen" charge a "wild misquotation," concluded that so far as Dr. Anthony was concerned, it was clear that his interest "in good-will between Jews and Christians is largely based on a desire to bring about the conversion of Jews to Christianity."
The Committee on Good-Will Between Jews and Christians was formally authorized by the administrative committee of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America on February 1, 1923 as a sub-committee of the Commission of International Justice and Good-Will. The quadrennial meeting of the Federal Council held at Atlanta in 1924 endorsed the Committee, which was engaged in spreading the message of good-will and combating anti-Semitism, which became militant in the years following the World War.
When Jewish leaders joined this work on December 30, 1924 at a joint conference between representatives of the Federal Council and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, it was a part of the understanding that the Christian denominations working through the Federal Council in the good-will program "were not trying to change the Jews." Dr. Anthony, who is a member of the Committee on Good-Will and is chairman of the Committee on Financial and Fiduciary Matters of the Federal Council, emphasized that "there were no ulterior motives behind the meeting." Since then, resolutions of protest against the continuation of missionary propaganda work among Jewish children were adopted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis at its several annual sessions.
MISSIONARY PROPAGANDA AMONG JEWS IS ISSUE
"While you object to improper methods (for converting Jews), it is difficult to understand where and by whom the line is to be drawn between what is proper and what is improper in accomplishing such a result. The seriousness of the problem increases when one considers that the end which you are seeking to gain proceeds on the conception that the Jews are mentally, morally and spiritually inferior to the Christians. For, if they are not, why attempt to convert them?" Mr. Marshall wrote to Rev. Anthony.
"Let the Jews become better Jews and the Christians better Christians, and this will be a happier world. Then genuine good-will would be ushered into existence automatically without meetings or conferences or discussions." Mr. Marshall further declared, adding: "How can there be good-will ‘with reservations’? If you have your way, good-will toward the Jews would be a mere catch-word, a beautiful figure of speech-for there would be no Jews left."
Dr. Anthony argued that eliminating missionary propaganda among Jews would to many Christians mean "the abandoning of Jews to what they would call a ‘lost’ condition, with all the unfavorable implications attached to their theology." It might likewise be considered discrimination against Jews, he said.
"Our Jewish friends, all unwittingly, are undertaking to convert Christians to exactly their method of procedure and to their way of thinking, while attempt to convert Christians to get them to leave out of their program the propagating features, when the great majority of Christians believe that propagating is an essential part of their religion," Dr. Anthony wrote.
TEXTS OF LETTERS EXCHANGED
The exchange of correspondence follows:
Under date of June 8, 1929, Dr. Anthony wrote to Mr. Marshall on the stationery of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, Committee on Good-Will Between Jews and Christians:
"You have been quoted as expressing the opinion that our Committee on Good-Will Between Jews and Christians had the ulterior motive of converting the Jews.-in other words that our program was a smoke screen, and that we are practicing duplicity. So frequently such statements are misquotations based upon half truths, if indeed upon any truth at all, that I am not disposed to give credence to the report. Nevertheless, it seems to me worth while to send you a copy of a newspaper release of today, which may not be printed where you will see it. I enclose a copy herewith."
(This release was published in the Jewish Daily Bulletin of June 10).
"The task of promoting good-will is not an easy one in the face of history and experiences of almost two thousand years. Even if both sides were as bad as the other side might at the worst think it, still that would only constitute factors in the problem, and should require that the best of us be as patient and as generous in thoughts and judgments as possible.
"I think the release fairly epitomizes acts and agreements of four years ago which have recently been matters of misunderstanding and criticism.
"I shall appreciate any comments and opinions which you may care to express."
Mr. Marshall replied to Dr. Anthony under date of June 10, 1929:
"I am in receipt of yours of the 8th instant with enclosure.
"I note that you say that I have been quoted as expressing the opinion that your Committee on Good-Will Between Jews and Christians has the ulterior motive of converting the Jews, that your program was a smoke-screen, and that your Committee was practicing duplicity.
"This is certainly a wild misquotation of anything that I have ever said. It certainly does not accurately reflect my opinion. I have never questioned the good faith of the members of the Committee, nor would I think of intimating that they were practicing duplicity. On the contrary. I have on several occasions referred to your entire frankness in saying, in substance, as reported in various journals which I have read, that you approved the propriety of efforts on the part of Christians to convert the Jews to Christianity. It is for that reason, and because other good Christians indicated a similar state of mind, that I have expressed the opinion that even though good-will between Jews and Christians always has been and always will be desirable, so far as young people are concerned they are likely to be swayed by the conversionist efforts of men who are regarded as in every way honorable and conscientious and whose efforts, therefore, to bring about their conversion might be infinitely more successful than would be the attempts of those in whom they would be likely to have less confidence.
"The whole matter is one of great delicacy. As a Jew who desires to perpetuate Judaism and its traditions. I feel that it would be folly to expect even the most exemplary Christians who are unwilling to disavow the purpose to convert Jews to another faith to do aught that would tend to dis- (Continued on Page 6)
This letter brought forth the following communication from Dr. Anthony, dated June 17, 1929:
"I thank you for your esteemed letter of the 10th instant.
"Certainly ‘the whole matter is one of great delicacy,’ and the situation is becoming perplexing.
"Our Jewish friends, all unwittingly, are undertaking to convert Christians to exactly their method of procedure and to their way of thinking, while at the same time protesting against any efforts on the part of Christians to convert them. It is essentially an attempt to convert Christians to get them to leave out of their program the propagating features, when the great majority of Christians believe that propagating is an essential part of their religion.
DR. ANTHONY INSISTS ON CONVERSION EFFORTS, CLAIMS ELIMINATION WOULD DISCRIMINATE AGAINST JEWS
"There is another curious situation which comes to the fore in your letter. Near the close of your long paragraph you imply that as Jews learn to respect, and to have confidence in, Christians, they will then be liable to conversion by those Christians. In other words, the implication, if it be a real implication, carries the notion that the more highly your people think of Christians the more dangerous do Christians become to your people. I submit it in all frankness:-if this implication be at all warranted, or if such a thought be in the minds of any of our Jewish friends, where then is there a sound basis for good-will? Must not good-will rest upon respect and confidence, both of them mutually entertained? Are not respect and confidence the very best things of all for us to cultivate? But, if respect and confidence carry elements of danger to either party, then how can we hopefully and profitably prosecute a campaign of good-will?
"I have called attention elsewhere several times to the following aspect of conversionism, as an aspect which I think neither Christians nor Jews would wish to emphasize, or indeed to have recognized. It is this:-most Christians believe that it is their duty to preach the Gospel, and many of them believe that this means the form of Gospel which they believe in, and that consequently they must preach to others, even to other Christians, and seek to convert them to their way of thinking. Christians really are busily engaged in trying to convert Christians, and are specially engaged in trying to convert all men. Do the Jews wish to have Christians discriminate against them and say, ‘We have no interest in Jews’? Is such discrimination desirable? Does good-will lie distinctly in that realm? To many Christians such an attitude would mean abandoning Jews to what they would call a ‘lost’ condition, with all the unfavorable implications attached to their theology. I raise the question whether Jews have thought out all the implications of such a policy, and really wish the Christians to adopt it? For certainly in such a policy are some implications very unfavorable to Jews.
"Is not religion a purely personal matter? Can it be obtained by anyone simply by inheritance, and is not religion, as a vital possession of a man, the most precious thing he has? If it be precious to him, is it to his credit to seek to keep it exclusively for himself, or for a chosen few? Does not the world need religion, and need religion more than it needs anything else? If the world need religion, why should not both Jews and Christians give the world that which it needs, and by the methods best known to those who possess it?
AMERICANISM, TOO, IS INVOLVED, HE SAYS
"I approach the subject also from another point of view,-that of pure Americanism. Are we promoting real religious liberty and real freedom of speech, if we agree, either one of us, to keep to ourselves that which we regard as most important of all? Is it not the American spirit, to speak out, to express convictions plainly, and then having expressed them, to permit every man in his own way to heed or reject them? Is it really in harmony with the American spirit to put a muzzle upon any part of our people and say they shall not talk religious views, or seek to propagate these views among certain groups of our people? Is not the principle of freedom of discussion the sound principle to tie-up to? Should not our Jewish friends adopt that principle and propagate their religion, not by undertaking to muzzle Christians, but by undertaking to persuade their own people, and all other people also? In a free country where hte press is free and speech is free, is there any other method of protecting ideas better than bringing them into the open, and letting them have the test of understanding and of life? Do our Jewish friends wish to imply that their religion is not a religion which is safe to trust in the midst of such testing?
"If propaganda be objected to, is there any better defense against it than propaganda which is judicious, wise, patient, and convincing because of its attractive and persuasive elements?
"I am stating these considerations, which are in my mind, and which are in the minds of others, because I believe they must be recognized, and must be thought out in all their implications. I believe, also, that whatever answer either party may give to any of these questions, we should not entertain suspicions or allow prejudices to keep us from conference and from entertaining a reasonable expectation that through the years we may find the ways of promoting mutual understanding, mutual good-will, and mutual cooperation.
"I am confident that Christians as a whole emphatically object to improper methods of proclaiming religious views, and in saying this I acknowledge that Christians have used, and still do use, improper methods in many places in the advocacy of their doctrines."
Mr. Marshall’s reply, dated June 19, read:
"I am in receipt of yours of the 17th instant, which has been given careful thought and attention.
"It is clear that your interest in good-will between Jews and Christians is largely based on a desire to bring about the conversion of Jews to Christianity. While you object to improper methods, it is difficult to understand where and by whom the line is to be drawn between what is proper and what is improper in accomplishing such a result. The seriousness of the problem increases when one considers that the end which you are seeking to gain proceeds on the conception that the Jews are mentally, morally and spiritually inferior to the Christians. For, if they are not, why attempt to convert them?
MARSHALL MAKES VIGOROUS REPLY
"It may be useful to comment upon those portions of your letter in which you seek to justify conversionist activities, and to indicate the reaction of Jewish minds to your pronouncement.
"It is something of a surprise to be told that the Jews ‘are undertaking to convert Christians to exactly their method of procedure and to their way of thinking.’ It certainly is astounding intelligence to the Jews that they are engaged in such an effort. If they had at any time or anywhere, and particularly in this country, attempted to lure children of Christian families into Jewish Sunday schools or synagogues for the purpose of weaning them from Christianity; if they had undertaken to bribe them with presents and flattery, in the ordinary missionary manner, to abandon the faith into which they were born; if they had tried to alienate Christian children from their Christian parents, and to make hateful the religious doctrines of their ancestors, have you any idea what would happen to the Jews engaged in such propaganda ? Do you believe that the organs of the church or the ministers of the various Christian denominations would be silent and that the secular press would not be swift to animadvert on such a phenomenon?
"Perhaps this may be precisely the thought which your words were intended to convey. Possibly, that may have been expressed in the sentence in which you say, in substance and effect, that when Jews ask Christians not to interfere with their family life, not attempt to convert Jewish children to Christianity, they are attempting to convert Christians into the Jewish idea of seeing to it that their own house (Continued on Page 7)
"This is only another way of saying that where those who profess one religion protest against the invasion of their constitutional right to practice it, they are thereby justifying the aggressor in his, to them, objectionable and hostile practices. This sounds very much like Aesop’s fable of the wolf and the lamb whom he accused of befouling the stream. Not being a theologian, I am unable to follow such a course of reasoning.
JEWS WILL NOT FEEL HURT IF LEFT ALONE BY MISSIONARIES
"Nor do I appreciate the train of thought which leads you to say that Christians being specially engaged in trying to convert all men, the Jews might justly complain of discrimination against them by the Christians if the latter did not seek to convert them to Christianity. During the past centuries there have been many complaints on the part of the Jews concerning discrimination practiced against them by depriving them of fundamental rights and universal human privileges, but I have never heard of a Jew who regarded it as offensive discrimination that he was at any time spared the suffering humiliation of becoming the victim of conversionist zeal. For centuries we prayed for peace, for the simple right to live our own lives and to be spared from molestation-to be let alone. Nor have I ever met a Jew who regarded the attentions of the missionary as evidence of good-will, any more than did the missionaries of old so regard the solicitude of the Fiji Islanders while carrying on the fattening process preliminary to a cannibalistic feast.
"You may rest assured that the Jews would be entirely willing to be abandoned to what you call, in theological phrase, ‘ a lost condition.’ They would still have the consolation afforded by the examples of the Patriarchs, of Moses, of the Prophets and Singers of Israel, of the sages and thinkers of post-Biblical days, of Maimonides and his successors, and of a host of godly men and pious women who braved death in a thousand forms in order to perpetuate the great traditions of which they were the bearers. Ours is no mean history. Our has been no small contribution to the civilization and to the moral and spiritual standards of the world. Nor has our influence upon Christianity been negligible. We are an ancient and experienced people. We have survived the greatest empires that the world has known, and with all the persecution and obloquy and hatred that have been meted out to us, with all the misunderstanding and the injustice and the defamation to which we have been subjected, we are still wedded to the great ideals of justice, righteousness, charity to all, good-will and human brotherhood proclaimed by our Prophets.
"What we cannot understand is why you who preach good-will, who give us the credit of possessing at least a modicum of decency and morality, should be so greatly concerned for our immortal souls, for our religious rightness. The pages of history during the past eighteen hundred years may be said to prove justified concern on the part of the Jews with regard to the so-called followers of Christianity. Even in our own time such a state of mind on our part would not seem wholly unnatural. It is only within my lifetime that in most European lands the Jews were for the first time accorded civil, political and religious liberty. Consider Russia, where the Procurator of the Holy Synod went so far as to say regarding the six million Jews who lived within the empire that the way to deal with them was to kill one-third, to convert one-third to Christianity, and to exile the remaining third. Consider conditions in other East European lands at the present hour. Consider the machinations of the anti-Semites, even in the most Christian of countries, and then tell me whether you would not rather stand in the shoes of the condenmed and persecuted Jew than in those of the Christians who committed these monumental wrongs and whose religion as practiced has been so foreign to the elemental principles of righteousness in which we Jews have been trained.
HISTORY TAUGHT JEWS WHERE "PERSUASION" METHODS LEAD
"Before you begin to convert us, it might be in order first to convert the Christians to the recognition of those elements of Christianity which have been derived from Judaism, some of which are recited in the Sermon on the Mount. It may perhaps sound strangely in your ears for me to say that I have the utmost respect for all religions. I regard them as an ennobling and elevating influence. I refer not only to Judaism and Christianity, but also to Mohammedanism, to Buddhism, to Confucianism, and to many other faiths which have shaped the lives of the vast majority of mankind throughout the centuries. I would regard myself of impaired mental vision were I to claim a religious monopoly for my own faith. The overwhelming majority of mankind is neither Christian nor Jewish, and I am entirely content that those of other faiths shall follow such religions as they desire and I would insist that they be protected in the exercise of their conscientious beliefs, not only as against governmental action but against the interference of those who may seek, forcibly or otherwise, philanthropically of selfishly, to convert them to an alien faith. My eternal salvation does not depend upon the acceptance by others of any particular dogma, formula or theological concept, even though it be one in which I set great store.
"You say that religion is a purely personal matter. Then why intrude upon the privacy of the spiritual life of others who desire to maintain intact what has been imparted to them by their forebears? I believe with you that the world needs religion. That need has been felt almost from the beginning of time. Jews and Christians have sought to satisfy it, but certainly the duty has not been devolved upon either of them exclusively to become the purveyors of spirituality to others, by what you term ‘the methods best known to those who possess it.’ Did not Torquemeda and Calvin pursue such methods? Were they not the methods pursued on both sides during the Thirty Years War? Has not every tyrant followed such methods to compass his ends? There was a time when among known methods were the faggot, the rack, the sword, the club, the dungeon, exile, starvation, and wholesale massacres. Those methods have quite recently become somewhat unfashionable. But human nature is so constituted that, if its prejudices acquire full sway and it is believed by those of one faith that it is their moral duty to ‘persuade’ those of other faiths to submit to conversion, more refined, but not less abhorrent, methods of ‘persuasion’ are apt to be resorted to for the accomplishment of what may be believed honestly to be a religious duty, it is but natural that a burnt child dreads the fire.
CITES HIS FATHER’S EXPERIENCE
"You will probably ask why it is that I so greatly mistrust the philosophy of
"The memory of these facts is engraved deeply in my heart. Years ago it led me to make to myself a vow that I would contest to the bitter end any infraction of liberty of conscience. Since then, in whatever form attempted, I have fought as earnestly for those of other faiths or no faiths as I have for those of my own.
CONSTITUTION PRINCIPLE GIVES NO COMFORT TO CONVERSIONIST VIEW
"It sounds sardonical, in the face of these experiences, for you to say that you approach this subject from the standpoint of pure Americanism. Your argument is that, when Jews rebel against interference with their most sacred right, that of religious liberty, when Jewish parents seek to protect their children, for whose moral and ethical life they feel a serious responsibility, against the intrusion and trespasses of conversionists, it is the Jews who are interfering with religious liberty, because, forsooth! they are undertaking ‘to muzzle Christians’ and are interfering with free speech. I could scarcely believe the evidences of my own eyes when first I beheld these words in your communication. According to your notion, any conversionist may button-hole me in the street and proceed in his efforts to convert me to his religion. If I refuse to listen and bid him to attend to his own affairs, I am interfering with freedom of speech and am guilty of applying a muzzle. I may not even protect my children or grandchildren against such intrusion.
QUOTES U. S. SUPREME COURT DECISION
"The Supreme Court of the United States decided in Pierce vs. The Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 535, that not even the State may interfere with the education of children by preventing them from attending parochial schools. A quotation from the opinion of the Court may be timely in view of your appeal to the Constitution:
" ‘The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.’
"I deemed it an honor to take part in the litigation which resulted in that notable judgment. It seems to be your idea, however, that it shall be recognized as a fundamental right of Christians to enter a Jewish household and to take the children to Christian schools. If you remember the Mortara case you are aware of the fact that there were Christians who carried your theory still further.
"The logical corollary of your contention is that Protestants may take it upon themselves in their missionary zeal to convert Catholic children to their faith, and vice versa. To sustain such a doctrine it might be argued, as you do, that an attempt to interfere with such a design would constitute the muzzling of the pulpit. Nobody seeks to deny to the ministry the utmost freedom of speech. In their churches and in their press they must be accorded the absolute right to teach and explain their doctrines. Yet the line must be drawn against the action of minister or missionaries or zealots of any kind who undertake to divide parents and children and to influence the latter by methods, new and old, which constitute an invasion of religious liberty, as that term is understood in its widest, broadest and most beneficent sense.
"You ask: ‘Do our Jewish friends wish to imply that their religion is not a religion which is safe to trust in the midst of such testing?’ The Jews have never objected to the testing of their religion. Age after age they have themselves tested it and have found that it afforded them an exalted and satisfactory philosophy of life. Is it possible that you mean to imply that they are to engage in public debates with the advocates of other religions in order to reach a decision by referendum or plebiscite or a showing of hands as to which of the religions is the only true religion? Of all things, let us avoid a Battle of the Faiths if we expect to maintain peace in the land. We have only recently had an exhibition in our political life that illustrates what may occur if men engage in public debate on so delicate a subject.
"That we Jews have nothing to fear from the testing of our religion is evidenced by the fact that great Christians have paid tribute to our religion and to its achievements. Let me mention, merely by way of example, the great work of Prof. George Foote Moore on "Judaism," the writings of Prof. Strack on the Talmud, the monumental work of Canon Herford on Pharisaism. The number of unbiased witnesses can be indefinitely multiplied. Nor is there need even of this evidence. It suffices to say that today Judaism presents to view as clear, as exalted and as practical a map of life as ever has a religious faith, and that those who have steered their course according to it, however small comparatively their numbers may be, are as determined to preserve it as were their teachers of yore from whom it was derived.
"LET JEWS BE BETTER JEWS AND CHRISTIANS BETTER CHRISTIANS"
"You advise the employment of propaganda against propaganda. Has not mankind suffered sufficiently from that unspeakable evil? Has it not been responsible for much of the hatred, the animosity, the conflict and the destructive warfare that have cursed the world? Has not the time arrived for cultivating the arts of peace and for proomting the enjoyment of discreet silence? There is too much talk and too little thought, too much dogma and too little understanding. We are too greatly concerned with what we fancy to be the shortcomings of our brother and too little with our own. There is a continuous recurrence of the mote and the beam. Let the Jews become better Jews and the Christians better Christians, and this will be a happier world. Then genuine good-will would be ushered into existence automatically without meetings or conferences or discussions.
"In the concluding sentence of your letter you ‘acknowledge that Christians have used and still do use, improper methods in many places in advocacy of their doctrines.’ This probably refers to the policies of physical extermination and moral degradation. They have caused untold misery but have not worked, so they are regarded for these days as rather too crude, although 200,000 Jews were massacred in the Ukraine during the present decade. The policy which you advocate is more gentle. It is the employment of the honeyed words of the conversionist. That means to us spiritual annihilation. For the greatest treasure that we possess-our sacred religion, preserved through nearly thirty centuries of unparalleled persecution, oppression and barbarities-is to be taken from us and to be exchanged, for what? Paulinianism, with all that it implies-the faith of our persecutors. You are entirely frank about it. But why speak of good-will? How can there be good-will ‘with reservations’? If you have your way, good-will toward the Jews would be a mere catchword, a beautiful figure of speech-for there would be no Jews left. They would be swallowed up by your religion. And then what? O, sancta simplicitas!
"When I first began to practice, my four associates were, respectively, an Episcopalian, a Unitarian, a Methodist and a Presbyterian. We accepted one another, as we were. There arose no religious difference, there was no desire to change one another’s faith, there prevailed mutual respect and esteem. Had anybody ventured to suggest religious progaganda he would have been laughed out of court-and yet each of us remained loyal to his faith. A good-will covenant would have had no office to perform. Its presence, by hypnotic suggestion might have provoked controversy. Good-will was as natural as it was to breathe. Perhaps a valuable lessan may be contained in this parable."
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.