Activist tries for ‘hate-free’ Christian Bible


PHILADELPHIA (JTA) — Irvin Borowsky now sees some light at the end of the tunnel in his 18-year campaign to modify New Testament language “excessively faulting all Jews for the suffering and execution of Jesus.”

The retired publisher, now 76, established the American Interfaith Institute in 1982 to work with Christian theologians, Bible publishers, and other influential people in the religious world.

His goals included modifying the King James version of the Bible in favor of “hate-free” texts, making the same inroads with the sources of children’s Bibles, urging hotels to replace millions of Bibles with more acceptable versions and eventually impacting on sermons discussing Jesus’ life and death.

In a recent breakthrough, two major Philadelphia hotels agreed to place in its rooms a modified version of the Bible published by the American Bible Society, which changed its texts six years ago.

At the crux of Borowsky’s efforts is the strategy to replace the identity of “Jews as Christ-killers” with texts identifying the Roman pawns of 20 centuries ago as “community leaders” or “religious leaders.”

Only the American Bible Society among 20 major publishers has been cooperative until now, but a number of children’s Bible publishers have been quicker to make recommended changes, Borowsky reports.

As part of his efforts to have an impact on Christian leaders, Borowsky joined the Evangelical Christian Publishers of America as an associate member, and more recently was named to the national advisory board of the Salvation Army.

Another new tool in Borowsky’s campaign is the recent opening of the five-floor Liberty Museum as an exhibit building, open to the public and visiting groups, a couple of blocks from the historic Independence Hall and Liberty Bell. Borowsky sees it as a magnet to the millions from “middle America” who visit Philadelphia annually.

The museum is filled with exhibits, films and messages lauding heroes from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, and is available for seminars and special events.

“This is effective truth-telling which cannot be stopped,” Borowsky said. Another of the museum’s activities is the sale of children’s Bible versions that have made recommended text modifications.

Borowsky has been a long-time activist in Philadelphia and national Jewish community and educational causes. Since he began concentration on the American Interfaith Institute, he has given about $4 million of his own funds to the $12 million spent to date. Walter Annenberg’s $1 million heads a large list of donors who have supported the institute.

Among the institute’s accelerating efforts are a flow of newsletters and informative pamphlets to theologians worldwide, of whom about 5 percent are Jewish, continued friendly contact with previously uncooperative publishers and hotel management, and publication of lists of scores of Christian leaders who support its cause.

“I see major breakthroughs coming within the next few years,” Borowsky says, reminding that the “hateful anti-Judaic passages” he contests have been circulating for nearly 20 centuries.

“History will record that the scholars and the president of the American Bible Society who published the first Bible that contained no anti-Judaism in nearly 2,000 years were the first to record accurately the historical events of the first century,” he concluded.

(Milton Gralla , a retired journalist, is a member of the JTA board of directors.)

Recommended from JTA