Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Rabbi Soloveitchik Outlines Stand on Jewish-christian Dialogues

January 26, 1966
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Guidelines for inter-religious consultation and for fruitful communications between Jewish and Christian religious communities were outlined here today by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, leading American Jewish theologian and Professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University, in an address at the annual conference of the Rabbinical Council of America held at the Brunswick Hotel here.

The more than 500 Orthodox rabbis attending the conference were told by Rabbi Soloveitchik to oppose any “public debate, dialogue or symposium concerning the doctrinal, dogmatic or ritual aspects of our faith vis-a-vis similar aspects of another faith community.” On the other hand, he advocated interfaith communication in matters of humanitarian and cultural endeavor.

“We would deem it improper,” he stated,”to enter into dialogues on such topics as: I. Judaic monotheism and the Christian idea of trinity; 2. The Messianic Idea in Judaism and Christianity; 3. The Jewish attitude on Jesus; 4. The concept of the Covenant in Judaism and Christianity. There cannot be mutual understanding concerning these topics, for Jew and Christian will employ different categories and move within incommensurate frames of reference and evaluation.

“When, however, we move from the private world of faith to the public world of humanitarian and cultural endeavors, communication among the various faith communities is desirable and even essential. We are ready to enter into dialogue on such topics as war and peace, poverty, freedom, man’s moral values, the threat of secularism, technology and human values, civil rights, etc., which revolve about religious spiritual aspects of our civilization. Discussion within these areas will, of course, be within the framework of our religious outlooks and terminology.”

He added that “in the areas of universal concern we welcome an exchange of ideas and impressions. Communications among the various communities will greatly contribute towards mutual understanding and will enhance and deepen our knowledge of these universal aspects of man which are relevant to all of us.”

Moses I. Feuerstein, president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, hailed Dr. Soloveitchik’s statement as “one of the most significant and historical documents. For the first time, the scope and the limits of a possible exchange of views between the Jewish and Christian religious community has been clarified,” he said.

Rabbi Israel Miller, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, addressing the conference, urged the religious leaders of the major faiths in the United States and the world over to mobilize public opinion in support of President Johnson’s quest for peace in Vietnam.”Let us mobilize all available resources to escalate the peace efforts, so that we may be united behind the President’s leadership,” he said.”Religious leaders have a moral obligation to respond to this challenge by activating the whole weight of their spiritually powerful religious forces behind these endeavors of the President of the United States.

“In order to heed this call,” Rabbi Miller said,”it is imperative that the religious leaders exert their influence at the utmost to move Hanoi from the jungle battlefield to the negotiations table.”

Recommended from JTA