urges Jews to take a fresh look at Christianity
the truth. Peter Ochs, the Edgar M. Bronfman Professor of Modern
Judaic Studies, has tried to do just that as he encourages skeptical
Jews to take a new look at Christianity and how it has changed
since the Holocaust when Christianity and individual Christians
failed to stand up to Hitler and the Nazis.
the past 25 years, a group of leading Christian theologians has
removed language from Christian prayer books and Sunday school
materials that questions or downplays God's enduring covenant
with the Jewish people. And increasing numbers of Christian theologians
-- including U.Va.'s Robert Wilken, Harry Gamble, Esther Menn
and Eugene Rogers -- have written about the indispensable role
of Judaism and Jewish teachings in the development of Christianity.
Catholic Church has taken several significant steps to signal
a break from the past. Last year, Pope John Paul II met with Israel's
chief rabbis and made a pilgrimage to Judaism's holiest site,
the Western Wall of the old Temple in Jerusalem.
in recent years, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Lutheran World
Federation, the United Methodist Church and many other church
bodies have officially denounced the evil of anti-Semitism and
called on their churches to establish new, constructive engagements
with the Jewish people.
Until recently, however, Jews have not responded publicly to these
Christian overtures. But in September, Ochs and three other Jewish
scholars -- former U.Va. colleague David Novak who is now at the
University of Toronto, Michael A. Signer of the University of
Notre Dame and Tikva Frymer-Kensky of the University of Chicago
Divinity School -- released a document that was five years in
the making and signed by more than 150 Jewish leaders nationwide.
The document, "Dabru Emet," which means speak the truth,
calls on the Jewish community to take a fresh look at Christianity.
The document burst upon the scene Sept. 10, when it ran as a full-page
ad in The New York Times and The (Baltimore) Sun. Since then it
has been translated into five other languages -- French, German,
Italian, Polish and Portuguese.
"Dabru Emet: A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity"
is a relatively short document. It states that there has been
a change in Christian thinking about Judaism since the Holocaust
and suggests that such change merits "a thoughtful Jewish response."
The response consists of eight points that are elaborated within
Jews and Christians worship the same God.
Jews and Christians seek authority from the same book -- the Bible.
Christians can respect the Jewish people's claim on the land of
Jews and Christians accept the moral principles of Torah [...
.regarding] the inalienable sanctity and dignity of every human
Nazism was not a Christian phenomenon [...although] without the
long history of Christian anti-Judaism and Christian violence
against Jews, Nazi ideology could not have taken hold.
The Š irreconcilable difference between Jews and Christians will
not be settled until God redeems the entire world as promised
A new relationship [...with Christians] will not weaken Jewish
Jews and Christians must work together for justice and peace.
by the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies in Baltimore,
the statement has been received with great interest in the Christian
community, while its reception in the Jewish community has been
mixed, Ochs said. Signed by rabbis, Jewish theologians and leaders
from the four main denominations of Judaism -- Conservative, Reform,
Reconstructionist and Orthodox -- its support is weakest among
Orthodox Jews, who tend to be wary of interfaith dialogue.
said organizers knew they would never win everyone's agreement.
Instead, their goal was to start a conversation. And in this they
we want to go beyond mere dialogue between Christians and Jews,"
Ochs said, "to arrive at a point where we recognize our religious
obligations to work together for peace and justice in the world."