Council of Christians and Jews

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The Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) is a voluntary organisation in the United Kingdom. It is composed of Christians and Jews working together to counter anti-semitism and other forms of intolerance in Britain. Their patron is Queen Elizabeth II.

The CCJ was founded, in 1942, by Chief Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz and Archbishop William Temple during a time of all-out warfare and Nazi persecution of Jews. In late 1954, and reflecting the theology of the era, the Vatican instructed the head of English Catholics to resign from the CCJ due to its perceived indifferentism, with Catholics not returning until the reforms introduced by the Second Vatican Council.[1]

Background[edit]

Prior to the foundation of the Council of Christians and Jews a number of initiatives had already taken place. The London Society for the Study of Religions,founded in 1904, included Jews in its membership.[2] In 1924 the Presbyterian Church of England Congress agreed to form a sub committee to discuss the lack of understanding between Jews and Christians. The committee wished to abandon proselytising and instead promote cooperative methods of action.[3]

In 1925 Herbert Lowe, a Jewish Cambridge scholar, addressed the General Assembly for the first time.

"The love of God and love of man are the foundations of our faith and of yours. We have a vast heritage in common...We recognise that we are put on earth to serve each other...When we consider the framework on which our creeds are built the wonder is not that our views of life are similar, but that we should have been so long in discovering the similarity, the wonder is that centuries of ignorance and hatred should have intervened between us..I am convinced that our partnership in the fight against oppression and injustice and race-hatred can be successful, and our efforts can never be blessed until we learn to respect the standpoint of each other."[4]

In 1924 the Social Service Committee of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue convened a meeting for Jews and Christians to confer together on the basis of their common ideals and with mutual respect for differences of belief'. From this developed the Society of Jews and Christians in 1927 that provided a platform for a number of notable speakers.[5] The inter war years was marked by a reappraisal by Christian scholars of Jewish religion. In 1930 James Parkes published 'The Jew and his neighbour', setting out the causes of anti-Semitism and its Christian roots.[6] Parkes would later be placed on Hitler's list of those he wanted killed.[7]

With the rise of Nazi anti-Semitism a few Christians did speak out. In 1934 The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland noted the 'age-long sufferings of the Jewish people' and that during 'the present outbreaks of anti-Semitic fanaticism', declared its 'heart-felt sympathy for the Jewish people' and deplored their present treatment as being 'abhorrent'.[8]

A Youth Council on Jewish-Christian Relations was formed in 1934 that included several Christian organisations and by 1940 also included Jewish groups. By the middle of the decade various groups made up of Jews and Christians were involved in giving aid to Jewish refugees from Germany, whose number rose sharply after Kristallnacht. The Refugee Children's Movement took care to ensure that whenever a Jewish child was placed in a Christian home the child would not be subject to proselytisation and that contact was established with the nearest Rabbi.[9]

Anglican, Free church and Roman Catholic Churches came together in 1938 to form a Christian Council for Refugees following the passing of the Nuremberg Decrees.[10] The council's secretary was W. W. Simpson, a Methodist minister, who would dedicate his life to the improvement of Christian-Jewish relations. His 1939 pamphlet 'The Christian and the Jewish Problem' recognised the part of Christianity in Jewish suffering, involving factors such deicide, the Crusades, the ghettos, the Inquisition and their influence on present day persecution.[11]

Formation[edit]

Out of the diverse groups that marked Jewish-Christian dialogue and aid during the 1930s a proposal was circulated with a view to forming an organization built on a national network. The Archbishop of York, William Temple, invited leaders of various communities to discuss these proposals in 1941. Temple outlined the mission of what was to become the Council of Christians and Jews. The Council would work against all forms of discrimination and promote the 'fundamental ethical teachings which are common to Judaism and Christianity' The Chief Rabbi, Dr. Hertz, agreed with this approach and highlighted the central point as being 'the danger to civilisation involved in antisemitism, as well as the steps that might be taken by Christians, working in consultation with Jews, to prevent its spread in this country', noting also how Pius XI had recently affirmed that 'Anti-semitism is a movement in which we Christians can have no part whatsoever. Spiritually we are Semites'.[12] Hertz made it clear that Jews and Christians would be responsible for their own religious teaching without mutual interference.[13]

At a meeting chaired by William Temple, now the nominated Archbishop of Canterbury, on 20 March 1942 the formation of the Council of Christians and Jews was agreed. The aims of the council were specified as:

  • (a) To check and combat religious and racial intolerance.
  • (b) To promote mutual understanding and goodwill between Christians and Jews in all sections of the community, especially in connection with problems arising from conditions created by the war.
  • (c) To promote fellowship between Christian and Jewish youth organisations in educational and cultural activities.
  • (d) To foster co-operation of Christians and Jews in study and service directed to post-war reconstruction.[14]

The initial membership of the CCJ was composed of leaders of Christian and Jewish organisations. The Roman Catholic prelate, Cardinal Hinsley, agreed to be a Joint President subject to the condition that any statements be approved by him prior to publication. The formation of the CCJ was announced on radio and in the press on 1 October 1942.[15]

Early years[edit]

The CCJ was formed at a time of Nazi persecution of Jewsrned by the amount of factual information then available in the public domain.[16] In 1942 deputations were sent to the Foreign Office and Anthony Eden regarding the accounts then emerging about the Nazi extermination process, followed by a letter published in The Times on 5 December speaking of a 'horror beyond what imagination can grasp...burning indignation at this atrocity, to which the records of barbarous ages scarcely provide a parallel.” The letter criticised the delays in officialdom, branding their excuses as having an 'air of irrelevance', and called for the prosecution of those involved in the extermination process after the war.[17] Temple, at the behest of the CCJ, made a broadcast to the Hungarian people using the BBC World Service and appealed:

"do your utmost to save from persecution, it may be from massacre, those who are now threatened as a result of German occupation...Help them to hide from their tormentors, help them, if possible, to escape. Do all you can to prevent the extermination of people whose only fault is the race from which they are born or the independence of their minds and constancy of their convictions".[18]

Some political voices raised concerns that such protestations could make things worse for the Jews but by early 1943 it had already become clear that nothing could be worse than what the Jews were currently suffering.[19] Archbishop Temple addressed the House of Lords in March 1943 in which he referenced the massacre of Jews taking place, urging all means of action and condemned the procrastination of officialdom. He concluded:

"We at this moment have upon us a tremendous responsibility . We stand at the bar of history, of humanity, and of God."[20]

Braybook (1991) notes that "Much is said of the silence of the Churches, which was often all too evident" but he picks out Temple, and the leaders of the various Churches who supported him, as an outspoken critic on this issue. The World Jewish Congress spoke of him as "the champion of the Jews".[21]

At a meeting of the CCJ held on the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht in 1988 Dr. Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury acknowledged that the roots of these events lay in the preceding centuries of Christian anti-Semitism:

'Without centuries of Christian anti-Semitism, Hitlers passionate hatred would never have been so passionately echoed....The travesty of Kristallnacht and all that followed is that so much was perpetrated in Christ's name. To glorify the Third Reich, the Christian faith was betrayed. We cannot say, "We did not know", We did - and stood by.. And even today there are many Christians who fail to see it as self evident and why this blindness? Because for centuries Christians have held Jews collectively responsible for the death of Jesus. On Good Friday Jews have, in times past, cowered behind locked doors for fear of a Christian mob seeking 'revenge' for deicide. Without the poisoning of Christian minds through the centuries, the holocaust is unthinkable'.[22]

International Council of Christians and Jews[edit]

During the blitz of 1942 some British Christians and Jews met with members of the American National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ) who were visiting London. It was agreed that after the war an international conference should be held for all the bodies who were active in the field of Christian-Jewish relationships.[23] This was held in Oxford in 1946 and over one hundred delegates from fifteen countries attended.[24] A public meeting held on the eve of the conference included as guest speakers the Archbishop of Canterbury, Reinhold Niebuhr, R. A. Butler and Rabbi Leo Baeck, a survivor of Theresienstadt concentration camp.[25] Various commissions were set up, a resolution was sent to the Paris Peace Conference, an agreement reached to hold an emergency conference dealing with anti-Semitism in Europe, and that a committee should research the possibility of forming an International Council of Christians and Jews which would bring together all the various national bodies.[26]

The emergency conference took place in Seelisberg Switzerland in 1947. "The Ten Points of Seelisberg" agreed at the conference became a reference for many future statements by various Churches regarding new approaches to Judaism.[27] The need for an International Council of Christians and Jews was affirmed by the conference but due to differences regarding how it should be implemented this plan did not come to fruition until 1974.[28]

Relations with the Roman Catholic Church[edit]

See also Pope Pius XII and Judaism

During the pontificate of Pope Pius XII "a heavy blow fell on the Council" when in November 1954 Cardinal Griffin announced that the Roman Catholic Church would be withdrawing from the CCJ following an instruction received from the Vatican indicating that the educational work being done by the council could result in religious indifferentism. Leading Roman Catholics resigned from the CCJ in the aftermath.[29] The popular press was highly critical of this development with headlines such as "The Pope bans Queen's Council" and criticising Roman Catholic intolerance.[30] The Catholic periodical "The Tablet" expressed the view that the public resignations ought to have been avoided, further discussions held, and that the Vatican should have made the reasons for the withdrawal explicit.[31] The reasons for the withdrawal were never clearly explained, however Roman Catholic theologian Jacques Maritain had previously warned the CCJ that Rome was suspicious of any cooperative ventures between Jews, Protestants and Catholics.[32] During the pontificate of Pope John XXIII Catholics were once again permitted to join the CCJ, including notable figures such as Lord Longford and Lord Perth.[33] In 1964 Archbishop Heenan addressed the CCJ and expressed the opinion that the original withdrawal from the Council was due to a misunderstanding in Rome.[34] The early difficulties associated with Roman Catholic membership largely disappeared in the aftermath of the issuing of Nostra Aetate by the Second Vatican Council.[35] In 1980 and 1990 Pope John Paul II met delegations from the CCJ and conferred a knighthood on Sir Sigmund Sternberg who was joint treasurer of the CCJ and chairman of the International Council of Christians and Jews.[36]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • "A History of the Council of Christians and Jews: Children of One God", Marcus Braybrooke, Vallentine Mitchell, 1991, ISBN 0-85303-242-4

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "History: Council of Christians and Jews", CCJ Web site, retrieved 15 June 2009 [1]
  2. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p. 1
  3. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.2
  4. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p. 3
  5. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p. 3
  6. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p4
  7. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p. 4
  8. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.6
  9. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, pp. 6-7
  10. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p. 7
  11. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.9
  12. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, pp. 11-12
  13. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.12
  14. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.14
  15. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p. 17
  16. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p. 20
  17. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p21
  18. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p. 22
  19. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p. 22
  20. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p. 23
  21. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews,p. 23
  22. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews,pp. 83, 181
  23. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.118
  24. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.119
  25. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.119
  26. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p. 119
  27. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.119
  28. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.120, 121
  29. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.33
  30. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.35
  31. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.35
  32. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.36
  33. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.38
  34. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.39
  35. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.40
  36. ^ A History of the Council of Christians and Jews, p.41

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