Jewish scholars emphasize Christian ties

Saturday, September 9th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BALTIMORE – A group of Jewish scholars will issue a sweeping statement about Jewish-Christian relations this weekend that stresses the ties between the two religions and says Christianity shouldn't be blamed for the rise of Nazism.

The effort is being coordinated by the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies, a secular organization based in Baltimore. The statement, signed by more than 160 Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis, will appear Sunday in full-page advertisements in The New York Times and The Sun of Baltimore.

"Some of the ingrained ways that Jews think and relate to Christians are based on an image of the Christian world that no longer matches reality," said Rabbi David Sandmel, who oversaw the study.

The four Jewish theologians who wrote the statement were not affiliated with any specific congregation or Jewish organization. They said they expected some of the assertions to be controversial among Jews, particularly the language involving Christians and Nazis.

The statement stresses the mutual roots of the two religions and highlights Christianity's origins in Judaism. Christians and Jews both worship the same God and use the Old Testament, or the Tanakh in Judaism.

Peter Ochs, one of the statement's authors, said many of those similarities are too often overlooked.

"Jews have lived alongside Christians for about 1,200 years, but we were surprised how little knowledge Jewish communities had about Christianity," Mr. Ochs said.

The section most likely to cause controversy concerns Nazis and the Holocaust. The statement says that Christian anti-Judaism may have provided some of the groundwork for Nazism, but that "Nazism itself was not an inevitable outcome of Christianity."

"There is a tendency among some in the Jewish community to identify Christianity and Nazism, to lump them together and say they are all anti-Semites," said Rabbi Sandmel.

The statement, according to the authors, breaks a long period of silence by Jewish scholars on their relationship with Christians, despite several outreach attempts by several Christian groups. Mr. Ochs said many Christian groups have revised their texts in recent years to eliminate anti-Semitic references.