In Our Midst: In ‘Defense’ Of The Pope. By Ellen W. Horowitz

In Our Midst: In ‘Defense’ Of The Pope. By Ellen W. Horowitz
In Our Midst: In ‘Defense’ Of The Pope. By Ellen W. Horowitz

DOJLife.com is proud to publish a new series entitled “In Our Midst” exposing the efforts of Evangelical Christians to infiltrate the Jewish community in order to convert Jews to to a a belief in Jesus.

By Ellen W. Horowitz, Reprinted with Permission of Vision Magazine

Ellen W. Horowitz is an artist and author who served as the former content and research director for JewishIsrael.com, an organization exploring the challenges and complexities of Israel’s alliances with fundamentalist, evangelical and messianic Christian groups.


Our rabbis would do well to take their minds off of Rome and look to Jerusalem – where Hebrew-speaking Christian missionaries have been making dangerous inroads into local Jewish communities.

In “Defense” of the Pope

Please excuse my irreverence as I add an addition to the end of a famous Midrash: “Among the creatures created at the beginning of time at twilight : the ram of Abraham, the mouth of Bilaam’s donkey, the fish that swallowed Yonah, the stone-cutting Shamir, and … the elephant in the room.”

It was a bizarre month-long episode that started last August when the Chief Rabbinate of Israel decided that they didn’t like the Pope’s theological take on Christian scripture, delivered in a catechism addressed to a papal audience at the Vatican. Come Yom Kippur, the interfaith squabble was still making international headlines.

Now I imagine Israelis, who bother to care about interfaith matters, were caught somewhere between being annoyed, amused and bemused by a fumbling rabbinate protesting the Pope’s preaching on Paul. It was a truly WTF moment as the world community watched a representative of the rabbinate attempt to clamor over the invisible, yet stalwart and ageless, pachyderm who safeguards the sacred border between faiths.  All the while, my guts were prayerfully shrieking, “God, save the elephant in the room!”  

It wasn’t that long ago when a primary rule of dinner party etiquette, in a mixed crowd, was to avoid discussions about politics, religion, or sex. How boring you say? I mean how much can one expound on the weather and local sports scene?  I would suggest that slapping those limitations on “taboo” subjects gave rise to the kind of inspiring conversations which led to redemptive solutions for the world. I’ll allow Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, z”l to expound:

“We would deem it improper 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.”

Rav Soloveitchik’s remarks and directives were delivered to 500 rabbis at theannual conference of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) in January of 1966. Now that would be post-Vatican II/Nostra Aetate, and yet Soloveitchik’s drawing of red lines did not spearhead a stampede of javeline-throwing Bishops. The elephant remained unscathed and intact. In fact, not long ago, this writer was told that Rav J.B. Soloveitchik’s masterful writings and speeches on Jewish-Christian relations and boundaries are still being studied in Divinity schools.

That Church doctrine and attitudes towards Jews and Judaism are being explored and re-examined by Christian leaders and scholars across denominations is not a bad thing. Yes, there’s a back and forth, and at times a seeming regression. But that’s part and parcel  of Christianity’s therapeutic struggle to evolve and come to terms with the re-birth of Israel and to determine where and if they fit in.

What’s extremely abnormal and dangerous, however, is for rabbis to attempt to play the role of theo-therapists for the Christian world.  Does Israel’s rabbinic establishment really want to toy with evangelicalism, dominionism, triumphalism, exclusivism and yes, supersessionsim?  Opening that Pandora’s box is the stuff anti-Semitism is made of. Do we really wanna go there? But it seems we already have.

According to Rabbi Dr. David Berger, “Rabbi Soloveitchik worried that theological dialogue would create pressure to ‘trade favors pertaining to fundamental matters of faith, to reconcile ‘some’ differences.’  He argued against any Jewish interference in the faith of Christians both on grounds of principle and out of concern that this would create the framework for reciprocal expectations.” 

Makes sense, but lost somewhere in the narrow and astonishing void between anti-Semitism, philo-Semitism, and emerging evangelical “Christian Zionism”, some overly- anxious Israeli and Diaspora rabbis and community leaders  declared a “sea change” in Jewish-Christian relations and proclaimed a new interfaith dawn. Respect for differences quickly gave way to a frantic search for interfaith “Judeo-Christian commonality”. The walls came tumbling down, and with it collapsed the integrity, truth and separateness that enables us Jews to fully engage in the world while fulfilling our obligations as a unique people. Suffice to say that the elephant in the room is not happy.

A tsunami of missionary madness has ensued in the Jewish state and yes, we Jews are trading favors with evangelizing Christians on sacred principles as if they are shmattes in the shuk (“Give me some of your Pesach and Succot and a bunch of  those prayer shawls and I’ll give you a leather-bound Hebrew translation of the ‘new testament’ and I’ll even throw in a gift basket for your lone soldiers and a donation for the soup kitchen serving Holocaust survivors. And it’s all in the name of Rabbi Jesus.”)

Our rabbis would be far better off if they would take their minds off of Rome and look to Jerusalem where Hebrew-speaking messianic Christians have been making surprising and rapid inroads into the Jewish community and in the “end times” race to win Jewish souls. And yes, the methods of “confusion and seduction”  currently being employed in the effort to “prevent Jews from being Jews” should be considered and included in any contemporary definition of anti-Semitism Biblically speaking, our sages were often of the opinion that kisses can be more dangerous than bites. So, rabbis… be careful where you tread and, whatever you do, don’t trample the elephant!

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