Dialogika

Christian Conversion of Jews?

Statement of the Jewish Members of the Discussion Group "Jews and Christians"

For publication in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Recent Vatican texts and explanations about Judaism have caused confusion among Jews throughout the world and raised the question whether the leadership of the Catholic Church, despite all assurances to the contrary, has different theological principles than those of the Second Vatican Council. The Jewish members of the discussion group "Jews and Christians" of the Central Committee of German Catholics are also disappointed in the opinions expressed by members of the German Bishops' Conference regarding the statement "No to the Mission to Jews - Yes to Dialogue between Jews and Christians" of March 9, 2009.

They ask by what authority the Catholic church leadership theologically devalues fundamental statements of the Hebrew Bible - such as the language about the unrevoked covenant - vis à vis other positions. The question arises, What is the final text? What is unsurpassable? The new Latin Good Friday prayer of February 2008, that God "should enlighten their (the Jews') heart" theologically falls far behind the formulation of the 1970 intercession. This is regrettable.

The criticism of Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller of Regensburg is not in line with the contents of the declaration of the discussion group "Jews and Christians." We are very interested in having a substantive discussion of the theological issues. We find it thought-provoking that the Bishops' Conference formally denies the right of the discussion group to take positions on theological topics, while a primary aim of the group is precisely to discuss and debate also controversial questions, and perhaps arrive at common positions. On the other hand, it would be equally inappropriate to assume that the Bishops' Conference had to adopt all these positions unquestioningly.

The question of the unrevoked covenant requires an intra-Catholic answer, but the answer is crucial for dealing with each other and for the evaluation of the dialogue as such by the Jewish interlocutor. True dialogue requires eye-to-eye equality. To desire the "enlightenment" of the other is incompatible with dialogue. In this case there is need for further clarification and discussion of scientific studies.

From the Jewish side (and we can only speak for Jews), God's covenant with the Jewish people is unrevoked and Judaism is not deficient in comparison with Christianity. According to the Noahide laws—basic standards of human coexistence—"non-Jews can also share in the world-to-come" (Talmud, treatise Sanhedrin, fol. 56 b).

Yours sincerely,

  • Rabbiner Daniel Alter, Oldenburg/Berlin
  • Landesrabbiner a. D. Henry Brandt, Rabbiner in Augsburg, Vorstandsmitglied der Allgemeinen Rabbinerkonferenz Deutschland
  • Dr. Edna Brocke, Alte Synagoge, Essen
  • Rabbiner Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Walter Homolka, Rektor des Abraham Geiger Kollegs an der Universität Potsdam
  • Nathan Kalmanowicz, Vorstandsmitglied der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde München
  • Dr. Uri Kaufmann, Historiker, Dossenheim
  • Petra Kunik, Dozentin, Frankfurt
  • Landesrabbiner Jonah Sievers, Braunschweig
  • Dr. Hermann Simon, Direktor des Centrum Judaicum, Berlin
  • Rabbiner Julian Chaim Soussan, Düsseldorf, Vorstandsmitglied der Orthodoxen Rabbinerkonferenz Deutschland