YU’s Schachter Accused Of Obsolete Views On Church

Jewish-Christian relations scholars say rosh yeshiva ‘distorts’ Church’s role, harms peaceful dialogue.

08/28/12
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A coalition of 35 American institutions engaged in Jewish-Christian relations responded sharply this week to a recent article by Rabbi Hershel Schachter, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva University, that suggests the Catholic Church is missionizing in Israel and that Israeli rabbis who engage in dialogue with the Church are guilty of idolatry.

A statement signed by the leaders of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations, an association devoted to “enhancing understanding between Jews and Christians,” said Rabbi Schachter’s essay contained “blatant inaccuracies” and “inflammatory language,” and “promulgates a long list of glaring errors — errors that he would not tolerate in other’s writings.

“Were a Christian to make similar errors about Jews,” the statement said, “that Christian would rightly be understood as an anti-Semite.”

The rabbi, a much-revered teacher, decisor and one of the most respected religious authorities in the Orthodox community, wrote a dvar Torah for the Torah portion of Re’eh (Aug. 18) on TorahWeb.org. In it he accused nameless Orthodox rabbis in Israel who educate Christians about Judaism as being guilty of “deepening and furthering avodah zarah (idolatry)” and conversion.

“It is very painful to see that there is missionary activity taking place in Eretz Yisroel,” the rabbi wrote, noting that the Catholic Church rejected the modern Zionist movement a century ago because the Jews lost their “chosen” status when they did not accept Jesus as the messiah.

Several interfaith scholars said the content and tone of Rabbi Schachter’s article suggested that he is unaware or dismissive of the sweeping changes in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council, in 1965, seeking to do teshuvah — the Church’s language — for centuries of anti-Semitic theology by changing its liturgy and teachings about Jews and Judaism.

“Rabbi Schachter writes as if the Church is still missionizing and has not accepted the Jewish nature of the State of Israel, which is not true,” Ruth Langer, a professor of Jewish studies at Boston College and chair of the council, told The Jewish Week.

“My great concern is that the rabbi is propagating the notion that the Church is out to convert Jews, and he is not recognizing that it has undergone teshuva [repentance],” said Langer, adding that “a failure to forgive” undermines the positive changes made by the Church.

She and other scholars noted that the Catholic Church and many Protestant churches have no programs to missionize to Jews in Israel or anywhere else.

Explaining the nature of Jewish-Christian dialogue, the Council statement said: “An explicit precondition of interreligious exchange today is that conversion must not be the goal. Christians seek conversation with Jews in order to understand today’s Judaism, not to entice Jews to baptism.”

The statement added that Jews engage in discussion with Christians to better understand them, and themselves.

“We also avoid a demonization of the unknown, or, as in Rabbi Schachter’s statement, a demonization based on past but not present realities.”

The Council statement said that since 1967 the Vatican has not called for the internationalization of Jerusalem, that in 1993 it diplomatically recognized the State of Israel and that it is engaged in official dialogue with both the Sephardic and Ashkenazic chief rabbis of Israel twice a year.

Eugene Fisher, the former U.S. bishops’ director of Catholic-Jewish relations, told The Jewish Week the rabbi’s article “sounds like it was written by someone in the 1940s,” and said he worried that “the very harsh language and false claims” of Rabbi Schachter’s essay “can be disastrous in the long run” in terms of Christian-Jewish understanding.

Widely credited for reforming Catholic teaching on Judaism, Fisher noted that Christians are “a minority within a minority” in Israel and “when someone of his [Rabbi Schachter’s] stature comes out with dangerous falsehoods, bad things can happen.”

Rabbi Schachter is a leading disciple of the late Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, a towering figure of 20th-century Orthodoxy in America who was opposed to interfaith dialogue on theological matters.

An official of Yeshiva University said that Rabbi Schachter takes part in the annual campus visit of senior pastors of the Catholic Church, and that the university promotes unity among Jews and fosters positive relations with all people.

The Jewish Week was unable to reach Rabbi Schachter for comment.

The Council statement said it is “tragic that Rabbi Schachter distorts and misrepresents” the encounter between Jewish and Christian theologians committed to a deeper understanding of each other’s faith and beliefs.

“Throughout history Jews have suffered terribly from crude, hateful and false stereotypes that were spun by Christian polemicists,” the statement said. “Neither Jews nor Christians dare repeat this moral and theological error in our day.”

The Anti-Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, said in a statement issued Tuesday that Rabbi Schachter “seems to know nothing about the different Christian denominations or the current state of Jewish-Christian relations, which have improved greatly over the last four decades,” especially the Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

He said it was “troubling that a religious figure and university academic who is well respected in the Yeshiva world would publish such a distorted and error-filled text which promotes negative attitudes.”

He called on the rabbi to public correct the errors.

Rabbi Schachter has been known to make blunt, politically incorrect statements in the past.

In 2008 he was pressured to apologize for a statement he made to a group of yeshiva students in which he appeared to advocate shooting the prime minister of Israel should the government “give away Jerusalem.”

Four years earlier, women’s groups complained that a talk he gave seemed to compare women to animals in expounding on the issue of reading from a ketubah at a marriage ceremony. He said the marriage would be valid “even if a parrot or a monkey would read the ketubah.”
 

Last Update:

09/05/2012 - 18:19

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Once again, The Jewish Week's yellow journalism attacks Rabbi Schachter. Even the most simple Google search reveals many sources that show that Rabbi Schachter is 100% correct:

Rome says it won't intervene in row between US bishops, Jewish groups over Catholic proselytizing.
Pope pushes for international status of holy sites
Vatican impatience with Israeli visa policy
Tensions mark Israel, Vatican relations
Israel Postal Company workers in Ramat Gan say no to handing out thousands of holy Christian booklets
Even right before R"H and Y"K, The Jewish Week sows the seeds of hate. Absolutely sickening.

It is very clear that Gary Rosenblatt misinterpreted the article Rav Schachter was trying to portray regarding the unfortunate situation that is going on in Israel with Misionaries. He also seems to have some sort of personal vendetta , since he mentioned other articles not pertaining to the subject. Mr. Rosenblatt do you enjoy bashing a Godol Hador ? You have shown the readers that you are obvious not qualified to commentary on any orthodox issues ! You don't deserve any respect or acknowlogence in anything you care to say !

It is very clear to me by reading you're article that not only did you misinterpret the article Rav Schachter wrote but there is some personal vendetta you have with him by bringing up past articles that The Jewish Week has published regarding this Rav. Do you get some type of pleasure in bashing a Godol Hador ? You are clearly an ignorant fool who takes a serious issue such as missionaries in Israel and distorts it into a serious accusation ! You should be banned on any further commentary regarding anything in the Orhodox world !

Read R Riskin''s articles on interfaith ecumenical dioalogue, his address at Yale, and his granting of covenantal status to Christian supporters of Israel, his equuation of all who he believes worship HaShem and their being different solely by virtue of their ritual practice, and then read Confrontation, Then read how Germany rewards supporters of BDS, has intellectuals who display amnesia of the Holocaust and now is engaged in debates over Bris Milah. Then read Confontation, and ask yourself-why aren't the views of Rav Schachter, one of the greatest Talmidei Chachamim of our generation and one of Rav Soloveitchik ZL's greatest talmidim far more accurate than the wishful thinking of R Riskin?

I am quite astounded that with all the latest in the US elections, turmoil in the Middle East, and economic strife in Europe, the Jewish Week decided to publish a criticism of a d'var torah. The fact that Mr. Rosenblatt took the time to publish a criticism of a d'var torah on an obscure d'var torah website could only mean one of three things: 1) he hates torah; 2) he hates Rav Schachter; or 3) he's bored. I hope it is 3).
Rav Schachter's opinion on Jewish - Christian relations isn't anything new, and neither is the Jewish Week's sloppy and lazy reporting.

Unfortunately, the author of this piece and the "diplomats" he quotes are way out of touch with the reality of what is happening in the Catholic Church today. See:

http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=152782

A response to Gary Rosenblatt:
I am deeply troubled and disturbed by your article. You paint Rav Schachter shlita, one of the gedolah hador of our generation. as a foolish man who does not think before he speaks. But it is you Gary, who are a fool, for our Rabbis teach us that one who mocks the scholars has no share in the world to come (Rambam, Mishna Torah, 6:11). Your naive claims that the church is doing teshuva and that we should promote interfaith dialogue are simply preposterous. I personally can attest to the sensitive and caring nature of the Rosh Yeshiva. Upon mentioning the plight of an Agunah in shiur, Rav Schachter often breaks down in tears. If I were you Gary, I would retract your ridiculous article and call Rav Schachter and ask for meichlah. Writing such an article degrading a talmid chachim, especially before Rosh Hashana, is a sure way to have yourself sealed in the book of rashaim.

It's ironic that in the sentence "He called on the rabbi to public correct the errors," they writer of this article erred by using "public" instead of "publicly."

Please don't make me laugh.They is like ants who mock a giant.

So, The Jewish Week and Gary Rosenblatt are at it again salivating at the possibilities of throwing dirt on an Orthodox Jew - let alone such a prominent one as Rabbi Schachter.

How much research did you do on the article? Did you check out the Council's assertions about the "modern" church? I give move credence to Rabbi Schachter's assertions because he knows the facts on the ground - what's really happening in Israel. It's one thing to say that the Church's policies have changed, and then see how they are actually implemented. I doubt that anyone attacking Rabbi Schachter knows what daily life is like in Israel.

Furthermore, asking Abraham Foxman for a statement about this is like asking Noam Chomsky to support Birthright Israel - you knew what his answer would be.

Furthermore, your gratuitous rehashing of previous canards was totally unnecessary. If, however, you really believe that it's important to mention them, at the very least you could have also mentioned that many knowledgeable people believe he was misinterpreted.

I have known Rabbi Schachter for over 50 years as a colleague and student and I can attest that not only is he great Talmudic scholar he is also a Tsaddik.

Jay, did you read Rabbi Riskin's reply to Rav Schachter's article? It's in tune with the long during which European organizations on Jewish-Christian

While I have not read Rabbi Hershel Schachter's article, I understand the debate over the halacha. I think the distinction can be made between Catholics and other christian groups such as evangelicals who are active in supporting the rights of Israel to keep Jerusalem whole and the claims (settlements) to the whole west bank meaning Judea and Samaria. What is more disturbing to me is the thinking of many American and Israeli Jews who do not support the biblical mandate made between Hashem and Abraham in terms of the covenant of the land. I believe we should accept the support of Christian groups who see this Torah fact. Trust me they cannot convert true Jewish believers.

"Rabbi Schachter has been known to make blunt, politically incorrect statements in the past." This is truly what makes the Rabbi so great. He tells it like it is, regardless of societal pressures. We need more leaders like him!

He's right, not wrong. No question that evangelical protestants have a missionizing agenda since they perceive that the messiagh will come when Jews are converted. I suspect that portions of the Catholic Church which have turned crazily rightward will have the same perception. Orthodox Jews getting in bed with the evangelical protestants and catholics need to beware of bedding down with a lion

Except that he's right. Christians in Israel are different than Christians in the US. Missionary work goes on all the time. Christian missionaries are constantly knocking on doors in Israeli neighborhoods and speaking in schools. There's nothing wrong about bringing this up.

In Rabbi Shachter's article, he spoke the truth. He should be commended, not criticized.

There's no need for interfaith dialogue. These interfaith people just want to feel good about themselves and their openness. Their dialogue doesn't accomplish anything substantial.

Everyone, including, Rabbi Shachter, knows the importance of having good relations with our non-Jewish neighbors. Interfaith dialogue is something else. We need to distance ourselves from anything that even might be avodah zarah (especially give the fact that according to some opinions, Catholicism is actually avodah zarah)

Kudos to Rabbi Shachter, my fellow Washington Heightser!

This Jewish-Christian organization knows little about the culture of orthodox Judaism. Torah Web is intended for internal consumption among orthodox Jews who all share the nuances and flavor of their rabbis' words. The Torah Web rabbis all share the reasonable expectation that their essays will not be dissected by non-orthodox Jews, and Christian theologians, strangers to our unique culture. These are free-flowing essays, not academic journal, peer-reviewed contributions. In my eye, the dvar Torah, which I happened to read at my Shabbos table for my family and guests, is accurate in the whole, and word for word. Bothersome is the disrespect shown to one of our rabbinic leaders. I would never talk that way about the Pope. We Jews, in turn, should not enter Churches, and pick apart the sermons of the priests and reverends - notwithstanding that the Vatican did not recognize the legal existence of the State of Israel until 1993, 45 years after its establishment by the United Nations. History is relevant.

If the TorahWeb material is meant for internal consumption, it should not be online.

if there are no Catholic missionary activities in Israel, why are there multiple articles (like this one and this one) on catholic web sites about catholic missionary activity in Israel??????

No missionizing? What planet are you living on? see, for example, this story about the Israeli postmen who refused to deliver the missionary materials

He is not alone in being "out of touch" with reality. I would expect more from the rosh yeshiva of an institution like Yeshiva University. Last week I went to a Chabad Shabbat dinner and the rabbi mentioned Russia and communism, as if we were still in the cold war. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has made many comments about non-jews, Palestinians, Persians and so on. We have to hold our leaders accountable or the world will. We need leaders like Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960's for Black civil rights. The right wing influence within orthodoxy is dangerous. It has caused the Modern Orthodox Movement to become reactionary. They refuse to be proactive and stand for what they believe in. Speak up!

I'm sure that Rabbi Schachter wishes that he had an opportunity to re-write his article and remove many of the extraneous comments that detract from the core matter I assume he wished to discuss. Namely, the halachic difficulty with displaying Israeli beit medrashim to visiting Catholic clergy. Although I don't claim to be an expert on the Rav's classic treatise, Confrontation, where he established the guidelines for communicating with other faith communities, I believe that Rabbi Schachter's hostility to this burgeoning inter-faith endeavor is consistent with the Rav's position. Unfortunately, some members of the orthodox community- both in the United States and in Israel - need to take a step back and recognize that dialogue should be limited to shared non-religious issues that can improve social conditions in each faith community. At the same time, Rabbi Schachter needs to recognize that publication of articles delving into sensitive topics such as this are better left off the internet.

There are still plenty of missionary groups out there whose goal is to proselytize and convert, Vatican statements not-withsdtanding. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

Rabbi Rosenberg, I agree with you 100%. Some of us Jews naively think that the Christians (Catholics and Protestants) will give up their goal to convert everyone to Christianity, that includes Jews and even Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. What planet are we living on? The only reason they don't push harder to convert people in places like India or the Middle East is they know they'd be severely injured or killed if they tried it. They're abusing the kindness of Israeli society, which is still , thank G-d, somewhat based on Jewish ethics, to missionize.

Do you really think Catholics are not missionizing in Israel? One goes to Hell if they are not batized. Baptism of other faiths is a Mitzvah. Wake up and smell the truth. Rabbi dr. bernhard rosenberg

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