Moses with Horns

Moses by Michelangelo Buonarroti, Tomb (1505-1545) for Julius II, San Pietro in Vincoli (Rome).

In the N.J. Jewish News of March 9, 2020, the Touch of Torah column on Exodus 30:11-34:35, “How a biblical mistranslation led to anti-Semitism” by Rabbi Joyce Newmark, discusses the translation of the word “karan” into Latin as cornuta / horned rather than “ray of light.” She draws attention to Michelangelo’s statue of Moses and links it to anti-Jewish bigotry so tragically evident again in our day.

I draw attention to the work of art historian Ruth Mellinkoff, The Horned Moses in Medieval Art and Thought (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970). A distinction should be made between the bull’s or ram’s horns as a symbol of authority (for example, over the ear of a ruler depicted on a coin) and the goat’s horns, which in the Middle Ages and later were a symbol of the devil. In a positive way royal power is symbolized by a horn in the divine promise: “I will make a horn sprout from David’s line” (Psalm 132:17). The goat’s horns were applied to the Jewish people by those who misinterpreted the New Testament, especially John 8:44.

Michelangelo had great esteem for Moses as Mediator of the Sinai Covenant.  On the spandrels of the Sistine chapel ceiling he depicted Moses as one of four who delivered Israel from grave danger.

May the people who seek divine guidance in the vicissitudes of life in our time find light from the principles of the Biblical heritage! I thank Rabbi Newmark for drawing attention to the Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church and for the teachings that build upon the Declaration of the Church’s Relation to the Non-Christian Religions (Nostra aetate)!

Anti-Jewish Bigotry in the Classroom

On March 5, 2020 the M.A. Program in Jewish-Christian Studies sponsored a Teachers Study Day, with financial assistance from the New Jersey Commission for Holocaust and Genocide Education. The topic was “Jewish Education during the Nazi Period and Holocaust Education Now.”

The first speaker, Dr. Marion Kaplan from New York University, asked participants if they had seen an article in the New York Times of March 4th. A few raised their hands. Here is the text, a report on an elite high school in southern New Jersey by Susan Otterman: www.nytimes.com/2020/03/04/nyregion/new-jersey-antisemitism-high-school.html.

For younger generations, the Nazi period may seem to be ancient history. But as Dr. Kaplan presented the ways primary and secondary education took place in Germany from 1933, the shock of a current scene in New Jersey was evident. Then, the blatant discrimination was ordered by the highest authorities in the land and resonated on every level in the schools. The small Jewish population in Germany was well integrated into the general culture, but children were segregated easily and made to feel that they did not fit.

In contrast, the education system in this state includes study of the Holocaust and related crimes of genocide. Efforts are made to alert young people to the danger of bullying and other forms of discrimination. How to explain the crude forms of bigotry that lurk under the surface among teenagers who should know better? Should their homes be blamed, or are the students simply guilty of braggadocio?

Administrators of schools must be alert to signs that a gang spirit is developing under their noses. Among all the elements of an approach to offer a solution before anyone is hurt would be the simple reflection on the Golden Rule. The website of Scarboro Interfaith Dialogue describes this principle as the universal basis for promoting human dignity. Surely teenagers can come to see that they should deal with others as they would want to be treated.

Anti-Jewish Bigotry in Stone

Anglican Lincoln Cathedral. U.K. By JThomas, CC BY-SA 2.0

Since the Second Vatican Council, the Bishops in several European countries have led the effort to remove the carvings and paintings that portray the vicious canard that Jewish people used the blood of a Christian boy to make the maṣṣah (unleavened bread) for the Passover meal. For example, the Anglican Lincoln Cathedral has a plaque repudiating the case of “Little Hugh,” dating back to 1255.

Recently another statue in Wittenberg, Germany, the Judensau depicting Jewish people suckling a sow, has been in the news.

The laudable effort to contrast this insulting image with an information board message and monument commemorating the six million Jewish victims of the Nazis seems inadequate. Why? Because bigots could ignore the educational message and focus on the fact that a Christian church fostered and even now seems to endorse the idea of ridiculing the Jews.

It would be better to place this and other manifestations of such hatred in a place where a direct explanation by docents can deal with the enduring challenge to human decency. I hope that this can be accomplished by local leaders!

Yom Kippur and Christian Liturgy

During a discussion among medievalists on prayer, I mentioned the ember days in the Church’s liturgy. Middle-aged participants asked: “What are ember days?”

My friend Frank Henderson and I gave some attention to the topic in “Jews and Judaism in the Medieval Latin Liturgy” (see p. 191-92).

In the proceedings of a conference The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, edited by Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra offers a wide-ranging study, “Whose Fast Is It? The Ember Day of September and Yom Kippur” (pp. 259-82 with charts of the Biblical readings in the Roman rite). He introduces his essay with a quotation from Pope St. Leo I (the Great), who reigned from A.D. 440-461:

Confidently encouraging you with fatherly counsels, dearly beloved, we preach the fast dedicated in the seventh month to the exercises of common devotion, sure that what was first the Jewish fast will become Christian by your observance. (Sermon 90:1)

Did this fast merely recall Zechariah’s mention of four times of fasting (7:5; 8:18-19), developing independently of contemporary Jewish practices in Rome?  Dr. Ben Ezra responds:

Particularly in light of Leo’s familiarity with contemporary Judaism and his references to the fast as part of the Jewish heritage of the church, the theory of a completely independent development of these Christian and Jewish readings seems highly unlikely. Competition with and influence from the Jewish Yom Kippur plausibly explains the dominance of Old Testament readings and the focus on repentance and propitiation.

Because detailed sources for Jewish practices in Rome in the fifth century are not available, Dr. Ben Ezra’s conclusion is tentative, but it seems that non-polemical contacts allowed for Christians in Rome to learn from and adapt the Jewish practices of fasting. In the modern period we can learn from each other, and Christians should learn from the Jewish background to Matthew 5:1-18 how prayer, fasting and alms-giving reinforce each other.

A Journey to Dialogue: The Sisters of Sion and Jewish-Christian Relations

On behalf of the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies, I am pleased to announce that  Dr. Celia Deutsch will be this year’s keynote speaker at the 26th Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher Memorial Lecture on October 31, 2019.

Dr. Celia Deutsch, N.D.S. is a Research Scholar in the Religion Department at Barnard College and a member of the Sisters of Sion, a small international Roman Catholic religious congregation with a presence in five continents. Her presentation, “A Journey to Dialogue: The Sisters of Sion and Jewish-Christian Relations,” will reflect on the Sisters’ activities during World War II, particularly their participation in rescue efforts in the context of pre-War conversations occurring in Europe, mainly in France. Dr. Deutsch will follow their path through the tragic years of the Shoah to the hard work leading to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and The Declaration on the Church’s Relation to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate).

It has been more than 50 years since that milestone in Jewish-Christian relations and progress toward interfaith collaboration. In the decades since that time Roman Catholic understanding of Theology, Sacred Scripture and Church History has undergone significant changes, often in response to the ongoing conversations with Jews. We have come to appreciate the ways in which our relationships call us to the work of social justice and, together into new relationships with Muslims and other religious traditions, to strive for peace on the global, national and local levels.

The event is free and open to the public and will be held in the Nursing Amphitheatre in the Nursing Building at Seton Hall University (South Orange campus) from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Please RSVP here.

The Blight of Racism

As we study the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and its Declaration on the Church’s Relation to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra aetate), we grapple with the anti-Jewish bigotry that has marred tragically the relationship of Jews and Christians over the centuries. The Council reminds us that education of the public requires our diligence generation after generation.

Originally, this document focused on Catholic-Jewish relations but was expanded to include a reflection on all major religions. My predecessor, Msgr. Oesterreicher, found this development to be very positive:

The Declaration [on the Church’s Relation to Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council (10/28/65) does not in the least indulge in a blind optimism that would bypass problems; it is rather the sign of a great hope…It has rightly been said that the Council is the end of the Counter-Reformation. It may be equally true to say that the Declaration marks the end of the Reformation. More exactly: the main concern of the Reformation is no longer our concern. Today, a devout Christian is no longer worried by Luther’s question: How do I get a gracious God? The question that troubles believers of our time is rather: How does God work the salvation of all creatures?

This throws new light on the reason for linking the Declaration on the Jews with the Church’s attitude on the religions of humankind. The whole Declaration makes it clear that all singularity exists for the sake of universality, all separation for the sake of commonality. Israel’s election, too, is directed toward the all-embracing kingdom of grace. Thus, the Declaration on the Jews has taken on a dimension far surpassing its original importance. It proved its value by becoming the nucleus around which old-new insights and expressions could gather. 

Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher, The New Encounter Between Christians and Jews (New York: Philosophical Library, 1986), p. 227.

The final section of Nostra aetate widens the call of the Church to her faithful in order to eradicate all forms of discrimination, let alone persecution, because of the inherent dignity of each person and the rights that flow from our creaturehood, in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-28):

5. We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man’s relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: “He who does not love does not know God” (1 John 4:8).

No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned.

The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion. On the contrary, following in the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, this sacred synod ardently implores the Christian faithful to “maintain good fellowship among the nations” (1 Peter 2:12), and, if possible, to live for their part in peace with all men,(14) so that they may truly be sons of the Father who is in heaven.

In 1997 the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace issued a fine statement on the problem of racism in contemporary society, The Church and Racism: Towards a More Fraternal Society. See the entire document here.

In the context of tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri and other places in this country, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral letter, calling people to address racism in our hearts and communities. This message of 2018 should be consulted again in the autumn of 2019. The text and many other resources can be on the Catholic Bishops’ Combating Racism page.

In recent years we have witnessed or learned about courageous actions of groups and individuals of many communities to stand with those suffering from bigotry. We salute the efforts of both Jewish and Christian groups to bear witness to the inconsistencies and acts of injustice within our society. We are to examine our conscience concerning the “sin of omission, when individuals, communities, and even churches remain silent and fail to act against racial injustice when it is encountered” (Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, p. 4). These examples should inspire many who see the plethora of challenges not to be discouraged but to stimulate a response to the needs of those who cannot speak for themselves.

Avoid Stereotypes and Generalizations

Recently a politician used the word “Pharisee” in a pejorative sense, drawing upon the passages in the Gospel where Jesus debated with some Pharisees and pointed to inconsistencies between teaching and practice. The challenge for all adults, whatever their heritage, is to examine their conscience in the light of prophetic ideals in ancient Israel. Jesus continued this call for people to move from faith into deeds of service (see Matthew 7:21). Rather than merely applying criticism to others we should look first at ourselves. Of course, in teaching, whether in the pulpit or classroom, we must point out that entire communities should not be labeled only in negative terms. The Second Vatican Council offered a sound principle: “All must take care, lest in catechizing or in preaching the Word of God, they teach anything which is not in accord with the truth of the Gospel message or the spirit of Christ” (Nostra aetate #4).

Webster’s New College Dictionary (Cleveland: Wiley 2009, p. 1079) notes that from the New Testament the adjective “Pharisaic” means “self-righteous, sanctimonious, hypocritical.” The American Heritage Dictionary (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993, p. 729) has an informative usage note on the noun “Jew” but unfortunately not on the word “Pharisee,” where Pharisaism is defined as “Hypocritical observance of the letter of religious or moral law without regard for the spirit.” An international conference “Jesus and the Pharisees” held at the Gregorian University in Rome on May 7, 2019 reviewed the long history of inner-Jewish as well as Jewish-Christian debates. See www.jesusandthepharisees.org.

I point out to my students that, in English from the reign of Elizabeth I, the term “Jesuit” and the adjective “Jesuitical” have a similar history. The noun is given the meaning “a crafty schemer, cunning dissembler, casuist.” It is noted in Webster’s Dictionary that this is a “hostile and offensive term, as used by anti-Jesuits” (p. 768). On the same page, the word “Jew” as a verb is defined as slang “to swindle, cheat.” A comment follows: “This is a vulgar and offensive usage, even when the speaker or writer is not consciously expressing an antisemitic attitude.”

The burdens of past expressions of bigotry should be exposed so that people will be alerted not continue to foster hostility toward their neighbor.

The Feast of Shavuot (Weeks) = Pentecost


Moritz Daniel Oppenheim: “Shavuot (Pentecost) (Das Wochen- oder Pfingst-Fest)”

Seven weeks after Passover and the exodus from Egypt, the twelve tribes came to Mount Sinai and prepared to respond to the divine call to enter the bilateral Covenant. In this way they became a holy nation (GOY) (Exodus 19:6), receiving the commandments and destined to progress toward their own land wherein they would be free to serve the living God.

The annual eight-day festival brought Jews and converts to Judaism to Jerusalem during the time that Judea was ruled by the Roman procurator. The proclamation of the Book of Ruth challenged the listeners to find room for the stranger in their midst. The Acts of the Apostles (2:1-41) offers a description of the Christian community’s message to the world represented by the participants in this feast of unity. This editorial of the NJ Jewish News draws attention to the reverberations of this theme for the Jewish people of our time: https://njjewishnews.timesofisrael.com/the-unity-of-shavuot/.

Jewish and Christian calendars coincide this year, so both communities draw attention to the Torah and its Decalogue, the Ten Words that provide the principles for life in community. For Christians this is “the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:2) challenging us to foster unity in our response to the divine will. May both communities foster the insights into God’s gift of peace for all creation, calling for our obedience!

No Anti-Jewish Bigotry in Catholic Churches

A Polish historian with extreme “revisionist” views on Polish-Jewish relations during the World War II period was scheduled to speak in a number of parish churches in the New York area this coming weekend. An alert group of Catholics and other people of good will wrote to the Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, to request that local churches not be the place for such lectures. Subsequently, Cardinals Dolan, Tobin and Cupich in the Archdiocese of New York, Newark and Chicago have cancelled these events in their parish churches. The people inviting such a speaker may find another space, but unsuspecting parishioners won’t be subjected to a bigoted message.

In the 1980s the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies sponsored several lectures on World War II and the Shoah (the Holocaust). Each time when the topic involved the situation in Poland, a group in the audience would launch an abusive attack on the speakers during the question period. Even Professor Jan Karski, the heroic Polish witness in 1942 and the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were not respected!

It is very sad that a generation later these expressions of bitter hatred have been linked to current political issues in Poland and elsewhere. Scholarly exchanges do not seem to be feasible in this situation. So for now we can only pray for reconciliation and healing of memories. May continued vigilance by people of good will on the local level continue so that the title of this post will remain accurate!

Police in the Nazi Period and Now

A policeman (left) and his dog on street patrol side-by-side with a Nazi auxiliary.

The Jewish-Christian Studies Graduate Program is hosting the professional study day, “Police in the Nazi Period and Now,” on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm at Seton Hall University. The event is offered free of charge, including lunch, but you must register at bit.ly/RSVP2019TSD.

Theme

The role of the police in a society has been defined in a way that is distinct from the nation’s armed services. When Sir Robert Peel was Home Secretary of England, the Metropolitan Police Force was created in 1829. For almost two centuries the “bobby” has been honored in England, but for the Irish the “peeler” was less than beloved!

How were the police in Nazi Germany and occupied lands perceived by minorities and others who refused to collaborate in building the Third Reich? How did the ordinary police differ from the infamous secret police (Gestapo)?

Our first speaker, Dr. Peter Black, will review the tragic history of police action in Europe of the Nazi period. The second speaker, Dr. Maria Haberfeld, will focus on police education in the United States and describe some of the ways police departments interact with local communities.

The program is an accredited service provider in the State of New Jersey. Therefore all participating teachers will receive 5 “credit hours” for their participation. You can access the full agenda at bit.ly/TSD2019.

About the Speakers

Peter R. Black, Ph.D. is retired from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where he served as Senior Historian from 1997-2016. Previously he served as Chief Historian for the Office of Special Investigations, Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice (1978-1997). Dr. Black published Ernst Kaltenbrunner: Ideological Soldier of the Third Reich (1984) and has written several articles and chapters in books. Since 2016 he has been active as an independent historian and consultant.

 

Maria (Maki) Haberfeld, Ph.D. is Professor of Police Science in the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. She received the Master of Arts in Criminology from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Her publications include Critical Issues in Police Training (2002), Contours of Police Integrity (co-editor, 2003), Police Leadership (2005), Introduction to Policing: The Pillar of Democracy (co-authored, 2014), and other books, including three on terrorism.