A groundbreaking statement by a group of Orthodox Jewish rabbis has advocated partnership with Christians and signalled a new departure in relations between the two faiths.
To Do the Will of Our Father in Heaven: Toward a Partnership between Jews and Christians has been produced Orthodox rabbis from Israel, the US and Europe. It says that after "nearly two millennia of mutual hostility and alienation" they "recognise the historic opportunity now before us. We seek to do the will of our Father in Heaven by accepting the hand offered to us by our Christian brothers and sisters. Jews and Christians must work together as partners to address the moral challenges of our era."
"This proclamation's breakthrough is that influential Orthodox rabbis across all centers of Jewish life have finally acknowledged that Christianity and Judaism are no longer engaged in a theological duel to the death and that Christianity and Judaism have much in common spiritually and practically," said Rabbi Dr Eugene Korn, academic director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Co-operation. "Given our toxic history, this is unprecedented in Orthodoxy."
The statement describes the Holocaust or Shoah as "the warped climax to centuries of disrespect, oppression and rejection of Jews and the consequent enmity that developed between Jews and Christians".
However, it says that since the Second Vatican Council and the publication of the encyclical Nostra Aetate by Pope Paul VI in 1965, "the official teachings of the Catholic Church about Judaism have changed fundamentally and irrevocably". it continues: "We appreciate the Church's affirmation of Israel's unique place in sacred history and the ultimate world redemption. Today Jews have experienced sincere love and respect from many Christians that have been expressed in many dialogue initiatives, meetings and conferences around the world."
The statement refers to revered Jewish scholars like Maimonides, Rabbi Jacob Emden and Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who wrote positively about Christianity and accepted their place in God's purposes. It says: "In separating Judaism and Christianity, G-d willed a separation between partners with significant theological differences, not a separation between enemies."
It continues: "Both Jews and Christians have a common covenantal mission to perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Almighty, so that all humanity will call on His name and abominations will be removed from the earth. We understand the hesitation of both sides to affirm this truth and we call on our communities to overcome these fears in order to establish a relationship of trust and respect."
It concludes: "In imitating G-d, Jews and Christians must offer models of service, unconditional love and holiness. We are all created in G-d's Holy Image, and Jews and Christians will remain dedicated to the Covenant by playing an active role together in redeeming the world."
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, one of the statement's initiators, said: "The real importance of this Orthodox statement is that it calls for fraternal partnership between Jewish and Christian religious leaders, while also acknowledging the positive theological status of the Christian faith. Jews and Christians must be in the forefront of teaching basic moral values to the world."