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April 24, 1964 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1964-04-24

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Purely Commentary

French-Jewish Historian's Demand of Christians:

End Contempt of Jews Forever — and Obliterate It
From All Books. and Lips Which Are Called Christian

Prof. Jules Isaac, distinguished French-Jewish historian who died
a year ago, was 85 when he wrote his powerful appeal to Christians
to obliterate all symptoms of contempt for the Jew from their lips
and their books. His indictment of
Christianity for the sin of anti-
Semitism has just been published by
Holt, Rinehart and Winston (383
Madison, N.Y. 17). Prof. Isaac's "The
Teaching of Contempt: Christian
Roots of Anti-Semitism" appears in
a commendable translation from the
French by Helen Weaver and with a
biographical introduction by Claire
Huchet Bishop.
Miss Bishop throws interesting
light on the eminent French Jew who
had so fearlessly exposed the mis-
representations about our people in
Christian liturgy and legend. She de-
scribes the private audience Prof.
Isaac had with Pope John XXIII,
when "the two venerable men sat
side by side in a lengthy, earnest and
Jules Isaac
friendly conversation." The Jewish
scholar summarized the results of his research into the Christian guilt
and expressed the view that although individual Catholics had reversed
their attitudes there was need for the Pope himself to be heard, forever
to condemn "the teaching of contempt." Prof. Isaac suggested that a
subcommission of the Vatican Council should study the question, and
as the Pope listened to his plea he said, "I have been thinking about
that ever since you began to speak." It was shortly thereafter that the
requested subcommission was chosen and began to function under the
chairmanship of Augustin Cardinal Bea with whom Dr. Isaac had a long
conversation after his meeting with Pope John. Miss Bishop, reviewing
that experience by the Jewish historian, states in her biographical
essay of Jules Isaac:
"Isaac thanked the Pope for earlier actions which had aroused
great hopes among Jews, and added, 'Because of this great kind-
ness, is not the Pope himself responsible if we now expect more?'

"To dramatize this atmosphere of expectancy, Prof. Isaac, at
the age of 85, wrote 'The Teaching of Contempt,' the first of his
books to be published in English. We cannot help wishing that it
had been written by a Christian. But this does not diminish our
humble admiration for this noble scholar, who was a Jew and who,
rising above personal grief and righteous wrath, accepted as his
primary obligation the appeal, firm but without rancor, to the con-
science of his Christian brothers."

Miss Bishop's introduction begins by welcoming the "face-to-face
encounter" now being experienced in the dialogues conducted by Jews
and Christians and to the "happy convergence" which makes it easier
"for Christians to see what was so long obscured — that our Christian
roots are Jewish."

Her story of the life of Prof. Isaac is fascinating. She quotes him
as stating that the Jewish question began to weigh on his mind in
1940. He had "fought for Dreyfus at the side of Charles Peguy; but
once Dreyfus was rehabilitated, Isaac looked on the affaire as an
epidemic from which everyone had recovered."

Born in 1877, in Rennes, the son of Alsace-Lorraine French-
Jewish parents, he had not experienced anti-Semitism in the first 60
years of his life. His grandfather fought in Napoleon's Grande Armee,
and his father was a professional army officer, but he pursued an
academic career, becoming a professor of history, gaining fame as the
author of the seven-volume Cours d'histoire. He was named France's
inspector general of education. He lost his post when the Germans
gained control of his country. This is when he began to study "the
phenomenon of anti-Semitism," as Miss Bishop refers to it. She then
calls attention to this tragedy that struck him in 1943:

"While he was away from their temporary home, Riom, his wife,
was arrested by the Gestapo. His daughter, his younger son, his
son-in-law, and several other members of his family were seized in
Vichy. (His elder son had already fled and was in England.) Except
for his younger son, who escaped, all the others were killed by the
Nazis. Before Madame Isaac (who had been deeply involved in her
husband's work on the Christian roots of anti-Semitism) was shipped
to her death camp, she managed to send a clandestine note to her
husband. It read, 'Save yourself for your work; the world is waiting
for it.' From then on, this final message from his wife governed
Jules Isaac's life."
In flight, "hiding in farms and many times at the homes of priests
and ministers, Prof. Isaac conducted his research, and his publisher
received his 600-page manuscript of Jesus et Israel in 1947. In it he
showed how religious commentaries "have been so slanted as to give
a totally erroneous and distorted picture of Jesus' attitude toward
Israel, and Israel's attitude toward Jesus." He charged that these in-
accuracies "were largely responsible for the Christian's anti-Semitic
It was in 1947, Miss Bishop explains, that Dr. Isaac met with dis-
tinguished Jewish and Christian leaders, presented to them an 18-
point program for the purification of Christian teachings about Jews,
and these formed the basis for "the Ten Points of Seelisberg," elabor-
ated later that same year in Switzerland.
In 1949 Prof. Isaac met with Pope Pius XII and told the Pontiff
that the change in the Good Friday pro perfidis judaeis prayer alone
was not sufficient, and he urged its total suppression. It was in 1958,
primarily as a result of Prof. Isaac's insistence, that Pope John
eliminated perfidis in the prayer for the Jews both in Latin and the
vernacular. A lecture by Prof. Isaac pursuing his appeals for Christian
justice for the Jews was translated by Prof. and Mrs. James Parkes
and was distributed in 1961 in an American edition by the National
Conference of Christians and Jews. Then came this significant work,
"The Teaching of Contempt," now under review.
In his forward to this brief, 154-page, but truly great work,
Prof. Isaac refused to apologize for continuing his .cJ;gle to expose,
to extirpate, the Christian roots of anti-Semitism. i o the question
posed to him, why rather than denounce the teaching of contempt,

French Jewish Historian
Demands Christians End
Teaching Contempt of Jews

By Philip

initiate instead teaching of respect, he declares that the two are in-
separable and added: "It is impossible to combat the teaching of con-
tempt and its modern survivals, without thereby laying the founda-
tions for the teaching or respect; and, conversely, it is impossible to
establish the teaching of respect, without first destroying the rem-
nants of the teaching of contempt."

He begins by quoting authorities, Papal and others, to show the
agreement among authorities that true Christians cannot be anti-
Semites, "and yet," he asserts, "consciously or unconsciously, anti-
Semitism is profoundly rooted in Christianity;" that "even after
Auschwitz, Maidanek, Dubno and Treblinka, Christian anti-Semitism
is still alive." He turns to numerous sources to prove his point.

To those who say that anti-Semitism has always existed, he offered
historical data that there is "no solid historical foundation" for this
argument. He makes the added point here that "religious intransigence
must not-be confused with cultural nonassimilation." Stating that "all
separatism breeds feelings of suspicion, hostility and scorn due to
lack of understanding," maintaining that "this has been the primary
source of anti-Semitism, and it is essentially religious," he declared.
"Have Christians and Moslems the right to reproach the Jews
for their separatism? Without it, without their religious intransigence
in a pagan world, the Jews would not have handed on to the Chris-
tians, or to Islam, the torch of monotheism, the belief in One All-
powerful and Eternal God. 'Which commandment is the first of all?'
one of the scribes asks Jesus, and Jesus answers (Mark 12:28-29):
`Hear, 0 Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.' "

Prof. Isaac's is not only an argument against Christian anti-
Semitism: it is at the same time an historical analysis of Jewish history.
He exposed the vulgarity of pagan, pre-Christian anti-Semitism in
Alexandria and accused Christian anti-Semitism, "which is essentially
theological," as "infinitely more pernicious and persistent, since it
has continued up to our own time.
Challenging Christian theologians especially for their contention
that the Jewish Diaspora — the dispersion — is a punishment for the
crucifixion, Dr. Isaac resorted to historical data to show that there
already were Jews outside Palestine 500 years before Jesus; that not
all Jews returned to the Land of Israel after the first, the Babylonian
Resort by theologians to false data, to hoary lies like the "Proto-
cols," to charges of financial power of the Jews, brought added pro-
tests from the French-Jewish scholar. Pursuing his argument against
the false claim that Jews were punished with exile because they re-
jected Jesus, Dr. Isaac described the growth of Jewish communities in
many lands. He stated: "Together with Palestine and Syria, Egypt and
Mesopotamia continued to be the leading centers of Jewish population.
Alexandria was at once the greatest Greek city and the greatest Jewish
city. More than a million Jews lived in Babylonia and in other areas
outside of Roman domination." He asserts emphatically that history
will not allow the claim that Israel's dispersion began in 70 C.E. —
40 years after Jesus' death. He denied also that the Dispersion corn-
menced in 135 C.E., after the second Judean war, again offering data
to disprove theological claims. He also contended, offering historical
data, that `.`after 70, Palestinian Judaism survived as before." And
about the uprising by a handful of rebels against Rome in 132-135, he
wrote: "The uprising of the Jews of Palestine was of such scope and
violence that according to historian Dion Cassius 'the whole world
trembled because of it.' "
He concluded with the declaration that "the traditional Chris-
tian doctrine, according to which the Dispersion of Israel is the
punishment for the Crucifixion, and which occured in the year '70
of the first century of the Christian era, simply takes no account
of historical realities. Thus disowned by history, it becomes no more
than a theological myth without the slightest foundation. Therefore,
respect for the truth demands that myth's condemnation and dis-
appearance. In such a case it is not history that must come to terms
with theology; on the contrary, it is theology that must come to
terms with history."
There is strong resentment in Jules Isaac's book against Christian
theological contention that the religion of Israel was mere legalism
without a soul in Jesus' time. He points to historical realities to show
how such arguments are belied by attested vitality of Israel's religious
life in that period in history, and his authorities are the Pharisees,
the men of the Halakha, Hillel and the recently discovered data in the
Dead Sea Scrolls, quoting at length from the scroll the Teacher of
Thus he disproved the charge of degeneracy in Judaism, and
concluded his study with a condemnation of the charge of deicide
against Jewry. He called this Christian accusation "evil and un-
founded." Here, too, he turned to Jewish law, to historical data, to
show that Jews could not have resorted to crucifixion. His charge was
that the Gospels, the only source of information about the crucifixion,
are not concerned with historical accuracy but are works of religious
teaching and persuasion. He showed that if the Sanhedrin had con-
demned Jesus to death he would have died by stoning and not by
crucifixion, which was a Roman penalty.

Friday, April 24, 1964

'Critical Point Looms
Unless Israel Can
Stretch Water Supply'

ROME (JTA)—An Israeli spe-
cialist on arid zone research
warned that Israel would reach
a critical point in water needs
within 15 years unless all known
methods, including desalination,
were applied to "stretch" present
water resources.
Speaking at a meeting on desari- (
nation convened here by the Milan
Trade Fair and the Italian Federa-
tion of Scientific Organizations,
Dr. Reuven Katz, of Israel, stressed
the fact that 80 per cent of Israel's
total replenishable water supply—
an estimated 20 billion cubit
meters annually — was already
being used, and that about one-
fifth was brackish ground water
with steadily increasing salinity.
He pointed out also that 95
per cent of Israel's total water
supply was situated in the north-
ern half of the country and
that, for this reason, it was "an
absolute necessity" to pipe





"large quantities" to the south.
ern half.
This was a reference to Israers
plans to tap the Jordan River
through Lake Tiberias for its Na-

tional Water Carrier project to
irrigate the Negev.
He emphasized that, in addition
to the need for such transport of
water, there would also have to
be application of all known meth-
ods to "stretch" existing supplies,



At Melbourne, Clive Evatt, a
New South Wales member of
Parliament and a prominent at-
torney, declared here that
"Israel is within its legal rights
in international law with re-
gard to the Jordan R i v
irrigation project."
E v a t t, a former government
minister and brother of Dr. Her-
b e r t Evatt, Australia's foreign
minister at the time Israel was
established, said in an addresS
here that "those Jews who have
been and are helping Israel should
know that what they have done
to date is only a drop in the
ocean, and the real squeeze is yet
to come. Israel and world Jewry
could not place complete reliance
on the understanding and support

of the Western powers and had
let her down a number of times
in the past," he declared.

Amendment Proposed
to 'Permit' Students
to Read Bible in School

WASHINGTON — A resolution
proposing the amendment of the
Constitution enabling students in
public schools to engage in prayer
or meditation and read the Bible
or other holy books was submitted
in the Senate Monday night by
Sen. Hugh Scott, Pennsylvania
The senator, in submitting hiS
amendment, claimed that his pro-
posal was different from other
constitutional amendments submit-
ted on this subject in both houses
of Congress. He said that his
amendment would permit, but n
require, Prayers and Bible readi
in public schools.
The proposed amendment is co
tamed in the first of two para-
Anticipating that he would be called prejudiced, Prof Isaac wrote graphs submitted by Sen. Scott
that it is the "deicide people" charge that does violence to truth and "Nothing contained in this Consti-
tution shall be construed to pro-
justice and not his charges and his demands for truth.
hibit prayer meditation or reading
"The Christian religion," Dr. Isaac declared, "does not require
from the Bible or other holy books
for her own glorification a corresponding disparagement of ancient
by students in any school or edit-
Israel, of the people of the Old Testament, the people of Jesus and
cational institution supported in
the Apostles, and of the first Christians. God give her the power to
whole or in part from any public
break at last with these evil habits of mind and heart and tongue,
funds, provided that such activity
contracted over a period of nearly 2,000 years as a result of what I
by students is voluntary."
have called the teaching of contempt — itself the child of bitter
polemics now obsolete."
10,000 Britons in Israel
TEL AVIV, (JTA) — There are
Such was his powerful appeal for the abandonment of contempt
in order that there may be "infinitely beneficial consequences for now 10,000 Jews from Britain liv-
ing in Israel, two-thirds of whom
Christianity as well as for Judaism."
immigrated after the establishment
Jules Isaac's great work will retain significance for a long time, of the state, S. Temkin, director of
and it has special merit in view of the consideration of the Jewish the British Zionist Federation oir
status by the Vatican Councils, because of the issues that have been fice in Israel, reported today.
raised by a play called "The Deputy" and in consequence of the re-
He said that, in 1962, 820 Jews
turn to the consideration of the impious charge of deicide against us. from Britain settled in Israel and
Isaac's charges may sound overly frank and brutal, but they are that the prospect was for more im-
effective because they are so logical. A great service has been rendered migration from Britain in the near
by a great man and a brilliath scholar.



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