Tag Archives: Rabbi David Rosen

Rabbi David Rosen at the Synod of Bishops

Rabbi David Rosen was the Jewish speaker at this years synod of Bishops, which was dedicated to the situation of Christians in the Middle East. Rosen was the former chief rabbi of Ireland, currently works as the interfaith representative from the AJC, is adviser to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, and represents the State of Israel in interfaith dialogue. Rosen may be chosen by the ministry of religion and the chief Rabbinate but his views do not reflect those of the current foreign minister. He also holds a knighthood from the Vatican. Two years ago, the Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Rabbi Shaar Yashuv Cohen spoke at the synod of Bishops. Rabbi Cohen is currently, the de facto rabbinical decider (posek) for matters of interfaith.

In the speech, Rosen first speaks of the changed relationship from teaching of contempt to friendship. Then he speaks about the suffering of Christians in the Middle East (I skipped the political sections because I don’t want to debate politics). Rosen is adamant that  no one should have their dignity and rights taken away. He is glad that Israel has responded to pressure and returned some rights to clergy.  His big plea at the end is that events in middle east and the actions of the Israeli government should not be dampen relations between the faith. He quotes JPII that Judaism is intrinsic to Christianity.

Rabbi Rosen also quotes the Catholic catechism, discussed  here in the comments on the Rabbi Riskin post.  The section he cites is Catechism of the Catholic Church (sect.839) :-“It is in pondering her own mystery that the Church, the People of God of the New Covenant, discovers her own profound bond with the Jews, who were chosen by the Lord before all others to receive His word.” Rabbi Rosen cites it from a specific speech of Pope Benedict where Benedict explains this quote as indicating that  “the Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation”. This implies that Judaism already contains the Christian revelation but is a different response than the Christian response. The question is whether Judaism is a separate path for Jews or an incomplete version of Christianity. There is also the ambiguity if the mystery of God’s choosing the Jews is a positive contrast or a negative mystery of contrast. Either way, Christianity has been re-contextualized in Judaism.

Here is the writeup from Zenit, the News service from Rome. Here is the full transcript of the talk.

The  Jewish-Christian relationship and the Middle East
by Rabbi David Rosen

The relationship today between Christianity and the Jewish people is a blessed transformation in our times – arguably without historic parallel. In his words in the great synagogue here in Rome last January, H.H. Pope Benedict XVI referred to the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council as “a clear landmark to which constant reference is made in our attitude and our relations with the Jewish people, marking a new and significant stage.”

Naturally this striking sea change in the way the Jewish people is viewed and presented , still had and has to contend with the influence of centuries, if not millenia of the “teaching of contempt” towards Jews and Judaism, which obviously is not eliminated overnight nor even over forty five years. Accordingly the impact of this transformation in Catholic-Jewish relations varies considerably from one context to another. Arguably the most dramatic internalization has taken place in the United States of America where Jews and Christians live in an open society side by side as vibrant self-confident and civically engaged minorities. As a result the relationship has advanced there to a unique degree involving cooperation and exchanges between the communities and their educational institutions; and today the US boasts literally dozens of academic institutions for Catholic-Jewish studies and relations, while there are perhaps three in the rest of the world. Indeed there is a widespread perception among the Jewish communities in the US of the Catholic Church as a genuine friend with profound values and interests in common.

However there are many countries where the abovementioned social and demographic factors are not present. In most countries where Catholicism is the dominant social force, Jewish communities are small if present at all, and the relationship between the Church and Judaism often gets little notice. I confess to having been surprised to find Catholic clergy and sometimes even hierarchy from some countries, who are not only remarkably ignorant about Judaism, but often even about Nostra Aetate itself and the relevant teachings of the Magisterium concerning Jews and Judaism.

While as indicated, Jewish experience in the US has done much to alleviate negative impressions of the tragic past; there is still widespread ignorance about Christianity in the Jewish world – especially where there is little or no contact at all with modern Christians.

Nevertheless the plight of Palestinians generally and Palestinian Christians in particular should be of profound concern to Jews both in Israel and the Diaspora.

To begin with, especially as Judaism brought to the world the recognition that every human person is created in the Divine Image; and that accordingly, as the sages of the Talmud teach, any action of disrespect for another person, is an act of disrespect for the Creator himself; we have a special responsibility for our immediate neighbors.

Below is Rosen’s well-crafted pitch not to let politics interfere with interfaith relations which is combined with a push to attain greater clarity from the Vatican on the role of Judaism within their theology. Rosen frames the discussion in such a way as to bracket out the more restrictive voices and to push for a stronger theological acceptance of Judaism. He also uses some of the words of JPII to push for an expansive reading of the catechism. The bold was in the version that I received.

However the Instrumentum Laboris commenting on Dei Verbum describes the dialogue of  the Church “with her elder brothers” as not just necessary, but as “essential” (sect.87). Indeed in his visit to the great synagogue in this city this year, Pope Benedict XVI quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church (sect.839) :-
“It is in pondering her own mystery that the Church, the People of God of the New Covenant, discovers her own profound bond with the Jews, who were chosen by the Lord before all others to receive His word” ;  and added that “the Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation”.
These words echo those of the late Pope John Paul II who in his historic visit to the same central Jewish place of worship in this city in 1986 declared that “the Jewish religion is not extrinsic to us but in a certain way is intrinsic to our own religion.
With Judaism therefore we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion.”
Furthermore in his Apostolic Exhortation of June 28th 2003 he described “dialogue and cooperation with believers of the Jewish religion” as being “fundamentally important for the self-knowledge of Christians” in keeping with the Synod’s call “for acknowledgment of the common roots linking Christianity and the Jewish people, who are called by God to a covenant which remains irrevocable”

As I have indicated, I am fully cognizant of the fact that the political realities in the Middle East do not always make it easy for Christians to acknowledge let alone embrace these exhortations. However I pray that the miracle of what John Paul II referred to as “the flowering of a new springtime in mutual relations” will increasingly become evident in the Middle East, as throughout the world.

Here is the WJC write-up emphasizing the political.

From the Jpost article:

the Sunni representative, Muhammad al-Sammak, political councilor to the mufti of Lebanon
Asked whether he agreed with Rosen’s statement that Christians could become “blessed peacemakers in the city whose name means peace,” the Lebanese political councilor replied, “I subscribe blindly to anything said by Rabbi David Rosen.”

My New Book Just Came Out-Judaism and Other Religions

My book Judaism and Other Religions is to be officially released on March 2nd by Palgrave-Macmillan. But it is already available in the warehouse and available for purchase, Be the first one on your block to own one. Buy it now:

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Editorial Reviews

“This wide-ranging but carefully organized collection of Jewish thought about other religions constitutes an indispensable resource for Jews and non-Jews engaged in interreligious relations today and for Jews seeking to develop a text-based contemporary Jewish theology of religions for our global world. Brill accompanies his lucid presentations of each approach with insightful critiques that will help guide their contemporary applications.”—Ruth Langer, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, Theology Department Associate Director, Center for Christian-Jewish Learning, Boston College

“Serious Jewish engagement with other religions has substantially deepened and widened in recent years, both stimulating and responding to an increasing interest in Judaism from within the other world religions. Brill’s book provides essential access to the classical sources within the Jewish tradition relevant to this encounter.”—Rabbi Dr. David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs, AJC

“This is an excellent work: reflective, engaging, well-written, and perhaps most important—timely. Brill knows both the theoretical foundations for interreligious dialogue and rabbinic approaches to ‘other religions.’ It is a fine piece of scholarship, and it is also creative in bringing together three fields of discourse in a way they have not before been aligned. It blends both traditional and modern thinking about interreligious dialogue, and it analyzes these materials convincingly.”—Nathan Katz, Professor of Religious Studies, Florida International University

Product Description

With insight and scholarship, Alan Brill crisply outlines the traditional Jewish approaches to other religions for an age of globalization. He provides a fresh perspective on Biblical and Rabbinic texts, offering new ways of thinking about other faiths. In the majority of volume, he develops the categories of theology of religions for Jewish texts. He arranges the texts according classification widely used in interfaith work: inclusivist, exclusivist, universalist, and pluralist.

Judaism and Other Religions is essential for a Jewish theological understanding of the various issues in encounters with other religions. With passion and clarity, Brill argues that in today’s world of strong religious passions and intolerance, it is necessary to go beyond secular tolerance toward moderate and mediating religious positions.

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There is a forthcoming sequel volume Judaism and World Religions, which will be available at the end of 2010.

Chief Rabbi di Segni on the Jewish Catholic Encounter

Interviews with Chief Rabbi di Segni  from January 12, and 14.

In an interview with Reuters ahead of this Sunday’s visit, Rabbi Riccardo di Segni also said he hoped the event would help combat hostility towards the Jewish world and intolerance of any religion.

INTERVIEW – Only God can judge Pius XII on Jews – chief rabbi

By Philip Pullella
ROME (Reuters) – Only God can judge whether wartime Pope Pius XII did enough to save Jews and whether he should have spoken out more forcefully against the Holocaust, the rabbi who will host Pope Benedict first visit to Rome’s synagogue said.

Di Segni was asked about a Vatican official who defended Pius — who became pope on the eve of World War Two — from accusations he turned a blind eye to the Holocaust.

“I think that it can be morally dangerous and, religiously speaking, dangerous to say that the will of God is to be silent and not to say a word in front of the suffering of the people,” Di Segni said, speaking in English.

“So let us be careful and let us not (look for) a way of absolving people. I think only God may understand if people have done His will righteously, not us,” he said.”Religion now has a tremendous responsibility in bringing either war or peace to the world. So a signal of peace and friendship starting here from Rome could be very important,” he said.

“As Jews we want to say very strongly that any kind of hatred against difference, and not only against the Jews, has to be banned, has to be condemned,” he said.

Another Interview in Catholic News Service

Rome rabbi says pope’s visit shows commitment to dialogue
Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi, told Catholic News Service there is “a solid basis” for positive relations, but “with a storm every now and then.”

“Times have changed,” the rabbi said. “Many things have been achieved; other things still need to be done. The path, the Jewish-Catholic encounter, is terribly complicated. It is not a smooth road leading onward, but it is one continually filled with stumbling blocks. The visit of a pope to the synagogue should demonstrate that beyond the stumbling blocks there is a substantial desire to communicate with each other and resolve problems.”
As is often the case, he said, “it’s hardest to establish good relations with the person closest to you.”

Side point on Bnei Akiva

Bnei Akiva’s local representatives said they decided to participate after hesitation and followed the advice of Rome’s Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, who said that the visit was a sign that Pope Benedict wanted to “continue the dialogue.” He advised Bnei Akiva that the pope should be “respected as a king.”

Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni (1949-) the current chief rabbi of Rome offers a unique take on the dialogue. He assumes that both sides accept exclusivism, so to go forward we have to affirm pluralism. Ever the gadfly, di Segni writes that the Jewish tradition follows the exclusivist and anti-Christian counter-gospel narrative of Toldot Yeshu,  on which he wrote his doctorate and then published as a book. For di Segni, Christians must recognize that the derogatory exclusivism Toldot Yeshu is the Jewish tradition, and this corresponds to the anti-Jewish narrative of traditional Christianity. He ponders that the Christian Trinity may actually be idolatry and violates the Noahite law that requires monotheism. If Christians violate this law, according to deSegni, they will not find salvation and are, furthermore, deserving of death in this world.

Noahite laws may be incumbent on gentiles as a form of general revelation but, Segni asks, if we took that seriously then wouldn’t we would have to be missionizing for these laws? So too, Christians if they should take their own faith seriously, should advocate missionizing.  Rabbi de Segni proposes therefore that both sides call a moratorium on truth claims and missionizing. It is not that either side should actually give up their truth claims, or their exclusivism, or to stop hoping for the conversion of the other, but simply a practical moratorium, a practical pluralism.

The real problem is not so much the Church’s conviction of the necessity for the Jews to be saved by means of Jesus. The real issue is what is done with that conviction. If we were to apply the system of Noahide laws to the latter, we would have to do everything possible in order that the Noahides observe them—including the law dealing with the prohibition against worship of other gods. Each person would have to become a missionary of the pure faith…

On the Jewish side, this movement would have to be matched by an affirmation of the principle that faith in Jesus (understood: on the part of Christians, not Jews ) is not incompatible with the worship of the one and only God. This is a principle which has been accepted in authoritative traditions within Judaism, but which would have to become more prevalent and accepted by the majority. From this would have to follow, on the part of Jews, a greater understanding of Christian Spirituality.

Moses Maimonides, in the rules he gives for kings in his treatise (Chapter 11), after having denounced the invalidity of faith in Jesus, nevertheless formulated an interpretation of the providential significance of the spread of Christianity, “to prepare the road for the king-Messiah, and to help the whole world become accustomed to serving God together, as it is said, ‘At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord’” (Zeph. 3:9).

Perhaps the parallel suggests the solution, which cannot be immediate but eschatological. Each of us has the right to hope that the other will acknowledge that there is true faith in us, but we allow for that to unfold over a long period, which is beyond our control.

Read full version here

Rabbi De Segni argues that we keep our particular truth claims but suspend acting on them until the end time. Since we have no common ground for discussion if we put our truth claims first, let us avoid the question and deal with ethics and practical matters.He frames questions as an exclusivist and then answers as a pluralist. Unlike other thinkers, De Segni values diversity over dignity, he emphasizes religious exclusivism and prejudice and then calls for charity.

Rabbi de Segni does work toward theological charity by building on Rabbi Yaakov Emden’s acceptance of Jesus as a great teacher who did not want to harm Judaism, and therefore legitimate for the gentiles since

In the end what counts is human responsibility. In the human realm, both faiths are called by God to work in the world.

As he left the ark, Noah received the assurance that humanity would never again be entirely destroyed by God. Now, however this risk still exists—not destruction by a divine hand, but by a human hand with no guarantees other than our own responsibility, which we (especially as religious) cannot escape. Commitments and facts must come before forms and ceremonies. This is the authentic message of the prophets, which we recognize as a common source, and the comfort promised by the divine mercy will recall once more the waters of Noah, no longer as a sign of destruction, but as a sign of protections. As the prophet Isaiah says (54:9): “This is like the days of Noah to me: Just as I swore that the waters of Noah would never again go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you.”

di Segni sates that there is no need for Jews to change their current prayer because they have already been censored, but he claims that they were self-censored.

Jewish prayers have already been self-censored, centuries ago,” Di Segni informed the prelate in a communiqué. “What has been brought to our attention once more is a history of polemics which goes back thousands of years, concerning which some clarifications are in order. Anyone can hear for themselves the prayers which Jews recite today, and they can easily be verified, even in translation,” Di Segni emphasized. “The essential fact,” he added, “is that today no reference to Christians exists in our prayers, which, among other things, have been the object of repeated interventions of censoring and self-censoring. The Hebrew texts were changed centuries ago.
full version here

Di Segni thinks that dialogue is important but he does not think that Judaism can change through dialogue. “There has been notable theological progress in Christian theology’s view of Judaism” However, “reciprocity at the theological level does not exist,” the rabbi said. “Among politicians there can be discussions that lead to a solution, not so among theologians.” “Christianity is born from Judaism and, with notable efforts, can introduce elements of Jewish spirituality,” he said. “The contrary is not possible.”

Side Point: Rabbi David Rosen in Haaratz on the poor behavior of Jews toward the Vatican.

Israel’s behavior toward the Vatican over the past 15 years has been “outrageous,” one of the figures behind the 1994 establishment of diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and Vatican City told Haaretz last week. “Any [other] country would have threatened to withdraw its ambassador long ago over Israel’s failure to honor agreements,” Rabbi David Rosen said.

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