[134. Jews also must recognize sins of the past

It was reported in a Nov. 15 article that Pope John Paul II said that the church should "mark the year 2000 by owning up to the sins of Roman Catholics." In fact, this process of recognizing the sins of the past has been going on for quite some time. I have yet to see a similar process undertaken by the Jewish religious authorities.

Jewish history, like Christian history, is not a model of tolerance, nor is it free from bigotry and prejudice. The only difference is that Christians talk about those shortcomings. Jews generally don't. Among the few exceptions is Israel Shahak. In his 1994 book entitled Jewish History, Jewish Religion, he takes the reader on a tour of Jewish history. He cites halachic laws involving discriminatory actions or inactions against non-Jews. He refers to those parts of the Talmud that teach hatred toward non-Jews, viewing them as lesser beings. According to Shahak, the Talmud and the Talmudic literature "contain very offensive statements and precepts directed specifically against Christianity." For instance, Jews are instructed to burn any copy of the New Testament. This is what happened on March 23, 1980 when "hundreds of copies of the New Testament were publicly and ceremonially burnt in Jerusalem under the auspices of Yad Le'akhim, a religious organisation subsidised by the Israeli Ministry of Religions."

To their credit, church leaders recognized the sins of the past and took concrete steps to remedy the situation by asking forgiveness and by changing the text of the liturgy, if necessary. When will the Jewish religious authorities start the same process?

November 17, 1994]