Page 69 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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ECKARDT / CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS
5 9
symposium o f Jewish thinkers is devoted to “Witness and Mis­
sion.” The seeming paradox loses some o f its force when we keep
in mind that the new Jewish emphasis, which gained special
attention th rough A lexander Schindler’s presidential address to
the Board o f T rustees, Union o f American Hebrew Congrega­
tions, on December 2, 1978, is not aimed at active Christians bu t is
yet beginning to realize that it is time “to stop being squeamish
about tapping the one reservoir which alone can provide the
certainty of [Jewish] continuity,” the “hund red s of thousands of
spiritually sensitive people without religious denom inational
roots or affiliation in the various free countries o f the world”
(Martin A. Cohen, “T he Mission . . .”). Again, Jewish though t
does not resort to the exclusivism tha t has predom inated in the
Christian missionary tradition. “The stress in the Jewish concept
of religious witness is on the general illumination o f people
toward the recognition o f the universal sovereignty o f God and
the primacy o f the moral o rd e r” (Ben Zion Bokser, “Witness and
Mission in Juda ism ,” in Croner and Klenicki, eds.,
Issues
. . .).
Nevertheless, it is insisted by Daniel Polish that “the life o f the
Jewish people, undim inished, indeed made more u rgen t, by the
shoah,
is bound up with its role as chosen witness” (“Witnessing
God after Auschwitz,” in
ibid.).
What are the implications o f the above convictions for the
Jewish-Christian relation? On the Jewish side, Manfred Vogel
writes profoundly and most helpfully o f “the life o f faith” tha t is
“greatly advanced by the presence o f both, the Jewish and the
Christian covenan t” (“Covenant and the In terre lig ious En ­
counter,” in
ibid.).
On the Christian side, Robert E. Willis testifies
that if, after Auschwitz, Christians “still cling to the pretension
that their story underg irds a responsibility for the conversion of
Jews, then it is questionable whether we can learn anything from
the events o f history” (“Auschwitz and the N u rtu ring o f Con­
science,”
Religion in Life,
44, 1975, 432-447). And, to J. Coert
Rylaarsdam, “the primary concern o f Christian mission to the
Jews must be the redemp tion o f Christians, specifically with re ­
spect to their understand ing o f the ir relation to the faith o f Israel.
And the form o f this mission? To repen t and to re tu rn ; and then,
to listen and to learn” (“Mission to Christians,”
Face to Face,
3-4,
1977, 17-18; for an opposite view by a Christian, see Carl F.H.
Henry, “Christian Mission Must Continue,” in
ibid.,
pp. 16-17).
Perhaps we are met with a paradox, after all: the affirmation o f