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NEW YORK – With the rise of anti-Semitism in the last year, the U.S. Bishops Conference Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs is urging Catholics to decry and remain vigilant against anti-Semitism in all of its forms.
“Outraged by the deeply hurtful proliferations of antisemitic rhetoric, both online and in-person, and the violent attacks on Jewish individuals, homes, and institutions, we wish to convey our sincere support to the Jewish people,” the committee members said in a Nov. 28 statement. “As Pope Francis has stated, ‘A true Christian cannot be an antisemite.’”
The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks anti-Semitic behavior in the U.S., found a record 2,717 incidents in 2021. The organization’s website lists 1,490 such incidents so far this year. The latest incidents were a banner with racist and anti-Semitic language was displayed on the Walnut Creek overpass in California on Nov. 21, and a day before a group of Black Hebrew Israelite protesters distributed anti-Semitic propaganda near the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
On Nov. 19, two men were arrested in New York City after one of them made online threats to attack a New York City synagogue. Police recovered an illegal semi-automatic firearm with an extended 30-round magazine, and several other items from the scene, authorities said. Earlier in November, New Jersey synagogues were on high-alert after widespread threats were made against them, the source of which was eventually questioned by the FBI.
“In unequivocal terms, we condemn any and all violence directed at the Jewish people, whether motivated by religious, racial, or political grievances,” the USCCB statement said. “We furthermore denounce any rhetoric which seeks to demonize or dehumanize the Jewish people or Judaism as a religious tradition.”
The statement was signed by Bishop David Talley of Memphis, who leads the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and the eight other bishop members. It also affirms that Jewish people cannot be held responsible for the death of Christ or be “depicted as rejected or accursed in theological discourse,” noting that Jesus, Mary, and his apostles were all Jewish.
More than a condemnation of the rise of anti-Semitism, the statement is a recommitment by the USCCB to a relationship with the Jewish community with the 60th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s Vatican Council declaration about other world religions, Nostra Aetate (“In our time”) a few years away, “marking a milestone in the relationship” between the two religions.
The statement highlights the partnerships built over the last six decades between U.S. Catholic leaders and Jewish leaders, where members of the two faiths have “learned to encounter each other in a spirit of good will and a sincere desire to encourage our respective faithful to live together in a society increasingly diverse in its racial, ethnic, religious, and political makeup.”
“As partners and neighbors, we seek to foster bonds of friendship between members of the Body of Christ and the Jewish people,” the statement reads. “With this in mind, and in light of the upcoming 60th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, we recommit ourselves to broadening the implementation of the teaching found within that prophetic document.”
It also touches on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stating that the conference remains firm in its “dedication to a just political solution – a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestine.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg