Still reeling from the shock, terror and trauma of the Holocaust, Christians began the painful but much needed task of re-visioning their historic relationship with the Jewish people, renouncing the ‘teaching of contempt’ and recognising the disastrous effects of supersessionism.
In the summer of 1947, 65 Jews and Christians from 19 countries gathered in Seelisberg, Switzerland. They came together to express their profound grief over the Holocaust, their determination to combat antisemitism, and their desire to foster stronger relationships between Jews and Christians. They denounced antisemitism both as a sin against God and humanity and as a danger to modern civilization. And to address these vital concerns, they issued a call in the form of 10 points to Christian churches to reform and renew their understandings of Judaism and the relationships between Judaism and Christianity.
The Seelisberg Conference (International Conference of Christians and Jews) was an international conference that took place in the small town of Seelisberg in Switzerland from 30 July to 5 August 1947 in order to study the causes of Christian antisemitism.
Among the 70 participants from 17 countries were:
28 Jews, including Jules Isaac, Jacob Kaplan, acting chief rabbi of France, Alexandre Safran, chief rabbi of Romania, the writer Josué Jéhouda, of Geneva; Professor Selig Brodetsky, president of the Representative Council of the Jews of England.
23 Protestants,9 Catholics, including Père Marie-Benoît, Father Calliste Lopinot, Abbot Charles Journet, Father Jean de Menasce, Father Paul Démann.
At the time of this conference, the Christians undertook a re-examination of Christian teaching with regards to the Jews and Judaism. They measured the extent of Christian responsibility in the Nazi genocide and understood that Christian teaching had to be urgently corrected. They prepared ten points, largely inspired by the eighteen proposals of the historian Jules Isaac to eradicate prejudices against the Jews.
International Council of Christians and Jews
The 10 Points of Seelisburg, 1947
The following statement, produced by the Christian participants at the Second conference of the newly formed International Council of Christians and Jews, was one of the first statements following World War II in which Christians, with the advice and counsel of Jews, began to come to terms with the implications of the Shoa.
AN ADDRESS TO THE CHURCHES
SEELISBERG (Switzerland), 1947
We have recently witnessed an outburst of antisemitism which has led to the persecution and extermination of millions of Jews. In spite of the catastrophe which has overtaken both the persecuted and the persecutors, and which has revealed the extent of the Jewish problem in all its alarming gravity and urgency, antisemitism has lost none of its force, but threatens to extend to other regions, to poison the minds of Christians and to involve humanity more and more in a grave guilt with disastrous consequences.
The Christian Churches have indeed always affirmed the un-Christian character of antisemitism, as of all forms of racial hatred, but this has not sufficed to prevent the manifestation among Christians, in various forms, of an undiscriminating racial hatred of the Jews as a people.
This would have been impossible if all Christians had been true to the teaching of Jesus Christ on the mercy of God and love of one”s neighbour. But this faithfulness should also involve clear-sighted willingness to avoid any presentation and conception of the Christian message which would support antisemitism under whatever form. We must recognise, unfortunately, that this vigilant willingness has often been lacking.
We therefore address ourselves to the Churches to draw their attention to this alarming situation. We have the firm hope that they will be concerned to show their members how to prevent any animosity towards the Jews which might arise from false, inadequate or mistaken presentations or conceptions of the teaching and preaching of the Christian doctrine, and how on the other hand to promote brotherly love towards the sorely-tried people of the old covenant.
Nothing would seem more calculated to contribute to this happy result than the following
- Remember that One God speaks to us all through the Old and the New Testaments.
- Remember that Jesus was born of a Jewish mother of the seed of David and the people of Israel, and that His everlasting love and forgiveness embraces His own people and the whole world.
- Remember that the first disciples, the apostles and the first martyrs were Jews.
- Remember that the fundamental commandment of Christianity, to love God and one’s neighbour, proclaimed already in the Old Testament and confirmed by Jesus, is binding upon both Christians and Jews in all human relationships, without any exception .
- Avoid distorting or misrepresenting biblical or post-biblical Judaism with the object of extolling Christianity.
- Avoid using the word Jews in the exclusive sense of the enemies of Jesus, and the words “the enemies of Jesus” to designate the whole Jewish people.
- Avoid presenting the Passion in such a way as to bring the odium of the killing of Jesus upon all Jews or upon Jews alone. It was only a section of the Jews in Jerusalem who demanded the death of Jesus, and the Christian message has always been that it was the sins of mankind which were exemplified by those Jews and the sins in which all n en share that brought Christ to the Cross.
- Avoid referring to the scriptural curses, or the cry of a raging mob: “His blood be upon us and our children,” without remembering that this cry should not count against the infinitely more weighty words of our Lord: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
- Avoid promoting the superstitious notion that the Jewish people are reprobate, accursed, reserved for a destiny of suffering.
- Avoid speaking of the Jews as if the first members of the Church had not been Jews.
Prayer and reflections: Such statements seem obvious today, but then were radical in their recognition of the need to redress the wrong thoughts and actions of the past. Yet even today there is still much work to be done for Christians and Jews to have a right understanding of the ‘indissoluble bond’ between them, and Messianic Jews have a significant role to play in promoting mutual understanding and bringing them together. Lord, help us to serve you, your Church and your World, Israel and the nations, in ways that honour you and glorify your name. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.