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SIDIC Periodical XI - 1978/1
Catechesis: Transmission of the Faith (Pages 12 - 20)

Other articles from this issue | Version in English | Version in French

Christian teaching and Judaism today: a study of religion texts
Eugene J. Fisher


In the early 1950's, the American Jewish Committee initiated a long-range effort aimed at bringing the light of objective scholarship to bear on the sensitive question of the treatment of intergroup relations in religious textbooks. To ensure against any bias on the part of the researchers, the projects were wisely conceived as self-studies, with Catholics, Jews and Protestants each studying their own curriculum materials and following research designs suited to those materials. The Catholic study was done at St. Louis University, the Jewish study at The Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning, and the Protestant study at Yale University.

In April 1960, the first fruits of these self-studies were announced in a symposium published in the journal of the Religious Education Association (Vol. LV, No. 2, 109-138). Sr. Rose Thering's doctoral study of then currently-used Catholic religion texts revealed discouraging results in terms of the treatment of Jews and Judaism. The infamous deicide charge, for example, which has precipitated so much violence against Jews over the centuries, was still to be found throughout the series studied (see Catechetics and Prejudice by Er. John Pawlikowski, Paulist Press, 1973). These results, however, were given to the bishops during the Second Vatican Council, and they had a great impact on the Council's statement on the Jews which finally laid this charge to rest.

In the 1960's, the American Jewish Committee initiated studies of Roman Catholic textbooks published in Europe between 1950 and 1965. The results, reported in How Catholics Look at Jews by Claire Huchet Bishop (Paulist Press, 1974) also revealed a high proportion of negative statements concerning Jews and Judaism.

Thus, when I came to do my own study of Catholic religion materials currently in use in the United States, I had a rich background of findings upon which to draw for comparison. My study, completed in 1976 as a dissertation for New York University, covered sixteen major religion series currently in use on the grade and high school levels. The 161 student texts and 113 teachers' manuals were published between 1967 and 1975.

In general, the results of my American study are encouraging, though negative aspects still persist. Using the 1975 Vatican Guidelines and the statements of the American bishops as criteria, I found that American Catholic religion materials are significantly more positive toward Judaism than they were before the Vatican Council. They are also more positive and historically accurate than the earlier European textbooks studied by Bishop. The table below gives the series included in the studies and their overall scores.

The a Preoccupation » scores in the first column on the right simply give the percentage of references to Jews in each series. For example, if there were 100 units in the series, and 25 of these contained a reference to Jews and Judaism, the a Preoccupation » score would be 25%.

The « Imbalance” score gives the percentage be tween positive and negative references. If all th statements in a given series are positive or at leas neutral toward the Jews, the imbalance would b« +1.0 z and so on. (The formula is: where «p» = the total number of positive statements and «n» = the total number of negative statements, the Imbalance is e p-n/p+n Other statistics were also applied, but not discussed here.)

These scores reveal some interesting facts. In 1961, the average percent of preoccupation was 23%. For elementary (Grades 1-8) texts today, it is nearly 42%. This means that some reference to Jews or Judaism is made in just about every other lesson! Jews, because of the recent emphasis on the use of Sacred Scripture, are talked about far more than any other non-Catholic group. It is therefore vital that teachers, parents, lectors and all active Christians have a solid understanding of Judaism if the increased use of Scripture today is to provide the word that heals rather than leads to misunderstandings.

Interestingly, only some 17% of the lessons in our high school level textbooks contain references to Jews or Judaism. There is less use of Scripture at these age levels than in the lower grades. This may be because so many other topics, such as social morality, personhood and Church history, are dealt with in the secondary years.

Even more intriguing is the discrepancy found in the imbalance scores. Like a detective faced with a seemingly insoluble crime, the dry statistics of a study such as this come to life when the unexpected happens. Because of the impact of Vatican II's declaration and more recent episcopal statements, it was expected that textbooks today would be more positive toward Judaism than those written before the Council. This proved to be true for the high school texts, whose average score went up from +.432 to +.674. But the elementary texts contained the surprise. These actually went down! They averaged only about +.367, reflecting a higher percentage of negative statements than in 1961. What can account for this?

As we shall see, the critical area for Jewish-Christian relations as revealed in the study lies in our treatment of New Testament themes and events. How do we view the Pharisees? The relation of Jesus and his people? The crucifixion? Since the elementary-level textbooks use the New Testament much more now than before the Council, these key problem areas come up more frequently. Almost all of the negative references to Jews and Judaism occur in statements dealing with New Testament themes. It is only natural, then, to find an increase in negative statements, since the problem areas are treated more often.

Great progress has been made in following the mandates of Vatican II concerning the Jews. The most blatant accusations against them, such as « Christ killers z or « deicides z, have been eliminated, but much remains to be done. Vestiges of the old polemics still remain, and, in the view of the author, the teachers' manuals fail to give an adequate background for the correct interpretation of difficult New Testament passages, such as those in Matthew and John. The period and theme categories attempted to pinpoint precisely where negative statements were most likely to be found in today's textbooks.

The Period Categories

The table below gives the percentage of statements concerning a particular period to the total number of references to Jews and Judaism. In a separate column for both secondary and elementary series, it also givesan imbalance score, indicating the frequency of negative statements in each period. The closer to « +1.0 the score, the more positive the treatment of Jews and Judaism for that period.

In every category except the New Testament period, the treatment of Jews and Judaism is overwhelmingly positive. This is in marked contrast to earlier studies, which showed negative treatments in all periods. For the elementary series, however, the table shows that almost half of the statements about Jews are negative. It has only a slightly positive imbalance of +.122.
The table reveals another significant fact. There are almost no references to Jews or Judaism betweenthe close of the New Testament period and the twentieth century. Such a gap is unfortunate, since it can reinforce in the students the idea that Judaism ceased to be religiously vital after the coming of Christ. As we have seen, the 1975 Vatican Guidelines specifically rebut such a view. Needed, then, are lessons dealing with the history of the Jews during the rabbinic and medieval periods. One excellent source by a Catholic historian is Frederick M. Schweitzer, A History of the Jews (Macmillan, 1971, $1.95).

The Theme Categories

These ten categories zeroed in on critical areas of Jewish/Christian concern today. How often do they arise in our catechesis? How are they treated? The table gives the results for both high school and elementary series. Each deserves special comment.

Jesus as a Jew

This was one of the areas of greatest improvement. Note that the Ambalance scores tot both show that nearly all of the statements are positive or neutral. No less than 109 clear references to Jesus' Jewishness are made in the sixteen series. By contrast, earlier studies and the European studies found almost no references of this type. This change reflects recent Church teaching, as we have seen. The following statement, for one example, would have been impossible only a few years ago:

Jesus experienced life and expressed himself as the man he was, a very bright, very charismatic, very energetic, culturally conditioned Jewish male (Wm. C. Brown Co., The Jesus Book, p. 52).

Divine Retribution

Happily, the study discovered that entirely eliminated from our teaching today is the spurious notion that Jewish suffering is the result of God's punishment for the alleged crime of deicide. Such statements were occasionally found in Catholic teaching materials in the United States prior to Vatican Council II and are still present in some European texts. However, the only references to this idea in our texts today in this country clearly condemn the notion.

The Holocaust

The Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jewish people is, in most series, handled with great sensitivity. This is in contrast to the European and earlier Americanmaterials, where no references were found at all. An excellent treatment of the history of anti-Semitism that can be recommended to all Is found in Allyn and Niacmis The Pearl and the Seth, Booklet 4 'In the chaptet and manual on Bishop She'd Acts Against Anti-Semitism ix Also showing what can be done is a chapter in Silver Burdett's Concern series booklet on World Religions (pp. 28-30).

Crusades, Inquisition

Only three references to the violence against the Jews occasioned by the Crusades and the Inquisition are found in the sixteen series. Two of them clearly condemn Christian misdeeds, but one falls into rationalization:
Its (the Inquisition's) goal was to protect the newly united country against the plot of Muslims (Moors) and secret Jews (pretending to be Christians) to overthrow both the government and the Christian faith (Daughters of St. Paul, The Church's Amazing Story, p. 77).

This treatment rather seriously misrepresents a complex historical fact. Pedagogically, it is far better to treat the Inquisition honestly than it is to try to cover up errors and allow the children to find out the truth on their own at a later time.

Modern Israel

Fr. Edward Flannery, former head of the bishops' Secretariat for Catholic/Jewish Relations in Washington, D.C., points out that the Jews « see Israel as central to Judaism itself and essential not only to Israeli but also Jewish survival, and therefore as an ecumenical and a religious consideration which should be included in the dialogue (s. The question here, then, is whether Catholics are being adequately prepared for dialogue, not whether there is any mistreatment. Only four out of the ten secondary series mention Israel or Zionism, and one series, Wm. C. Brown's To Live Is Christ, accounts for nine of the total sixteen references for this age level. Further, only fourteen elementary lessons mention the modern state of Israel. Given the increasingly high profile of Israel/Arab relations in the daily news reports, here might be a good opportunity for a balanced approach to the subject, especially in our high school lessons.

General or Today

Almost all of the 235 statements which referred to Judaism in general terms are found to he either positive or neutral. Again, this shows great progress since before the Council. Many of these statements are specifically designed to correct previous misunderstandings and show the tremendous good will of the textbook publishers today. For example:

The Torah is often misunderstood by Chrisstians. . But then we learn from the rabbis their conviction that the accomplishment of any one command in a perfect manner secures salvation. Viewed thus, God is not being oppressive, but rather beneficent in « multiplying e commands. Thereby he is multiplying the likelihood that something will be commanded that the struggling individual can accomplish with total purity of heart.. . . Again, the Jew was to have the same fondness for the Torah which a young man feels for his new bride. . . . Such a Torah is surely not a curse; rather it is a joy supreme (Paulist, Come to the Father, Grade 7, n. 22).

Jesus, the Jews, and the Crucifixion

Many of the same series which include such highly positive views of Judaism as the above tend to have difficulties when dealing with the relationship between Jesus and his people and the events of Jesus' passion. At one point, for example, the Sadlier New Life program has this:
Advent is also a fitting time to tell children about the Jews, to teach them to esteem and love this people as God does. Anti-Jewish prejudice should be presented by calling attention to God's love for the Jews. . . . Explain (to the students) that Jesus is a Jew (Grade 2, CCD Manual, p. 105).

A later manual in the same series, however, has:
Now Pilate knew the real reason why the people wanted Jesus to die—because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. . . . They want no king but Caesar. This is their final apostasy, their final rejection of God (Grade 3, CCD Manual, pp. 92-93).

Often, the descriptions of Christ's passion are unnecessarily vivid in depicting Jesus' agonies, especially in the earlier grades. Besides being pedagogically unsound to subject young children to such vivid scenes of violence, it is also unwise to link « the people », « the Jews r, or even « the leaders of the people » with these events in such a way as to play down the role of Pilate and Rome.

The Pharisees

Throughout the series, the Pharisees are painted in dark, evil colors. The danger here lies not only in a distortion of history. Deeper is the fact that negative traits ascribed to the Pharisees are likely to be imputed to the Jews as a whole by the uncritical reader or teacher. Legalism, hypocrisy and craftiness arc all stereotypes of Jews which owe their origins to a negative portrait of the Pharisees.

At times, correctives are attempted. The sixth grade Benziger text, for example, introduces the Pharisees in this way:
Some people among the Jews were not so interested in political power. . . . They were concerned more with keeping God's Law . . . to serve God well. . . . These men were called the Pharisees (pp. 189-190).

The same text, however, immediately continues:
They were strict with the people but often did not live up to God's laws in their own hearts. So the people went through the motions of practicing their religion. . . . They were the people of God in name. But many were not the people of God in their hearts (p. 190).

Like sexism and anti-black racism, the negative stereotypes about Jews seem to be so deeply embedded in our culture that it takes a great deal of care to identify and root them out. The teacher's manual to the Paulist Grade 7 text, for example, contains excellent background for teachers on the Pharisees (p. 148). This piece corrects the « caricature ss of the Pharisees commonly accepted until a short time ago. It notes the « rabbi-like nature of Jesus' work » as we have done, and it shows how Jesus was at one with « the vast majority of Pharisees (s in his beliefs, practices and teachings.

The Relationship Between the Covenants

The approaches to this crucial topic cover the whole range of current Catholic thinking, from the very negative to the most positive. Many are remarkably advanced:
As followers of Jesus, we believe that we have a new (or additional) covenant with God in Christ proclaimed by Jesus at the Last Supper (Wm. C. Brown Co, Understanding Christian Worship, p. 64).

St. Paul . . . reminds us that the Jewish people always remain very dear to God. For, as he said, God never takes back his promises, and the Jews are always the chosen people whom God loves (Paulist, Come to the Father, Grade 6, p. 81).

While these follow the 1975 Vatican Guidelines and the stance of the American bishops, others had to be scored as negative according to those criteria—for example:
This covenant lasted until the coming of Christ. . What is new about his Law is that love has replaced fear (Sadlier, New Life/Grade 6, School Manual, p. 151).

Some even adopt the tactic of taking basic Jewish tenets from the Hebrew Scriptures, subsuming them into Christianity, and then using them to 4 prove » that Christianity is superior to the Judaism which gave birth to those ideas. For example:
For a certain man, in a certain place, in a certain environment, Judaism may be the best religion for him at the moment.. . However, Christianity remains the best objectively for three reasons: 1. Christianity is built on love, not fear. 2. Christianity teaches that the whole man is good, both the body and the spirit. 3. Christianity teaches that each man is free to be uniquely himself (Winston, Conscience and Concern series, « Who Cares? » p. 3).

The first idea can be found in the Hebrew Bible in Deuteronomy 6:5, the second in Genesis 1, and the third in Genesis 4:7, Joshua 24:15, and many other places.


The positive changes since Vatican Council II are almost overwhelming in their honesty and integrity of vision. The Spirit has indeed come among us to open us to new relationships and new understandings of our parent religion, Judaism.

Much has been accomplished, but much remains to be done. The statements of the Council, of the Vatican, and of the American bishops are designed to lead us into an ever-renewed dialogue with Judaism. Jesus was a Jew and his teachings presume an audience intimate with the tenets of Judaism. If we are to read the New Testament intelligently, if we are to be open to the Word of God speaking to us through the Jewish people in the Sacred Scriptures and today in the dialogue, we must always be open to the spirit of truth. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that « salvation is from the Jews ». This is as true today as it was when he uttered it. We must be open to it, though that saving dialogue may take us in directions which we cannot now predict. In union with the rest of the Christian community, that journey beckons to us.


Guidelines for the Evaluation of the Treatment of Jews and Judaism in Catechetical Materials


1. The Second Vatican Council, „Declaration on Non-Christian Religions » (Nostra Aetate), Section 4, October 28, 1965.
2. « Guidelines for Catholic-Jewish Relations », Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations, National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, 1967.
3. « Pastoral Orientations on the Attitude of Christians to Judaism », Episcopal Committee of the Roman Catholic Bishops of France, April 1973.
4. « Statement of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USA) on the Middle East, » November 13, 1973.
5. « Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate No. 4 », Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, December I, 1974 (issued January 2, 1975).
6. 8 Statement on Catholic-Jewish Relations », NCCB, November 20, 1975.


A. The Hebrew Scriptures

1. Does the catechesis affirm the value of the whole Bible? Does it show that, far from being rendered void by the New Testament, the Hebrew covenant remains in fact the root, the source, the foundation and the promise of the new covenant?
2. Are the inspiration and validity of the Hebrew Scriptures recognized in their own right?
3. Do lessons picture the Hebrew Bible as a source of inspiration for Jesus, the New Testament authors and later Christian writers? Do the materials show the Hebrew Scriptures to be the Scripture of the New Testament Church?
4. Do lessons set the Hebrew Scriptures and the Jewish tradition founded on it against the New Testament in a false way?—i.e., are the Hebrew Scriptures pictured as constituting a religion of only justice, fear and legalism, with no appeal to the love of God and neighbor? (Cf. Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18 as the source of Jesus' € law of love ».)
5. Is the fact noted that the phrase « Old Testament » is seen by Jews as an insult to the continuing validity of the Hebrew Bible?
6. Is the religion of the Hebrew Scriptures presented as dynamic and currently valid or is it seen as dead and anachronistic, merely a precursor of the religion of the New Testament?
7. How are the personalities of the Hebrew Scriptures treated? Is their Jewishness noted or are they pictured as « hidden » Christians?
8. Are the Hebrew Scriptures used in such a way that the children can identify with Hebrew biblical figures such as Abraham as models of faith? Or is the story told in such a way that the « fickleness » of the people is stressed?
B. Judaism in New Testament Times
I. Does lesson material indicate that the Judaism which gave birth to Christianity was dynamic and vital? Or is it falsely presented as degenerate, legalistic and materialistic?
2. Is attention paid to the multiplicity of sects and groups within Judaism in Jesus' time? Are these described fully developed or only in negative stereotypes?
3. Is the full range of Jewish beliefs regarding the Messiah adequately presented? Or are Jewish messianic expectations reduced to the notion of awaiting a purely materialistic, earthly king?
4. Is mention made of the achievements of Judaism during New Testament times? (e.g., the development of the synagogue, the literature of the period, Qumran, rabbinic works)?

C. The Pharisees

1. Are the Pharisees treated fairly or only as a negative stereotype? As legalistic? As all the same(e.g., see the different Pharisaic movements such as the schools of Hillel and Shammai)?
2. Are the negative images ascribed to the Pharisees then applied to « the Jews as a whole?
3. Are the revolutionary religious and social achievements of the Pharisees and their role as preservers of Judaism after the destruction of the temple explained?
4. Is mention made of positive relations between Jesus and the Pharisees (e.g., Lk. 11:37-44, 13:31; Jn. 9:13; Nicodemus) and between the Pharisees and the early Church (e.g., Acts 5:34-39; 23: 6-9)?

D. Jesus and the Jews

1. Is the Jewishness of Jesus clearly stated and used where appropriate to explain his- behavior? His understanding of and adherence to the Jewish Law? That he considered himself a faithful Jew?
2. Do the lessons state or imply that « the Jews z rejected Jesus, despite the fact that most Jews could never have heard of him in his lifetime? And that the apostles and early disciples were all Jews?
3. When phrases like « some Jews » or « some Jewish leaders » are used, is adequate teacher background given in the manuals so that teachers will know why these terms are used and be able to prepare students for encounters with usages of the term the Jews » in John's Gospel and elsewhere at Sunday Mass?
4. Is Jesus pictured as opposing or denouncing the Judaism of his time? Or is he seen in context—as a Jew—who thought and debated within the Jewish milieu, teaching quite often in the manner of the Pharisees?

E. The Crucifixion

1. Is it made clear that « what happened at his passion cannot be blamed upon all the Jews then living, without distinction, nor upon the Jews of today » (Vatican II)?
2. Are the results of recent biblical scholarship, showing the historical complexities of the New Testament portrayals of the trial and crucifixion, used in the text and especially in the teachers' manuals?
3. Is the role of Pilate whitewashed? Is it made clear that cucifixion was a Roman method of execution? That the chief priest was a Roman appointee?
4. Is it shown that the New Testament does not mention the Pharisees as being involved in his arrest, trial or death?
5. Is guilt for the crucifixion consistently placed where it belongs theologically—on all humanity? Or are a the Jewish leaders I) actually blamed in concrete descriptions of the passion?
6. Is the notion that Jewish suffering is the result of divine retribution for their alleged rejection of Jesus explicitly condemned-- or at least never mentioned or in any way implied?

F. Rabbinic and Medieval Judaism

1. Does the treatment of Judaism cease with the New Testament period?
2. Are Jews mentioned in Church history only as victims of persecution? Or are the significant Jewish contributions to Western, « Christian » history treated and fairly developed?
3. Is there mention of the great religious significance of the Mishnah and the Talmud? Of the medieval Jewish communities of Europe? Of the role of Spanish Jewry in developing medieval Scholastic philosophy and Arabic thought for Christian Europe?
4. Is the story of Europe only the story of <.( Christendom? » Is the influence of Jewish intellectual and theological thought on Christian thought (e.g., Maimonides on Aquinas, Spinoza on Pascal, Jewish linguistic and biblical studies on Erasmus, etc.) presented? Jewish mysticism?
5. Is medieval Jewish « ghetto >> life seen in all its vitality and creativity? Jewish emancipation beginning with the French Enlightenment in 1790?
6. In short, is Jewish history treated only as a passive backwater of Christian history, or is the true role of Judaism in post-biblical history portrayed in a positive manner? Is it treated at all?
7. If not treated, so that there is a long silence between the New Testament and the Holocaust in the twentieth century except as victims of persecution, is there an underlying message that there is somehow a link between the last appearance of the Jews as « Christ killers » and their next appearance as suffering victims?

G. Reformation to Twentieth Century

1. Is the contribution of Jewish thought and culture to the Reformation (both Protestant and Catholic) and to the Enlightenment presented?
2. Is the role of Jewry in European economic development in this period made clear, without false stereotypy? The role of Jews in the discovery and growth of America? Involvement in the growth of trade unions?
3. Is there any presentation of profound Jewish religious movements such as Hasidism? Jewish philosophy and poetry that influenced current thought such as Heinrich Heine, Martin Buber, and Franz Rosenzweig? Are great scientists such as Freud and Einstein portrayed as Jews?
4. Is there an appreciation for the development of and differences between Reform, Orthodox and Conservative Jewry, especially in the United States? The development of Zionism in this country (Brandeis, etc.)?
5. Any reference to the Hebraic and biblical origins of much of the thought of early American colonists like the Puritans as well as that of the framers of the Constitution?

H. Christian Persecution of the Jews

1. Do texts treating of Church history honestly admit to Christian mistreatment of the Jews during various periods in history? Do they urge repentance?
2. Are the « excesses » of the Crusades and the Inquisition treated with candor or is an attempt made to cover over or even justify these events?
3. Is the history of Christian anti-Semitism clearly traced, along with its consequences in pogroms, ghettos, etc.?
4. On the other hand, are the efforts of some of the popes, such as Gregory the Great, to stop the practice of forced conversion and protect the Jews mentioned as models of a more Christian practice?

I. The Holocaust

1. Are the implications of this event for traditional Christian understandings dearly dealt with, at least in the upper grade levels?
2. Is the fact that the destruction of six million Jews took place in supposedly Christian countries admitted?
3. Are Christian heroes like Franz Jagerstatter who died at the hands of Hitler praised for their courage?
4. Is the Church's silence regarding the death camps handled in a balanced and fair manner?
5. Are the more recent forms of anti-Semitism such as a anti-Zionism » analyzed and clearly condemned?
6. Is the Holocaust literature written by Jewish survivors of the death camps used where appropriate (liturgies, etc.)? Are the authors presented as Jewish (e.g., Anne Frank, Eli Wiesel, Viktor Frankl, etc.)?

J. The Modern State of Israel

1. Is the Jewish concept of peoplchood fully explained—i.e., «a peoplehood that is not solely racial, ethnic or religious but in a sense a composite of all three » (NCCB, November 1975)?
2. Do the texts help students to understand « the link between land and people which Jews have expressed in their writings and worship throughout two millennia as a longing for the homeland, holy Zion » (NCCB, November 1975)?
3. Are students prepared to understand with sympathy the view of American Jews with regard to the state of Israel in such a way that they will be able to enter into dialogue with Jews even if they do not themselves accept the biblical/theological rationale?
4. Is the validity of the existence of the Jewish state of Israel clearly affirmed along with an affirmation of the rights of the Palestinians (NCCB, November 1975)?
5. If mention is made of current Israeli-Arab conflicts, is an adequate background for both sides of the issue presented?
6. Is an attempt made to explain Zionism as a movement for liberation in reaction to both European and Moslem oppression?

K. The Relationship Between the Covenants

1. Is it made clear that the Jewish covenant with God was not abrogated with the establishment of the Christian covenant in Christ? That we are the « wild shoots » which have been « grafted » onto Israel (Rom. 11)?
2. Is the point clearly made that still today « God holds the Jews most dear » and that « he does not repent of the gifts he makes or of the calls he issues » (Nostra Aetate; cf. Romans 11)? Is the permanent and continuing election of the Jewish people, i.e., the ongoing role of Judaism in the divine plan, clearly seen as an essential aspect of a valid Christian theological understanding of Judaism (cf. French bishops, 1973; Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 16)?
3. Is an attempt made to see this continuing salvific role of Judaism in the world on Jewish as well as Christian terms—for example, as the « sanctification of the name » (French bishops, 1973)?
4. Even if not fully developed, is an attempt made to frame a positive theological understanding of Jewish. Christian relations for today based on the above biblical and official sources while avoiding indifferentism?
5. Are adequate activities, information and attitudinal approaches developed appropriate to each age level by which Christians can have the opportunity, as the Vatican Guidelines stipulate, « to learn by what essential traits the Jews define themselves in the light of their own religious experience »?


1. Does the overall scope and age sequence of the series attempt to integrate understandings of Jews and Judaism throughout the lessons, where appropriate? Or are all positive references to Jewish history, beliefs and customs in the post-biblical period concentrated in a single chapter of a single text?
2. How do the pictures, photos and other illustrations image Jews? Do pictures which involve clearly distinguishable Jewish figures show them as « bad guys » or « good guys »—or a mixture of both?
3. Are Jesus, Mary and the apostles pictured as Jewish? Any illustrations of Jesus with forelocks or wearing a prayer shawl, perhaps? Phylacteries?
4. Does the text or series tend to be overwhelmingly negative in its statements, or is it simply silent on crucial issues, periods and themes? (If the latter, supplementary material can easily be supplied on such themes as the history of Judaism after the New Testament period, the modern state of Israel, Jewish feasts and festivals, the Holocaust, etc)
5. Do high school texts attempt to overcome previous distortions?
6. Does the series on whatever level try to replace the negative myths with a positive approach to Jews and Judaism or does it merely try to avoid negatives?
7. Is background given to teachers and students for understanding possible misconceptions derived from biblical passages used in the liturgy, e.g., is sound historical background for Jesus' passion introduced when treating of Holy Week themes?
8. Are the Judaic origins of sacraments such as the Eucharist and baptism made clear throughout the series and fully explained in the manuals for teachers? Are Jewish feasts and customs explained or used as examples of prayer and celebration?
9. Are the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and subsequent documents such as the Guidelines of the American bishops referred to and explained in the teachers' manuals, and embodied in the texts?
10. Are Jewish sayings and tales, such as those of the Talmud, the Midrash and the Hasidim, used in appropriate places and correctly identified?

Dr. Fisher is Executive Secretary of the Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations of the United States Catholic Conference in Washington. He received his doctorate in Hebrew culture from New York University.

This study is an excerpt from the book Faith Without Prejudice by Eugene J. Fisher, published by Paulist Press, New York, 1977. Reprinted by permission.


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