WASHINGTON (June 20, 2006)—Delegates of the Rabbinical Council of America/Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Catholic Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA) held their consultation recently. They discussed a proposed joint statement on school choice and heard a report on a study of anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism on the Internet.
Below is a joint press communiqué issued after the meeting.
The meeting in New York On June 14, 2006 at the offices of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations in America continues a series of twice-yearly meetings between delegates of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Judaism that began in 1987 following the visit of Pope John Paul II to the U.S. and his historic meeting with representatives of the American Jewish community.
The meeting began with a discussion of a proposed joint statement on school choice and the various constitutional approaches being considered in various states to provide equitable means of addressing the needs of the widest range of children, especially low income families in various religious communities. The statement was approved, pending several minor emendations.
Dr. Mark Weitzman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center presented the results of his study of anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism on the internet. There are over 5,000 hate sites, along with numerous games involving such action as shooting "wetbacks" (Mexican immigrants) to running death camps. There a number of common themes in the sites aimed primarily at Jews and/or the Catholic Church. Both are frequently linked with Satan and portrayed as conspiratorial, ever plotting to take over the world, and as polluting the racial purity of the white race. What makes the two forms of hate-mongering different is that the anti-Catholic sites do not call for genocide of all Catholics as the anti-Semitic sites do for Jews, and they are not sponsored by governments, while a number of anti-Semitic sites are sponsored by Arab governments. We need, Dr. Weitzman concluded, to alert schools, public and private, that they cannot simply assign a topic and let children loose on the net. Unlike a library, there is no review of what's on the net. Educators, therefore, need to teach students how to use it critically and responsibly. Jews and Catholics must work together to combat the stereotypes of us both that are all too prevalent in modern society.
Attendees: Jewish Participants: Rabbis Fabian Schonfeld (co-Chair), Nathan Diament, David Berger, Joseph Karasick, Leon Feldman, and Dale Polakoff; Dr. Mark Weizman, Ms. Ilana Prager. Staff: Mr. Howard Beigelman
Catholic Participants: Bishop William Murphy (co-chair); Msgrs. Robert Stern and Donald Beckmann; Revs. James Loughran, SA, Drew Christiansen, SJ, Robert Aufieri, Larence Frizzell, and Guy Massie. Staff: Dr. Eugene Fisher