CRC deserves Jewish community’s support


It is not enough that half of our community is backing away from Central Reform Congregation: They should be supporting them. For almost 2,000 years, the Catholic Church has tried to intimidate Jews.

Enough is enough.

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The Gospels were meant to convert, intimidate, and make Jews become the new Christians. This is not about lay Catholics, this is about the Archbishop.

In the 1940s and 1950s, my grandfather worked hard to establish an equal footing with the church here in St. Louis. My grandfather, Rabbi Ferdinand Isserman, writes of an experience in his first pamphlet on ecumenical contacts.

This experience was in a church: When he entered he saw a young man praying at the altar for his lost wife. The loss was overwhelming to this young man. My grandfather came forward to try to console the young man. He joined him in a prayer to God. At that moment he no longer recognized Jew, or Christian but the oneness of God and the healing powers of prayer. We are all but one people, he said, trying to understand.

This interfaith work in St. Louis culminated in 1999 with two rabbis presenting to the Pope. Now with the flick of a switch, ecumenical treatment is thrown out the window by an archbishop who has forgotten or never learned the lessons of the 1960s.

Harvey Schneider and the Jewish Community Relations Council should be ashamed of themselves. Rabbi Susan Talve and the Central Reform Congregation have done for interfaith as much or more than any other congregation, except for my own.

In 1954, it became apparent that the City of Creve Coeur would not permit Temple Israel to be built. It became the Archdiocese’s mission to get the congregation a home in Creve Coeur.

It would not be good for any religious institution not to have religious freedom of worship, and those leaders knew that. So standing along with Temple Israel members in 1959, the Archdiocese filed a brief to support religious freedom. They realized how important individual rights are in this country.

In the 1960s Pope Paul VI issued his rulings and 2,000 years of bigotry against Jews was ended. Or was it?

At least in St. Louis it should have been ended. Rabbi Robert P. Jacobs and Rabbi Mark Shook, along with other rabbis, worked to make it a reality. In 1999, this culminated in these two rabbis making a presentation to the Pope.

The Archdiocese signed on to the Faith Beyond Walls program whose core idea is mutual understanding. The middle three lines of the Faith Beyond Walls Prayer are listed below:

“Let us know that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection. You have taught us that if we open to one another, you dwell in us. Help us preserve this openness and to work for it with all our hearts.”

Any person reading these lines cannot help but believe in the ideas of mutual respect, not rejection; mutual understanding, not covering one’s ears, and mutual openness — not the closed door reality of the Archdiocese.

I believe it is in our best interests to work together with our fellow brethren to make a small ship better for us. I hope the Archbishop remembers this.

Richard Isserman belongs to Temple Israel. He has been involved in interfaith dialogue groups over the years; including one group he started in 2006 with a friend in the Muslim community. Isserman’s grandfather, Rabbi Ferdinand Isserman, served as senior rabbi of Temple Israel.