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Think back some 40 years to the release of Nostra Aetate, the revolutionary Vatican document that inexorably changed the nature of Catholic-Jewish relations. It firmly confronted old church attitudes and teachings that Jews suffered under for centuries. It unequivocally asserted the historical and theological dignity of the Jewish people.

Imagine if, a week later, Pope Paul VI stood on the porch of Castel Gandolfo and announced, "There has been a terrible misunderstanding. All we meant is that when we complain, as we must from time to time, about price-gouging around Christmas by pushy Jewish merchants (by that we only mean some of them, of course), we should not go so far as to blame them for the crucifixion. That hurts their feelings."

In May, the Presbyterian Church (USA) released "Vigilance against Anti-Jewish Ideas and Bias." Jewish organizations were effusive in their praise. The last decade has seen a spike in violent anti-Semitic hate crimes in Europe. The document could not have been more welcomed and well timed.

The love-fest was short lived. In June, the PC(USA) removed the original document from its website and replaced it with "Vigilance against Anti-Jewish Bias: In the Pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian Peace."

It would be hard to construct two more dissimilar documents with similar titles. The original pointed directly to problematic PC(USA) overtures and materials, such as overtures "declaring that the Jewish people are no longer in covenant with God … or to blame for the crucifixion." It was a startling and honest mea culpa that directly addressed Jewish concerns about a steady pattern of criticism of Israel that had morphed into derision of Jews. (The latest U.S. State Department annual report on human rights ...

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June 2008

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