Out of the mouth of babes…

When you see the words Nostra Aetate do you just keep scrolling looking for an article that seems more interesting or on point with what is happening in Israel? I understand why you would, and I may have at some point as well, but please don’t!

This year we are celebrating the Jubilee of Nostra Aetate, the declaration introduced by Pope Paul VI, which revolutionized the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jews launching more than two generations of meaningful Christian Jewish dialogue. The 1965 declaration effectively ended 2000 years of doctrinal teachings of antisemitism nullifying the age-old accusation that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.

Positive change didn’t happen overnight, but continued to evolve and under the Papacy of Pope John Paul II we saw a number of remarkable historic firsts including the first visit of a Pope to a synagogue in Rome in 1986 when he called the Jews “our elder brothers of the Ancient Covenant never broken by God and never to be broken”. He established formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel in 1994 acknowledging its centrality in Jewish life and faith.

The courage of the Pope and the assembly of Bishops dramatically changed the course of antisemitism in the post-Holocaust era. The power one statement or one decision had to change beliefs and perceptions and beliefs that had been held – and enforced – over 2 millennia was dramatic.

I wanted to share this lesson with my 9 year old. I wanted him to feel empowered and inspired by the difference a leader can make. That one act can have a profound impact on many. I told him all about the significance of this special anniversary, that at work (CIJA) we are a member of our local Christian Jewish Dialogue and that we were honoured with the presence of their Excellences the Apostolic Nuncio (Pope’s rep in Canada) and the Bishop of Quebec who also felt the need to mark this important watershed moment in history. That we, on behalf of the Montreal Jewish community, hosted a cocktail to welcome them for the first time to the heart of our Jewish community centre.

He looked at me so innocently and shocked me with his response. “Yup, it’s pretty important for the Jews mommy — but it seems like everyone else forgot pretty quickly….”

And he got me thinking. Clearly the Catholic Church has not forgotten. The Vatican’s outpouring of support in commemorating this anniversary speaks volumes to its commitment to its ideals.

Pope Francis himself declared this week “To attack Jews is anti-Semitism, but an outright attack on the State of Israel is also anti-Semitism” – not that his comments were reported widely by the media.

And that’s where my son has a point. Priests are no longer the purveyors of antisemitism, but the pulpit has been replaced with the flat screen, the 24 hour news cycle or even the iPhone. A new mantra is being shamelessly peddled in the blatant misappropriation of the term ‘human rights’ in order to replace the now discredited accusations of Judas with charges of Israel the assassin. Media outlets hiding behind their profession are holding Jews everywhere responsible for the incomprehensibly skewed misrepresentation of Israel’s actions. Even going so far as to legitimize attacks on Jews, now sadly a daily in reality in Israel, through headlines and reporting that miss the mark completely, if it gets covered at all.

It is time for present day leaders to remember, and to stand up for justice. It is time for world leaders to stop their complicity in this new indoctrination. Stop turning a blind eye to hate and incitement in the Palestinian leadership. Stop holding Israel to a double standard when horrific human rights atrocities are being ignored. While countries like Saudi Arabia are allowed to chair the UN human rights commission and incitement and hate are taught in UNESCO schools. It’s time for the world to WAKE UP before Jews are subjected to another round of antisemitism.

on twitter: @ecijaq

About the Author
Eta Yudin is the Vice President Quebec for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)