Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Today I had what was probably the most unpleasant TV interview of my life on Canada’s Sun News Network (national). Interviewed by host Michael Coren about my book Kosher Jesus, I expected to be asked about the book’s content. The interview started that way. But then Coren quickly got to a question that seemed to be bursting from within. You’ll have to see the exact show, airing tonight at 7pm, for complete accuracy, and I am writing this about an hour after.
Coren essentially asked me why Jews depict Christians so negatively. He went on about how much the Catholic Church and Christians in general have done for the Jews of late. Yet the Jews continue to be so unappreciative, always questioning Christian motivation, always finding fault with Christians no matter what.
I asked him to justify his claim that Jews depict Christians negatively. He said something like, “What do you mean? Just look at Hollywood.”
Hollywood? I was confused. Weren’t we just talking about Jewish-Christian relations? Where did Hollywood come in, unless, for Coren, Jews and Hollywood were synonymous.
What was the connection between Hollywood’s depiction of Christians and the Jews, I asked. The show went downhill from there, with the anti-Semitic stereotype of the Jews controlling and influencing Hollywood dominating the interview. I defended my people against this disgusting slur, a tributary of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that the Jews control whole segments of society, in this case the motion picture industry, which they use to negatively depict Christians as a bunch of illiterate and primitive bumpkins.
From there Coren went on to speak about the negative Jewish depiction of Pope Pius XII, which I battled him on further. This was amazing. The Jews were defaming the saintly Pope Pius? For the record, I have written a great deal on Pius XII, the man John Cornwell, a non-Jewish British journalist, famously called Hitler’s Pope in his best-selling 1999 biography of the same name. Pius was the wartime Pope who never once condemned the systematic murder of Europe’s Jews through all the years of the holocaust and who, after the war, allowed the mass kidnapping of Jewish children who had originally been given by their families to Christians in order to save their lives. Pius advised, in the form of a typewritten directive discovered in a French church archive and dated Oct. 23, 1946, that church authorities not return to their relatives Jewish children who had been baptized. They must remain Christian and should not be returned to Jewish families.
He was the Pope who famously refused, amid unmistakable evidence of thousands of Jews being shipped to slaughter in Nazi concentration camps, to ever speak out against the Holocaust. This followed Pius’ successful efforts to prevent the publication of an encyclical commissioned by his dying predecessor to condemn Nazi anti-Semitism. This is also the Pope who sent Hitler birthday greetings every single year and who refused to excommunicate Hitler or any other top Nazis who were on official Catholic rolls (to give this context, the singer Sinead O’Connor was excommunicated). He ignored the pleas of President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill to denounce the Nazis. He later refused to endorse a joint declaration by Britain, U.S and Russia condemning mass murder of Europe’s Jews, claiming that he simply could not condemn “particular” atrocities. The most he ever did was a single pronouncement during the war on the murder “of hundreds of thousands.” By then, of course, there were millions, and he did not mention Hitler, Nazi Germany, or the Jews in the statement. Most infamously, he was silent when the Germans rounded up Rome’s Jews in October 1944 for slaughter. They were being processed for extermination in a military school a few hundred yards from his window in St. Peter’s. An Italian princess, Enza Pignatelli, forced her way into the Pope’s study and warned him about the imminent assault on the city’s Jewish citizens. “You must act immediately,” she cried. “The Germans are arresting the Jews and taking them away. Only you can stop them.” The Pope assured her, “I will do all I can.” He made no protest and nearly all were later gassed in Auschwitz. Curiously, amid the Pope’s inability to find his voice to condemn the extermination of European Jewry, when the Catholic archbishop of Berlin issued a statement mourning Hitler’s death, the Pope did not reprimand him.
Those who have read my writings, and especially those who have read Kosher Jesus, will know that I have unbridled love for my Christian brothers and sisters, a deep respect and affection I have written and spoken about on countless occasions. They will also know that I was given the great pleasure and honor of being greeted by Pope Benedict in Rome in 2010. They will further know that I am invited to address Christian audiences the world over, including in Israel. And I wrote Kosher Jesus in response to the great Christian yearning to discover the Jewishness of Jesus.
But people like Coren who perpetuate the anti-Semitic canard that Jews both control Hollywood and have contempt for Christians are a serious obstruction to the new era of Jewish-Christian brotherhood and rapprochement. It is an absolute lie that Jews have contempt for Christians. It is likewise a lie that Christians are victims of Jewish hostility, as Coren implies. The truth, of course, is that Jews have suffered mightily at the hands of Christianity for nearly two millennium. But thankfully a succession of great Christian men and women in modern times, led by Pope John XXIII, the greatest of all popes, and then by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, both outstanding friends of world Jewry, and joined especially by the 80 million born-again Christians in the United States, the vast majority of whom are phenomenal friends of Israel, have reversed this trend and made Catholicism and Christianity stalwart allies and friends of G-d’s chosen people.
Denying the past is not going to increase our friendship just as being limited by it will not either. This is a new time for Jews and Christians. Let’s forgo the old animosities, the old prejudices, and especially the old and ugly stereotypes. Michael Coren owes Jewry an apology. If he’s man enough to give it I will overlook his foul treatment of me, both during the interview and after it was over.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom Newsweek calls ‘the most famous Rabbi in America,’ was the host of TLC’s Shalom in the Home, which won the National Fatherhood Award, was the London Times Preacher of the Year at the Millennium, and received the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. The international best-selling author of 27 he has just published Kosher Jesus. He is currently mulling a run for Congress from New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District, running as a Republican. www.shmuleyforcongress.com