Confessions of Anti-Semitism

November 20, 1999

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

On November 20, 1999, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Bishop Peter Rogness, head of the Greater Milwaukee Synod for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, issued a statement in reaction to Catholic Archbishop Rempert Weakland's public apology for centuries of anti-Semitic words and actions by the Catholic Church. Rogness stated: "For the leader of the largest faith community in the area to make such a speech was profound...His words struck close to home. The second-largest faith community in the Milwaukee area is Lutheran. Catholics and Lutherans were also the dominant faith groups in Germany 50 years ago." Rogness continued, pointing out the anti-Semitism of Martin Luther: "It is ironic, then, as a source of confession and repentance for those of us who bear his name, that this same forceful and intemperate person could also make vicious and hateful statements about the Jews...But clearly he did. These statements surfaced again during the time of Nazi Germany, and continue to hang like a cloud over those of us who base our work and faith on other elements of his theology." Charles Kahn, president of the Milwaukee chapter of the American Jewish Committee, stated: "It is wonderful that responsible religious leaders unequivocally acknowledge and repudiate the irrational, divisive and dangerous statements of intolerance made in the past." Rabbi Daniel Lehrman, assistant rabbi at Congregation Shalom, expressed "tremendous gratitude" for the expressions of remorse by both Catholic and Lutheran leaders: "Also, it's important for me to say that these statements challenge us in the Jewish community to accept their remorse. And this is something that may take some time for us to do, because it is just an emerging, new orientation."