At Low Point in Christian-Jewish Relations, Jewish Official Promotes Conversation

April 4, 2004


On April 4, 2004 reported, "As the Jewish holiday of Passover begins at sundown Monday and Christians observe Holy Week, leaders of both religions say more must be done to build connections between them. 'The ongoing work has slowed down tremendously,' said Rabbi Leon Klenicki, a 30-year veteran of interfaith outreach with the Anti-Defamation League. One sign of the times: The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League are now the only major Jewish organizations with full-time interfaith relations people on staff, experts say. Jewish success assimilating into American culture is a main reason why, said Rabbi James Rudin, who worked for 32 years in the job Elcott now holds. As Jews focused inward--on issues such as religious education and intermarriage--national agencies responded by trimming their outreach programs, he said...When [David] Elcott took the job [as the national head of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee] last September, relations with the Roman Catholic Church were strong, even though some tensions arose soon after over the response to the film [Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ"] by some church leaders. But dialogue with mainline Protestants had suffered over Israel...Elcott said relations were so poor when he was first hired, that he had to spend weeks badgering international policy officials in mainline denominations before they would return his calls...In May, he hopes to convene a summit of American Jews and Christians on Israel to examine, as he describes it, 'Are we going to work together on peace or are we going to fight each other?'"