Statement from Rabbi Riskin received from Ruder Finn Israel


DECEMBER 30, 2009

It has come to my attention that comments I made on the character of Jesus in a recent interview have been misunderstood. Allow me to clarify.

The filmed interview in question (given to a group of Christians) was edited carelessly and posted on YouTube by an organization that omitted a significant part of my message. The fundamental differences between Judaism and Christianity, which I always emphasize in my talks with Christian groups, were completely absent from the edited version. In the segment of the film that was spliced out I made specific reference to the fact that Jews can never accept Jesus as the Messiah – anyone who does so is ipso facto not a Jew - and that for us every human being is a child of G-d (and not any one specific individual); no one single person can ever claim that unique status, which G-d bestowed upon all of humanity created in His image.

I would certainly never praise the Christian representation in whose name Jews have been slaughtered and persecuted throughout the years. That was not my intention at all, and I regret putting myself in a position where my words could be manipulated. Indeed, my comments referred to Jesus the historical figure, the man who was not a “Christian,” who did not hate Jews but rather was himself a committed Jew. In order to emphasize this point to a Christian audience, I referred to him as “Rabbi” Jesus, the Jewish historical Jesus as many historians such as Professors Joseph Klausner and David Flusser have proven him to be. However, let me be clear: While I refer to Jesus poetically as “Rabbi” Jesus, he was not a rabbi in the classical sense of the term. It was used only to explain to a Christian audience the Jewish Jesus, and in hindsight, the term was an inappropriate one to use.

Tragically, innumerable horrors were inflicted upon the Jewish people in his name. I always emphasize this point to Christian audiences and they always respond with great empathy and sincere pain. For me, one of the true signs of the unique period in which we are living is that for the first time in 2000 years, the Christian world has held out a hand of peace to the Jewish world. Even more: leading Catholics (notably Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II), important intellectual Protestants like Dr. Robert Jensen and Dr. Petra Heldt and virtually the entire Evangelical community worldwide have asked for our forgiveness, have made serious revisions in their theological positions, and are standing squarely behind the Jewish people in the State of Israel.

As an Orthodox rabbi, I deeply believe that there is a need for mutually-respectful dialogue between the Jewish and Christian worlds. This dialogue must express our common commitment to a G-d of love, pluralism and peace, but must at the same time never gloss over the very different faith commitments of our individual respective religious communities. Dialogue between Jews and Christians is especially crucial now for the political future of the nation of Israel as well as for the security of the free world in the face of the rapidly spreading Islamic Fundamentalism which is terrorizing humanity. Only the G-d of love and peace which we share with the Christian world can overcome the false G-d of Jihad and terrorist bombers. From a Jewish perspective it is clear that such dialogue can only be conducted in accordance with the principles of our Torah philosophy and the faith commitments which are the foundation of our sacred traditions.

Shlomo Riskin

BREAKING NEWS : A response by Rabbi Riskin now on YouTube

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