Clarifying the Catholic view of the Jewish covenant

This is an interesting moment in the long journey that is…Catholic/Jewish relations.

As I’ve noted before, the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference issued a statement not long ago to clarify the church’s relationship with the Jewish people. The statement noted that while the Catholic Church does not proselytize the Jewish people, it does invite the Jews, like all others, to follow Christ.

Many Jewish leaders did not react well, and talks have been held.

Father James Massa, Executive Director for the USCCB’s Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, told the Catholic News Agency: “As Catholics involved in a dialogue of truth, we cannot help but give witness to Christ, who, for us, is synonymous with truth. Without acknowledging our indebtedness to God’s revelation in Christ, we cannot sit at the table and speak as Christians about how we arrive at notions of justice, compassion and building up the common good—the very values our interreligious dialogues seek to foster.”

The Forward’s J.J. Goldberg wrote: “Forty-four years of Catholic-Jewish reconciliation, set in motion by the Second Vatican Council in 1965 and nudged forward by thousands of hours of dialogue and theological review, appear to be in jeopardy right now, threatened by an ideological battle inside the Catholic Church.”

More recently, the Vatican has approved a revision to the Catholic Catechism that further clarifies what Catholics should believe about the Jewish covenant with God.

The first version: “Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.”

The revision: “To the Jewish people, whom God first chose to hear his Word, ‘belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ.’”

A statement from the Bishops Conference said the teaching is not new: “The clarification reflects the teaching of the Church that all previous covenants that God made with the Jewish people are fulfilled in Jesus Christ through the new covenant established through his sacrificial death on the cross. Catholics believe that the Jewish people continue to live within the truth of the covenant God made with Abraham, and that God continues to be faithful to them.”

More talks, you can bet, will be held.

Jewish humor, magazines dying out?

Not long ago, I linked to some stuff at New Voices, described as a “national Jewish student magazine.”

Now, New Voices has an interesting piece on the state of Jewish magazines, which includes this nugget from J.J. Goldberg, editorial director at the venerable Forward:


For Goldberg, the real problem is the lack of audience. “I learned this a long time ago,” he says. “If you want to sell subscriptions to a Jewish periodical, it tops off at around 60,000. That’s the number of Jews in America that will subscribe to a Jewish publication. Everybody wants to sell to them because Jews read. The publishers keep on publishing Jewish books because they know that so many of their readers are Jewish. But they’re not reading Jewish books. Most of the Jews aren’t that interested in Judaism. There’s this assumption that you can do something great and it will succeed. You can do something great, but [that doesn’t mean it’s going to succeed.]”


On a semi-related note, New York magazine has a cover story this week about Woody Allen’s next movie, which will feature Larry David. The headline is: “Last of the Schlemiels.”

The mag tries to make the case that we are looking at the end of Jewish humor as we’ve known it.

Of the movie, Whatever Works, they write:


This movie is literally vintage Woody Allen. In fact, it calls to mind a brand of Jewish humor that has, in recent years, been all but scrubbed out—neurotic, depressive, abrasive, excluded. And to serve as its embodiment, he drafted Larry David, the guy who, through six seasons of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, has done more than anyone—even Allen—to keep that sensibility alive for a generation to whom it’s now almost completely foreign.


The story comes with a great two-page spread on the history of Jewish humor. Or, as they put it: “5,769 years of the Jewish joke.”

If you go HERE, and click on “view as a PDF,” you can see the whole thing, from Yiddish theater and the Marx Brothers to the Catkills, Mel Brooks and Lenny Bruce to Seinfeld, Jon Stewart and Judd Apatow.