Entrance to the German Nazi death camp Birkenau (Auschwitz II) in Poland. Photo: Bibi595, via Wikimedia Commons

Holocaust document reaffirms fight against anti-Semitism

The re-release of a document exploring the context of the Holocaust is the latest step taken by the Anglican Church of Canada to promote Christian-Jewish dialogue and continue the struggle against anti-Semitism in all its forms.

Commended in 1989 by the church’s National Executive Council—the precursor to the Council of General Synod—From Darkness to Dawn: Rethinking Christian Attitudes Towards Jews and Judaism in the Light of the Holocaust was written by the Subcommittee on Jewish-Anglican Relations, following a 1983 resolution that condemned racism and anti-Semitism. The resolution also called for the production of materials to help Anglicans learn more about anti-Semitism.

The study program From Darkness to Dawn was made available online this year, in advance of the annual commemoration of the Holocaust, or Shoah, on April 15.

Archdeacon Bruce Myers, coordinator for ecumenical and interfaith relations, noted that despite From Darkness to Dawn’s official commendation, it is unclear how widely the study program has been taken up by the church at large.

Myers himself only discovered the document while doing research in the General Synod archives on the church’s involvement in Christian-Jewish dialogue.

“It’s a fine document into which a considerable amount of time and work was invested, but it appears to have been only minimally received by our church,” he said.

“Even if a few of the references [that] the document makes seem a bit dated, the larger issues it deals with—especially the historic roots of anti-Semitism and the church’s historic complicity in it—haven’t changed.”

The strong stand by the Anglican Church of Canada against anti-Semitism dates back to 1934, when the General Synod of what was then known as the Church of England in Canada adopted a resolution condemning the persecution of Jews in Germany and recognizing Jewish contributions to human history.

More recently, in 2013, General Synod approved a resolution committing the church to “resolutely oppose anti-Semitism” as well as anti-Arab sentiment and Islamophobia.

While the Anglican Church of Canada, along with other churches, participates in national-level dialogue with the Jewish community through the Canadian Christian-Jewish Consultation (CCJC), the CCJC has been in a state of limbo since 2012, when Jewish representatives stepped away from the table due to a decision by one of the participating churches to boycott goods produced on Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

On a local level, however, Christian-Jewish dialogue remains as vibrant as ever.

In Montreal, local Christian and Jewish representatives continue to meet regularly. The Rev. Stephen Petrie represents the Anglican church at the dialogue and serves as treasurer, while the Rev. Prof. Patricia G. Kirkpatrick, who teaches Hebrew Bible and Biblical Hebrew at McGill University, attends occasionally and provides support.

In 2013, the Christian-Jewish Dialogue of Montreal promoted interfaith dialogue about the proposed Quebec Charter of Values—which would have banned the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols by public employees in Quebec—through discussion groups, radio and TV interviews, and the production of a video entitled Nous sommes québécois.

“It may seem strange to people out in the community that a Jewish-Christian dialogue would launch a campaign stressing issues of diversity, and why it is that individuals should be allowed to wear their religious icons—whether it be a kippah or a cross around your neck or a veil on your head…,” Kirkpatrick said.

“But we felt strongly that we could actually engage the larger community with this kind of political issue that was right on our doorstep in order to highlight those aspects of anti-Semitism that are almost global, in the sense that all people can all of a sudden be the recipients of draconian legal measures brought on by governments wanting to forbid certain religious…rights and privileges.”

The responses to the proposed Charter of Values, she suggested, illustrated the importance of promoting community dialogue to guard against the type of scapegoating that has targeted Jews and other minorities throughout history.

Global Relations Coordinator Andrea Mann, who serves as the church’s lead staff on Israel-Palestine issues, noted that the definition of anti-Semitism has changed over the years.

“I think that Christians want to better understand what it means to be anti-Semitic in the contemporary context,” she added, “and are going to find some help in that regard in From Darkness to Dawn.”

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Bishop Barry Clarke of the Diocese of the Montreal and the Rev. Prof. Patricia G. Kirkpatrick represented the Anglican Church of Canada at the Christian-Jewish Dialogue of Montreal. Erroneous information was provided.


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