Seminar on Anti-Semitism well received
Hebrew University Historian Dr. Robert Wistrich calls anti-Semitism “the longest hatred”. What and why is this sentiment so accurate? That was the subject of a seminar hosted by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) held at the J.C.C .on April 8th. Organizer and presenter, Susan Sandager was upfront with the mixed audience of Jews and Christians, informing them that the program was designed by and for Christian audiences; and that the Jewish listeners were given this opportunity to “eaves drop” on the ideas and concepts that the ICEJ presents to the church in America. The purpose of the teaching was to educate people on the long history of wrong thinking and actions of the Christian Church toward the Jewish people that culminated in, persecution, repeated exile from their homelands and death. The detailed information following a time line of over 2,000 years, when divisions over the two belief systems began, brought to light the details of the Crusades, Inquisition, Pogroms and Holocaust. Many in attendance were surprised by the horrific facts.
The ICEJ and the over one dozen co-sponsors covered the state of New Mexico with advertisements prior to the event and as a result close to three hundred people were gathered at one of two seminars given on this day. Demonstrating the attitudes of perpetrators, victims and rescuers during the centuries of persecution by use of stage drama, speeches and film, the teaching was comprehensive in scope . Dr .Carrie Burns shared the stage with Susan Sandager resonating with the voices of concerned Christians all around the world. At one point in the evening session Dr. Burns introduced people with whom she had spoken to during the break-time The audience was thus able to honor a Holocaust survivor who was hidden by a Christian family, a US veteran who at the young age of 19 was there to liberate one of the concentration camps, and a Holocaust educator whose great uncle happened to have written the music that was used in one of the documentaries that was screened.
Explaining that the face of modern Jewish-Christian concerns was changed by two modern earthquakes, the Holocaust of WWII and the birth of Israel-- the teaching changed its trajectory into ‘Anti-Semitism inn My Generation.’ The two speakers painted a picture of a current growing trend. ”Taking on a new look”, namely “anti-Israel” finger pointing, this fresh wake of rising anti Jewish sentiment, is cleverly disguised. Unfair demonization of Israel as an Apartheid State, comparing it to the barbaric politics of South Africa, was one of the ways that makes it seem politically correct. ‘Rather than citing a people (the Jews), it is more acceptable to blame the whole country” for the ills of the world stated Susan Sandager. Subjects, about which many listening had no idea, included ‘Holocaust Denial’ theologies purporting anti Israel doctrine by Christian, Islamic and Palestinian groups, and incitement of anti Jewish actions by small groups or individuals on college campuses and web-sites.
Everyone was asked to write a short note on what they learned and how they heard about the seminar. Comments like, “haunting and impressive”, ” eye-opening, and “enlightening”, were repeated. One person wrote, ”WOW! how do we get this information to larger audiences”? It was refreshing to see that several among the Christian participants were encouraged to attend by their church Pastors. Also many people previously uninvolved at any level expressed interest in finding their place in changing the tide and standing with Israel and the Jewish people. Presenter Dr. .Burns expressed her delight at seeing Israeli flags displayed in the Christian ministries she visited while in Albuquerque.
A biblically based teaching, the seminar titled For Such a Time as This conveyed a central message,” What God treasures, we should treasure. This, Susan Sandager explained applies to both Israel and the Jewish people. When faced with the question of ‘why defend the Jews’? Susan emphasized Christians are Biblically mandated to do so.. More than one attendee expressed a “broken heart” at the hearing of this ‘well presented” teaching and were ‘thankful for such a resource in Albuquerque.”
Phyllis Wolfe, director of the JCC was thrilled with the turnout and thanked everyone for coming. The mixed audience of Jews and Christians had listened raptly to the information presented and the hopes of bringing this seminar to other venues was made probable. The day was successful in many ways, but the real measurement of success will be observed throughout the future as people apply what their hearts and minds were opened to do.