The Hurricane winds of social revolution in the twentieth century have hit all the great religious systems of the world with terrific impact. Judaism, in the form of various Jewish denominations, has felt the force of the storm. And as there is no ill wind but blows some good, so the tempest of these tumultuous times has brought both blessing and tragedy to the world's 13.5 million Jews.
Considered as a whole, Jews are a remarkably well-educated people. In practically all levels of culture—politics, religion, business, science, law, music, art, medicine, education, and the other fields of scholarship and endeavor—we find talented and able Jews. No other minority group in the United States can match theirs in this respect.
The sufferings of the Jews in general during the past nineteen centuries since the destruction of Jerusalem and her Temple by the Romans in A.D. 70, and their subsequent dispersion among the nations, have been indescribably terrible. And one does not have to turn back to the Dark Ages to find this to be the case.
For example, the extermination of 6 million Jews—defenseless men, women and children—deliberately, systematically, and without regard for their sex, health, or age by Hitler and his henchmen during the decade from 1934 to 1944 inclusive is perhaps the most shocking crime of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, World War II broke out in 1939, central Europe became largely cut off from the rest of the world by censorship and travel restrictions, and the rest of mankind became engrossed with concern for their own survival. Not until after the victorious armies poured into Germany after her fall in 1945 did the publication of ghastly pictures and horrors make the details of Hitler's crime against Jews fully known.
However, we often wonder whether mankind has fully sensed what Hitlerism actually did to the Jews. For example, the armed forces of the United States lost 405,399 men during World War H, 291,557 of whom perished in battle. That represents a lot of blood spilled, a lot of tears wrung from eyes of bereaved loved ones. Nevertheless, the number of unarmed Jews barbarously massacred under Hitler's regime was nearly fifteen times that figure.
Never let it be said, "It can't happen in our time, not in this civilized age." The gruesome fact is that it can happen and has happened, yes, and in our lifetime!
Add to the picture, if you can, the sufferings of the millions of Jews who survived, with their loss of loved ones and of all their earthly possessions, fleeing to distant lands to begin life over again amid people speaking a strange tongue.
Afterward came the Arab-Israel tornado, a conflict that has seriously affected the welfare of hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Near East, the Middle East, and North Africa. Political and military strife in those lands has sent a steady stream of Jewish refugees seeking safety in other lands. The Jewish population of France alone has almost doubled because of it.
A Million Jews Settled in Israel
The establishment of the State of Israel as a new nation, in 1948, was hailed by many a Jew as a resurrection of the Israel of Old Testament times. Facing the opposition of hostile neighbors, poverty of the soil, and the paucity of means with which to build a new nation, the people of modern Israel have done remarkably well materially. More than a million Jews, speaking nearly a hundred different tongues and immigrating from nearly every other land on earth, have settled there.
The Hebrew tongue of the Old Testament writings has been converted into modern speech—the official language of the State of Israel. A vocabulary adequate for our scientific age of atom bombs and astronauts is being constructed by taking the roots of the Biblical Hebrew words and making new terms out of them. When I asked a prominent Jewish leader what Biblical term they used for making an Israeli noun meaning "electricity," he said that they took the root form of the old Hebrew word meaning "lightning" as found in the Bible. This conversion of the ancient Hebrew tongue into the everyday language in modern Israel has been enthusiastically endorsed by Jews in America and other countries. In fact, a leading rabbi of the United States informed me that he recently delivered his first sermon in modern Hebrew to the members of his synagogue.
This, in fact, has turned the minds of Jews, both young and old, to the old Testament writings as never before. The discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, among which are the entire text of some, and portions of other books of the Bible, has been heralded with joy in many Jewish quarters. Jewish Bible scholars are giving much more attention to the Sacred Scriptures now than most of us imagine. The hitherto generally accepted Masoretic Hebrew text is being diligently compared with the documents recently discovered in the Dead Sea region, and new annotated editions of the Hebrew Scriptures are rolling from Jewish printing presses. New translations of the Hebrew Bible are being made in English and other modern languages.
Anniversary Celebrated by Bible Contest
As part of the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the existence of the State of Israel, the first international Bible contest was staged in Jerusalem in 1958, under the sponsorship of Ool Israel (Voice of Israel), by direction of the State of Israel Broadcasting Service. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, who has constantly and consistently urged Jews everywhere to study the Book of books for themselves as never before, enthusiastically endorsed and encouraged the project.Delegates from many nations representing Jewish, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and other religious denominations, participated as national champions from their own countries. So successful was the contest that plans were made to hold one in Jerusalem every three years thereafter.
A Seventh-day Adventist from Brazil took the third prize in the contest of 1958. Three years later, another Seventh-day Adventist from Brazil took the second prize and shared honors with the world champion, a Jew. In the third contest, held in 1964, a Seventh-day Adventist from Australia received the first prize, a specially made gold medal presented by Israel's President Zalman Shazar in person. Two other national champions competing in the contest were Seventh-day Adventists, one from Brazil and another from Argentina. Three of the six competitors for the national championship in Australia were Seventh-day Adventists.
Are Jews Responsible for Christ's Death?
The long debate in Vatican Council II last year concerning the responsibility of the Jews in the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth focused the world's attention on the descendants of Abraham. This question has evoked much comment pro and con from Jewish leaders around the world.
Ecumenical and interfaith movements also have made an impact on Jewish thinking. In some quarters Jewish leaders are heartily cooperating with Roman Catholic and Protestant leaders developing a better understanding of viewpoints and an improvement in relations between all religious groups.
Several months ago Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (a liberal wing of Judaism in the United States), delivered a stirring address to the leaders of that national Jewish denomination, in which he said:
"We Jews have long clamored for this indispensable change in official [Roman] Catholic dissemination of facts and interpretation. But what about our Jewish attitudes toward Christendom, toward Jesus especially? Are we to remain adamantorthodox—in our refusal to examine our own statements, our own facts, our own interpretations of the significance of the life of Jesus, the Jew? Have we examined our own books, official and otherwise, to reappraise our ofttimes jaundiced view of him in whose name Christianity was established? How long can we persist in ignoring his lofty and yet so simply stated prophetic and rabbinic teachings, merely on the grounds that he repeated much that was voiced by his prophetic predecessors and rabbinic contemporaries?
"How long before we can admit that his influence was a beneficial one—not only to the pagans but to the Jews of his time as well, and that only those who later took his name in vain profaned his teaching?"—American Judaism, Winter, 1963-64, p. 21.
The Jewish population of the United States is five million at present, but its growth is not keeping pace with that of the population of the country as a whole. Why? Because more and more Jews are intermarrying with people of other religious faiths and thereby cease to identify themselves with Jewish denominations. In fact, one Jewish author reports that only about 40 per cent of the Jews in this country are affiliated with Jewish synagogues. Those who try to be faithful in obedience to their traditional teachings and 613 laws, particularly the Orthodox Jews, find it increasingly difficult to hold their young people.
Many Render Token Service Only
Not long ago I visited a prominent rabbi in Washington, D.C. As I was about to leave, I looked at his beautiful synagogue and asked what time the morning service would be held on the following Sabbath, adding my wife and I would like to attend. He tactfully suggested that we come on Friday evening, when the attendance would be larger, for on Sabbath mornings those who attended were mostly women, children, and old men. I knew what he meant. The vast majority of Jewish men in the United States render token Sabbath observance by attending a synagogue service on Friday evening and then spend the ensuing morning and afternoon of God's holy day at their regular work or business.
Nevertheless, there are many God-fearing Jews, men as well as women, who devoutly, and to the best of their knowledge, serve the God of Israel loyally. Not all have bowed the knee to modern Baal. Among the many who disobey God by yielding to economic and social pressure, some feel a sense of guilt and shame for doing so. On a train one afternoon I sat by a Jewish butcher and his wife. When he learned that I was a Sabbathkeeper, tears began to roll down his cheeks as he said: "Oh, I would give anything to be keeping the Sabbath again, for it was one of the great joys of my life when I lived in the old country. But after I came to America, I allowed myself to begin to run my business on the Sabbath day, and I have done so ever since!"
Many Jews Becoming Seventh-day Adventists
There are many more Jews among Seventh-day Adventists than most of us suspect. We have several ordained ministers in this country and abroad who are true Jews by both birth and rebirth. Jewish students are enrolled in several Seventh-day Adventist schools here and abroad. Our efforts for the preservation of religious liberty, for the separation of church and state, to prevent disruption of the sequence of the seven days of the week by calendar reform, to defeat the enactment and enforcement of Sunday blue laws, to stem the plague of tobacco addiction and its evils, et cetera, have formed a bond of sympathy and friendship between us and the Jews. We need to appreciate this more and to let Jews of all classes and all denominations know that we respect and appreciate them, and that we are counting on them to be loyal to the God of Israel in the struggle to preserve religious freedom for all people.
On Sabbath, March 20, 1965, Seventh-day Adventists throughout the North American Division will be specially reminded of their obligations to the descendants of Abraham. Our magazine Israelite is still in circulation and costs $1.00 a year. This 32-page, illustrated periodical, with cover in two colors, is published quarterly to promote our Jewish work. Our people should be encouraged to subscribe to Israelite for themselves, for their Jewish friends, and to give liberally to the Israelite fund, which is used for placing this magazine in the hands of leading Jews throughout the country.