Let the Spirit of the Season Thwart Hate

’Tis the season for religious holidays. As Catholics celebrate the advent season, Our Jewish brothers and sisters are preparing to celebrate Hanukkah starting next week amid a rise in antisemitism. 

According to NYPD statistics, antisemitic hate crimes in the city more than doubled last month compared to figures for the same period a year ago. The NYPD recorded 45 antisemitism hate crimes in the city in November, compared to 20 in November 2021 — representing a 125% spike. 

New York City has seen 278 antisemitic attacks in 2022, compared to 182 in 2021, which is a 52.7% jump, according to NYPD statistics. 

Last month two men were arrested at Penn Station for allegedly plotting to shoot up a synagogue in the city. In another incident, a man threw two rocks at a Jewish middle school on the Upper East Side. Police listed the incident as a hate crime. And just last week, the NYPD was investigating another hate crime after a father and son were shot with a BB gun outside a Kosher supermarket on Staten Island. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs urged Christians in a Nov. 30 statement to decry hate-filled statements and violence aimed at Jewish individuals, homes, and institutions. 

“In unequivocal terms, we condemn any and all violence directed at the Jewish people, whether motivated by religious, racial, or political grievances,” the committee said. “The rising trend of antisemitic incidents has become even more painful in light of the Church’s relationship to the Jewish tradition and our connections to the Jewish people in dialogue and friendship.” 

The real “opening” of Catholic relations with Jews came at the Second Vatican Council with the document “Nostra Aetate” (1965). Item No. 4 of the document speaks about the Church’s relationship with Judaism: “In her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.” 

A particularly monumental moment in the history of Jewish-Catholic relations was the first visit of a pope to a synagogue. Pope John Paul II visited the Great Synagogue of Rome in 1986, and his speech was both moving and historic. “The Jewish religion is not ‘extrinsic’ to us, but in a certain way is ‘intrinsic’ to our own religion,” he said. “With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.” 

In this edition, we write about Sister Celia Deutsch of Our Lady of Refuge Parish in Flatbush, who works with a group called the Interfaith Coalition of Brooklyn, which includes Jewish and Muslim faithful. 

The interfaith group sponsors gatherings designed to unite people in the spirit of cooperation. The group recently held its 22nd Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at the Episcopal Church of the Nativity. The group brings together Our Lady of Refuge Church, the East Midwood Jewish Center, Temple B’ShERT, the Turkish Cultural Center of Brooklyn, and the Episcopal Church of the Nativity — representing the Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Episcopal faiths. 

In the spirit of the coalition’s efforts, let all of us spend this holiday season mending hearts to thwart hate crimes.