In an earlier post I talked a little about neo-Fascism in Greece and how it is inimical to Orthodoxy. Part and parcel of Golden Dawn is an anti-Semitism in the form it assumed after the forgery and publication of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion at the end of the nineteenth century. Take a look at this article from the 7 June 2014 online edition of The Guardian. There are reports that Golden Dawn has the support of some Orthodox bishops and clergy in Greece. There have also been Greek bishops who have spoken out against Golden Dawn. Some of them have received abuse and death threats for their courage.

After the Shoah, the Catholic church repudiated its anti-Judaism, as have many Protestant churches. Although there have been statements and studies by courageous bishops and theologians, to date the Orthodox churches have not spoken unambiguously and unanimously to repudiate and repent of the anti-Judaism in Orthodox tradition. This is in part because of the nature of authority in Orthodoxy; it would take a Great and Holy Council to speak in that way, although local churches can (and should) do so before such a council is convened.

But the issue for us Orthodox has to do with more than just the nature of authority. I’m aware that when I advocate that the church “repudiate and repent of the anti-Judaism in Orthodox tradition” I am raising the question of the meaning of tradition in Orthodoxy. The church has not yet had the discussion about what tradition really is, and what its theological place in the life of the church is. Can any part of Holy Tradition be repented of?  Can any part of it be repudiated? Anti-Judaism is part and parcel of the writings and sermons of the Fathers; the question is, what does the church do about it today?

With the scheduling of the long-awaited Great and Holy Council in 2016, the church has the priceless opportunity to speak authoritatively to rid our tradition of anti-Judaism. I do not know if this subject is on the agenda of the council, but if not I think we should get it on the agenda. I’m under no illusions about the difficulty of doing this, nor about the difficulty of finding a common voice against anti-Judaism. In addition, there are already questions about the composition of the council and its method of reaching agreement on issues (that is, by consensus). These factors make the task difficult but not impossible.

There is a vast literature on the history of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism. (As an aside, remember that the two are not identical! Anti-Judaism is a Christian theological motif, anti-Semitism is a modern form of racism. Both can exist together, and have existed together, in the church since the emergence of anti-Semitism in the nineteenth century.) The literature on Orthodoxy and anti-Judaism is more limited. Here are a few sources to get you started. I will list more in future posts.

Hackel, Sergei. “The Relevance of Post-Holocaust Theology to the Thought and Practise of the Russian Orthodox Church.” In: Natalia Pecherskaya, ed., Theology After Auschwitz and Its Correlation with Theology After the Gulag: Consequences and Conclusions (St. Petersburg, Russia: St. Petersburg School of Religion and Philosophy, 1998), pp. 63-77.

For a different perspective, see in the same volume: Benevich, Grigori, “Judaism and the Future of Orthodoxy,” pp. 78-92.

Both essays appear in the second volume of a two-volume set of essays on the specific situation of Jews and Orthodox Christians in the Soviet Union, but these two contributions are addressed to wider questions than the historical situation that prompted the essays. I think the late Fr. Sergei’s essay in particular is nothing short of prophetic.

The second essay comes from the 1988 collection of essays entitled Kirche und Synagoge: Handbuch zur Geschichte von Christen und Juden: Darstellung mit Quellen, edited by Karl Heinrich Rengstorf and Siegfried von Kortzfleisch. In volume 2, see particularly chapters 13 (Juden und Christen in Rumänien) and 14 (Russische Christenheit und Ostjudentum). As the title of the volumes indicates, these are historical essays. They provide an excellent overview of the historical situation between Christians and Jews in both Romania and Russia.