Good morning Rabbi! I am a Catholic currently studying the Old Testament, and have come across a few doubts while talking with other Christian folks, about the use of traditional Jewish items. I just read your answer about the Mezuzah, which was very informative, yet I have a following doubt: I’ve encountered (Protestant) acquaintances use the Star of David as jewelry, placing a Mezuzah on their doorpost, and arguing that since Jesus quoted Deuteronomy, and He was a Jew (and that we’re all Jewish anyway, etc.), thus it’s “OK” to use. Although I do have European Jewish ancestry, my family is culturally and generationally Catholic, so it feels strange- I was taught to love, respect, and defend my Jewish brothers and sisters, I love the traditions my Jewish friends have taught me, but I was also taught to not appropriate Jewish items as it’d be very disrespectful- (like, for us, seeing Catholic sacramentals being used for decoration or mindless accessories, for example). Am I correct in this stance? I admire Jewish art and cultural traditions (as they are the foundations to mine), so what would be “acceptable” and what is down right offensive? Thank you for your time and help! May G-d be with you, -Rebecca-
Shalom, Thank you for your question. I certainly cannot answer for those people you have met who use Jewish signs and objects, even though they are not Jewish. Their claim that they are Jewish is somewhat troubling (even offensive perhaps) to the Jewish people. Whilst the Christin church in the past claimed to have replaced the Jewish people, the more recent statements have changed that view. I quote from some Catholic sources :- “Some have argued that "the New Covenant "abrogated" or "superseded" the Old Covenant, and that the Sinai Covenant was discarded by God and replaced with another made by Jesus. The Second Vatican Council, in Dei Verbum and Nostra Aetate, rejected these ideas. In a major address in 1980, Pope John Paul II linked the renewed understanding of Scripture with the Church's own understanding of her relationship with the Jewish people, stating that the dialogue, as "the meeting between the people of God of the Old Covenant, never revoked by God (cf. Rom. 11.29), and that of the New Covenant is at the same time a dialogue within our Church, that is to say, between the first and the second part of her Bible" (Pope John Paul II, Mainz, November 17, 1980, no. 3)."(cf. also God's Mercy Endures Forever, no. 6) “In short, the Church believes that the Jewish Covenant is still valid and that Jews are still called to fidelity to that Covenant. …” Based on this, the Jewish people expect the Christian world to appreciate the Jewish people as a special unique entity in G-d’s world. While we can appreciate that Christians and Jews will not always see eye to eye on every issue, the very first step in respecting each other is to recognize the self-definition and understanding that the Jewish people have for themselves. When others come along and tell me that they are Jews (something that Judaism denies), and that they have the right to define the use of Jewish objects and worship, it shows a disregard for the independent right of the Jewish people to their own self-hood, and their own relationship with G-d. With this in mind, I would like to thank you and strengthen you in your love of the Jewish people, as a people and religion whose specialness should be respected. Thank you for your care and concern not to misuse our religious traditions. May you be blessed to share this message with your community, and those you come into contact with. As to appropriate ways to express your love of Israel – in general objects that have an artistic form rather than a religious one would be fine for you to use. Jewish painting and pictures, music and books. When it comes to religious objects (tefillin, mezuzah, Torah scrolls, etc), or practicing religious traditions (such as the Passover seder etc), one should show more care, and respect these things by leaving them for the Jewish people. May you be blessed with all that is good.