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As a convert from Judaism, what do you think are the major misconceptions that many Jews have about the Catholic Church? As a Catholic, what are the misconceptions that many Catholics have about Judaism and the Jewish people?

Roy H. Schoeman: Prior to my conversion, the central misconceptions I held about the Catholic Church was, of course, that it was in fundamental theological error, a misguided, naïve illegitimate offshoot of the true Judaism. I saw Catholics as misguided followers of a false Messiah engaging in a host of childish and superstitious practices.

I also had the mistaken belief that the Catholic Faith was "anti-Semitic" and denigrated Jews and Judaism. Nothing could be further from the truth. What greater honor could be accorded Judaism than to say that it is the religion of God Himself, and when God became Man, He became a Jew? What greater honor could be accorded to the Jewish race than to say that they alone, among all the peoples of the earth, are related by blood to the incarnate God? Or that it was from their race that came the only perfect human creature, the Blessed Virgin Mary? Even as the most fervent, enthusiastic Jew, I never could have ascribed a glory to Judaism comparable to that assigned it by the Catholic Faith.

The greatest misconception that Catholics hold about Jews is the terrible, pernicious one that somehow Jews don’t need Jesus! It is natural that Jews should hold this view – to them Jesus was, after all, a false Messiah who indirectly caused incalculable disaster to befall Jews – but it is tragic that, in the interest of "dialogue" and a false ecumenism, this view is sometimes voiced even by Catholics, and even by Catholics who believe that they are representing the Church.

This was one of my primary motivations for writing the book. No one can know as well as a Jew who has entered the Church how deeply Jews need Jesus and the sacraments to satisfy the archetypical "Jewish" thirst for God. This is what lies behind the fervor of most Jewish "converts" to bring as many of their fellow Jews as possible to their fulfillment as Jews by entering the Church. It is no coincidence that just days after he prayed to a God in whom he did not believe for help in "improving the lot of the Jews", the Jewish agnostic Alphonse Ratisbonne received an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary which resulted in his conversion, his becoming a priest, and his founding a religious order to pray for the conversion of the Jews.

Which brings me to the greatest single misconception that Jews have about the Church, that it is anti-Semitic. It is ironic that Jews make this accusation about the centuries when the Church actively evangelized the Jews, which they see as having been an "attack" on the Jews by the Church. In reality such evangelization is the greatest act of charity, of brotherly love, conceivable. On the other hand, Jews tend to think that today, in having abandoned its "mission to the Jews", the Church has finally ended its reign of anti-Semitism. In fact the exact opposite is true. What could be more anti-Semitic than refusing to share the Gospel, the Good News, the joy and fulfillment and salvation brought by the Jewish Messiah with the Jews themselves, through whom He first came?

Of course conversion must be left to the conscience of the individual, and his relationship with God should be respected whatever framework it is in, but the fullness of the Truth and the ultimate relationship with God is only found in the Catholic Church. How can Catholics refuse to even try to bring this treasure to the Jews? After all, it was to the Jews that Jesus first came, born a Jew to be the promised Jewish Messiah and to bring redemption to all mankind, but to the "Jew first and also the Greek" (Rom 1:16, 2:9, 2:10).

Avoiding sharing the Gospel with Jews is one of the greatest possible disservices to Jesus, who wept over the failure of His own to recognize Him (Luke 13, Matthew 23), as well as one of the greatest possible acts of "anti-Semitism" to the Jew, depriving him of his "own" God, of the blessings and promises which were made first to the Jews and only after were bestowed on the rest of humanity.

IgnatiusInsight.com: The second chapter is titled, "How Well Did the Jews Do?" What is the focus of that question and what is the short answer?

Schoeman: It is facile to think that because so few Jews followed Jesus, they failed in the mission for which they were chosen, that is, to bring the Messiah, salvation, to all mankind. But even to pose the issue this way is to see how false this conclusion must be. For obviously, the Jews did bring the Messiah to all mankind. Christianity has spread throughout the world, and so the Jews must have fundamentally succeeded in their assigned task.

They – or at least some of them were faithful servants of God praying for the Messiah before He came, faithful disciples of His during His life, and effective apostles of His after His death, spreading the knowledge of Him throughout the world. All these tasks were assigned to Jews, and all of them were fulfilled successfully, or else the Church could not have spread throughout the world. Of course this was the work of a relatively small percentage of Jews, a "faithful remnant", but that is the way God always works with mankind. The pattern is repeated time after time. In Old Testament times, one can think of Noah, of how his virtue resulted in the human race surviving the flood, of Sodom and Gemorrah and how God was willing to spare them if only ten virtuous men could be found, of how for the sake of Moses God spared the entire Jewish race during the Exodus.

On and on and on, even to recent times, when during the 1930’s Jesus told St. Faustina that it was for her sake that He would withhold the worst of His wrath, not only on Poland but on the whole earth. Thus it is always a very small percentage – a "Faithful remnant" – whether of Jews or of Catholics, who are truly pleasing to God and bring down blessings -- who "carry the load" if you will -- for the rest. This theme is developed quite fully in the book.

IgnatiusInsight.com: How has Judaism changed over the centuries, especially since the first century A.D.? What is the present state of Judaism?

Schoeman: In the book I detail three major shifts in Jewish theology over the past two thousand years.

The first was the one necessitated by the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The entire sacramental system of Judaism as laid out in the Old Testament was dependent on animal sacrifices that required the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem. When the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 such sacrifices were no longer possible, and so the Jews were left with no way to purify themselves or atone for sins. Thus the entire system "broke down". In response to this crisis, the leading Rabbis convened in nearby Jamnia and redefined the sacramental system of Judaism, replacing the role of animal sacrifice with good works, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, etc. This revision of Judaism is known as "Rabbinic Judaism" as opposed to the former "Temple Judaism", and serves as the foundation for the Judaism that still exists today.

The second major shift in Judaism occurred in part in response the threat of Jewish conversion to Christianity, and in part simply as a result of the "Enlightenment" with its the replacement of a theocentric world view with a more materialistic one. That was the negation of the expectation of a personal Messiah that had always previously been at the very center of Judaism. Today, a minority of Jews still believe in the coming of the Messiah, yet this is in direct contradiction to all that Judaism had formerly held. For instance, the greatest of Jewish Rabbinical authorities of the Middle Ages, Maimonides, taught that almost the only thing a Jew could do which would sever him from the Jewish community, and forfeit his share in the world to come, was to not believe in the coming of the Messiah.

Finally, and perhaps most tragically, partly as a result of the Holocaust and partly as a result of the further influence of modernism, many Jews no longer even believe in an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing God active in human affairs. As one prominent contemporary Jewish theologian put it, traditional views of God the Redeemer must be abandoned "in the presence of burning children". Thus Judaism, which introduced to all of mankind the knowledge of the all-good and all-powerful loving God has come full circle, at least in its more modern manifestations. The more orthodox "denominations", which comprise only a few percent of today’s Jews, have done a better job of maintaining the historic Jewish faith.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Catholic-Jewish relations have had a high profile in recent years. What have been some of the positives of discussions between Catholics and Jews on an official (or semi-official) level? What negatives, if any, have resulted?

Schoeman: Probably the greatest good that has resulted is the diminution of some negative stereotypes held by some on both sides, and the recognition of the goodwill, earnestness, and love of God shared by genuinely religious Jews and genuinely religious Catholics. There has also been a gratifying increase in the appreciation Catholics have for Judaism and the Hebrew scriptures. The Jewish side has come to understand that, rather than having contempt for Judaism, genuine Catholicism holds it in the highest regard as the religion and people into which God incarnated. I think it was St. Ignatius who said that he would consider it the highest honor if found he had Jewish blood in him, thus being related by the flesh to God made Man.

There has been, however, also a very notable downside. Both sides have an interest in establishing ground rules that enable the dialog to move forward in an atmosphere that minimizes tension and conflict. One of those rules seems to have been an initial understanding that there would be no attempt on the Catholic side to evangelize the Jews. This "understanding" seems to have evolved into the theology that the Catholic Church now understands that such evangelization is inappropriate -- that Jews have their own way to God, the Old Covenant, and the Catholics theirs, the New.

This "dual covenant" theology seems to have been adopted to avoid the intrinsic, basic conflict at the heart of the Jewish-Catholic dialog. That is that either the Catholic Church is itself the continuation of Judaism after the coming of the Jewish Messiah – i.e., the Church is post-Messianic Judaism – or it is nothing at all. After all, according to the Catholic Faith, Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. Jesus was the point of Judaism, the fulfillment of all its hopes, for which the Jews had prayed for millennia. When He came, He came to the Jews as a Jew, to bring the Jews themselves first into the new relationship between God and Man that we know as the Catholic Church. A Jew who does not recognize this is fundamentally missing the central point of his own religion, however beautiful the accoutrements are.

Naturally, such a view openly expressed would immediately torpedo the goodwill and collegiality of the dialog group, yet without it there is not much Catholic Faith left. So the hard Truth must be replaced either by meaningless verbal meanderings, or outright heresy such as the "dual covenant" theory. Such a theory poses no threat to the Jews, since according to it Jesus came only for the Gentiles, not for the Jews, and never intended for the Jews to convert. This preserves the convivial atmosphere and enables the meetings to continue year after year, but at the cost of negating the Faith. It was just such heresies taking root in ecumenical circles that necessitated the basic restatement of the Faith in "Dominus Iesus", and the firestorm that that document produced in Catholic-Jewish dialog circles is evidence of how sorely it was needed.

(Read Part Two of this exclusive interview with Roy H. Schoeman.)

The author, Roy H. Schoeman, was born in a suburb of New York City of “Conservative" Jewish parents who had fled Nazi Germany.  His Jewish education and formation was received under some of the most prominent Rabbis in contemporary American Jewry, including Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, probably the foremost Conservative Rabbi in the U.S. and his hometown Rabbi growing up;  Rabbi Arthur Green, later the head of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College who was his religion teacher and mentor during high school and early college; and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, a prominent Hasidic Rabbi with whom he lived in Israel for several months.

His secular education included a B.Sc. from M.I.T. and an M.B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard Business School. Midway through a career of teaching and consulting (he had been appointed to the faculty of the Harvard Business School) he experienced an unexpected and instantaneous conversion to Christianity which led to a dramatic refocus of his activities. Since then he has pursued theological studies at several seminaries, helped produce and host a Catholic Television talk show, and edited and written for several Catholic books and reviews.  This is his first full-length book.

Visit Roy's website, which contains much more information about Salvation is from the Jews, at www.salvationisfromthejews.com.

Salvation is from the Jews:
The Role of Judaism in Salvation History from Abraham to the Second Coming

Author: Roy H. Schoeman
Length: 395 pages
Edition: Paperback
Your Price: $16.95

Salvation is From the Jews traces the role of Judaism and the Jewish people in God’s plan for the salvation of mankind, from Abraham through the Second Coming, as revealed by the Catholic faith and by a thoughtful examination of history. It will give Christians a deeper understanding of Judaism, both as a religion in itself and as a central component of Christian salvation.

To Jews it reveals the incomprehensible importance, nobility and glory that Judaism most truly has. It examines the unique and central role Judaism plays in the destiny of the world. It documents that throughout history attacks on Jews and Judaism have been rooted not in Christianity, but in the most anti-Christian of forces.

Areas addressed include: the Messianic prophecies in Jewish scripture; the anti-Christian roots of Nazi anti-Semitism; the links between Nazism and Arab anti-Semitism; the theological insights of major Jewish converts; and the role of the Jews in the Second Coming.

“Perplexed by controversies new and old about the destiny of the Jewish people? Read this book by a Jew who became a Catholic for a well-written, provocative, ground-breaking account. Some of the answers most have never heard before.”

—Ronda Chervin, Ph.D., Hebrew-Catholic


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