Saturday, 27 October 2012

Healing the division between Jews and Christians - the Savile Connection

The recent scandal surrounding Jimmy Savile raises some questions about the relationship between Jews and Christians, but not in obvious ways as I shall explain. Savile was apparently an avowed Roman Catholic, but he was also a strong supporter of the State of Israel according to the Jewish Chronicle, (he didn't believe Israel should have given back land after the Six Day war), as well as a fundraiser for a number of Jewish charities, and Christian ones too - rather shockingly his intent may have been to get close to children of all colours and creeds, and this naturally raises concerns for both Jewish and Christian parents. The Catholic Church has of course had its fair share of abuse scandals, and Savile now has added to the sorrow of ordinary catholics. He received a papal knighthood for instance, although now it may be revoked. However, dig a little deeper and another aspect arises.

The Jewish Chronicle reports that a memorial to Savile has now been removed from the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board (LJWB) building. This shows that he was close to the Jewish community and Savile claimed to be the 'most Jewish Catholic you will ever meet.'
This made me wonder whether there is a link between Savile's name and the city of Seville - a centre of Marano catholics and a place of persecution for Jews through the Spanish Inquisition. Seville had incidentally grown wealthy through trade with the new world. These catholics were however forced converts from Judaism, some embraced the faith, others secretly kept their Jewish ways and traditions. Of course it is not necessary to refer to one's ethnic identity in this matter and even if Savile was a Marano Jew it would not be relevant to the case against him. Other Jews, such as Esther Rantzen, have also acted strongly in support of child protection. In the question of child abuse both perpetrators and victims are from all areas of society, some will be Jews, but many are Gentiles too, so ethnicity is not the issue here.

But the point I want to raise here is the tragedy of the Inquisition, that having failed to convert Jews through love and faith, the Catholic Church abused its power base by trying to force Jews to convert through fear [although according to this BBC Radio 4 programme the Spanish Christians were good at converting Jews to Christ through love prior to their forced conversion]. Whereas Paul wished to make Jews jealous to win them to Christ through the Christian community living out a godly, blessed life, a Church that had lost its way and faith thought it could win through force and intimidation. This is an ongoing tragedy that needs to be remembered.

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