In an emotional address to the ADL's annual meeting here, AbrahamFoxman said he is more troubled by the silence of Pat Robertson, JesseJackson and others than by anti-Jewish cartoon strips and controversialremarks by basketball players.
"If I am troubled, it's not because there is prejudice or bigotry orracism or anti-Semitism," Foxman said. "It's because I begin to hear thesilence of good people."
A handful of troubling incidents in the past few weeks has putChristian-Jewish relations in a precarious position. Together, Foxmansaid they have made Jews feel uneasy despite unprecedented successes forthe Jewish community.
The troubles started on Easter, when "B.C." cartoonist Johnny Hartused his Sunday comic strip to illustrate a Jewish menorah beinggradually snuffed out with the last words of Jesus, leaving the last boxshowing a cross.
At the same time, New York Knicks guard Charlie Ward drewcontroversy for remarks made during a Bible study group, where he andfellow players blamed Jews for the death of Jesus and said Jews arepersecuting Christians around the world.
Underlying all these events is an ongoing ad campaign by Jews forJesus which features Holocaust survivors testifying about theirChristian faith. Foxman has called those ads "deceptive and offensive." Taken as a whole, Foxman called the unrelated incidents "traumatic,"but said even more disturbing were the Christian leaders who did notspeak out against them.
Foxman said the incidents show that anti-Jewish sentiment continuesto fester, despite attempts by Pope John Paul II and leading Protestantsto clear up historical "perversions" of Christian teaching.
Still, relations with Catholics continue to be tense, as shown by atesty exchange on Sunday with Baltimore Cardinal William Keeler, aleading interfaith liaison in the U.S. church. Keeler criticized Jewsfor protesting the beatification of Pope Pius IX, who allowed a Jewishboy to be taken from his Italian family and raised as a Catholic.
That criticism did not sit well with either Foxman or the rest ofthe ADL. It's also a personally sensitive issue for Foxman, who wassheltered during the Holocaust by a Catholic family and baptized, onlyto face a custody struggle when his parents survived the concentrationcamps in Poland.
"We respect your right to do what you do, but we also have a rightto say we don't like it," Foxman said in a follow-up interview.
On Tuesday, the Vatican and a leading Jewish umbrella group launcheda new round of talks on interfaith matters, with both sides warning thatit could be the last round if the other side pushes its own agenda.While Foxman said he appreciates the high-level talks and gestures, hesaid the message has not gotten to the people in the pews.
"We assumed that ... with all these directives from on-high, themessage had filtered down," Foxman said. "I think we were wrong. Themessage has not filtered down."