Harman Patil (Editor)

Hebrew Catholics

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Hebrew Catholics

Hebrew Catholics (in modern Israeli Hebrew עברים קתולים Ivrím Qatholím) are a movement of Jews converted to the faith of the Catholic Church and Catholics of non-Jewish origin who choose to keep Mosaic traditions in light of Catholic doctrine. The phrase was coined by Elias Friedman, OCD (1987) who was himself a converted Jew.



Hebrew Catholics subscribe to the doctrines of the Catholic faith and are in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. One point of differentiation lies not in dogmatic beliefs but in liturgical practices. For example, their liturgical calendar might differ from the liturgical calendar used by Latin Catholics in their retention of certain Jewish holidays. Hebrew Catholics may celebrate Passover, Rosh Hashana, Shavuot, etc. and even wear traditional ritual wear like kippot, tallitot, tefillin, use mezuzot and keep many mitsvot (commandments) in the Torah as a sign of their heritage. Where these Jewish holidays and practices do not conflict with Catholic doctrine, they are kept for ethnic reasons, much as Irish Americans might celebrate Saint Patrick's Day. Saint Paul the Apostle is mentioned in passing in The Acts of the Apostles to have observed the Jewish religious holidays (Acts 18:21; Acts 20:6; Acts 20:16; and in 1 Corinthians 16:8).

The movement is not a sectarian group within the Catholic Church, nor is it a schismatic movement outside it.


Hebrew Catholics are constituted of people with both Jewish and non-Jewish origins. Some are Jewish converts to Catholicism who live in Israel with Hebrew as a first language; the vast majority are the children of foreign workers who were already Catholics, but were born and grew up in Israel, and also have Hebrew as their first language. The main associations of the movement are the Association of Hebrew Catholics (AHC), Remnant Of Israel (ROI), and Miriam Bat Tzion. The AHC and the ROI are English-speaking organizations, and Miriam Bat Tzion is French-speaking. There is also a group of Spanish-speaking Jewish Catholics in Maracay.

According to David Moss in 2000, the current president of the AHC, their number is around 10,000 people. The countries with the largest membership are the USA and Israel, but members are also found in Canada, France, Italy, Australia, Spain, England, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, and Germany.

Hebrew Catholics should not be confused with Messianic Jews, who are independent Jewish Christian denominations, many of them Sabbatarian Protestants, some of whom celebrate Jewish holy days and emphasize Jewish elements of Christianity. Hebrew Catholics are in full communion with the Bishop of Rome and are not an independent movement, and may be either liberal or traditionalist. While some form of corporate ecclesial and ritual identity had been raised by some Hebrew Catholics prior to 2009, Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus prompted suggestions that Personal Ordinariates could perhaps also be appropriate for other groups, such as Hebrew Catholics, who desire to preserve their identity within the Catholic Church.

Some halachic points of view

According to Bloomer in 2008, "There is a broad range of Jewish Catholics. From those who observe nothing much of the Jewish ways up to those who observe the same as Orthodox Jews. There are many different opinions but they all try to accept each other, whatever their level of observance."

Furthermore, Fr. David Neuhaus, patriarchal vicar for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Jerusalem and himself a Jew by birth, declared in 2008 that "Dietary laws are not obligatory for those who live in Christ. I would only understand dietary laws being observed by Jewish Hebrew Catholics if they had always practised these laws before becoming Catholic. It certainly does no harm. But adopting the laws as Catholics (or as secular Jews who have become Catholic) does not make much sense as we have the fullness of the promise in Jesus."

In modern-day Israel

Since most Christians in Israel and the Palestinian Territories are of Arab ethnicity, Christian clergy are mostly involved in community work with Israeli Arabs or with residents of the Palestinian territories, but rarely with Israeli Jews – save Russian immigrants who consider themselves Christians. Israeli Arabs who belong to the Christian religion are recognized as such under Israeli law, but Jews who have converted are in most cases still registered as Jewish, because the State is very reluctant to recognize such conversions, even though there is no law against them. Some changes in attitude have taken place, as Israeli society is becoming more accustomed to the presence of a variety of religious denominations.

Another sensitivity is regarding Christians of Jewish origin who still regard themselves as Jewish – Messianic Jews – considered by both Jews and Christians to be a marginal movement.

A significant aspect in Jewish-Christian and Jewish-Catholic relations in Israel is government policy. Ever since the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, Judaism has been used in government policy and legislation as a means to give Israeli society a sense of identity. As a result, all matrimonial laws in Israel are religious, because no civil marriages can take place. Education is also segregated to a large degree between various religious denominations. As a result, a general social attitude of disrespect towards non-Jews has evolved within Israeli society, causing great difficulties for them when they try to find employment or rent apartments in Jewish cities. These attitudes were increased following the Six-Day War and the construction of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian Territories after 1967. The Settlers had become a new political force, and this led to a greater sense of animosity by Jews towards anything viewed by them as non-Jewish.

One factor mitigating the external appearances of that animosity was the spread of media coverage of Israeli society, which caused politicians as well as the general public to refrain from openly advocating violence against non-Jews in general. In addition, as the Israeli government is receiving considerable support from Evangelical Christians around the world, it must restrain some of the negative attitudes against Christians prevalent among many Jews. This was instrumental in 1997, when some Knesset members tried to pass a bill that would criminalize any proselytism by Christians in Israel, but the government under Benjamin Netanyahu blocked their attempt. Nevertheless, social antagonism among Jews in Israel towards Christians is still prevalent, even though less visible on a daily basis. However, some sporadic acts of violence against Christians – foreign and Israeli – are being committed by ultra-Orthodox Jewish individuals.

The most severe act of violence so far was on 20 March 2008, Amiel Ortiz, the 15-year-old son of Messianic Jewish Pastor David Ortiz in the settlement of Ariel, was critically injured and lost two fingers by an explosive package that was meant for his father. It was later discovered that the explosive was sent by a religious settler named Ya'akov (Jack) Teitel.

Animosity towards Catholics of Jewish origin in particular was displayed in 1995, when Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger visited Israel and the Chief Rabbi Meir Lau publicly accused him of betraying the Jewish people.

As a result of negative stance against Christians, even though there is no law against Jews converting to Christianity or Christians living in Jewish cities, many Jews are very reluctant to visit in a church or enter into friendly relations with any Jewish convert to Christianity or any Christian – Israeli or foreign – who is trying to find employment or residence within the Jewish sector in Israel.

Vatican attitudes towards Israeli Catholics of Jewish origin have also shifted. From 1955, unofficial communities began performing the mass in Hebrew with official Vatican endorsement. However, the Vatican has kept a low-key attitude towards this congregation, in order not to antagonize the Arabic-speaking Catholic community, which may not favor Catholics with pro-Jewish sentiments. [citation needed]

The number of Israeli Catholics of non-Arab origin increased during the 1990s, due primarily to immigration from the former Soviet Union. As a result, the Vatican changed its policies in 2003, for the first time ordaining Jean-Baptiste Gourion as Auxiliary Bishop to overlook the Hebrew Catholic community in Israel. The appointment of Fr. David Neuhaus as vicar upon Gourion's death in 2003; however, is not in conformity with the importance that the Holy See ostensibly attributes to the newly emerging community. On the other hand, Neuhaus did participate in the Synod for Middle Eastern clergy as a special invitee of the Pope, and Hebrew – for the first time ever – was one of the official languages in which Radio Vatican covered the event.

Notable people

  • Fr. Diego Lainez - second Superior General of the Society of Jesus
  • St. Angelus of Jerusalem ‒ member of the Order of Discalced Carmelites
  • St. John of Avila ‒ spiritual director of Santa Teresa de Jesus
  • St. Teresa of Ávila ‒ co-founder of the Order of Discalced Carmelites
  • St. John of the Cross ‒ co-founder of the Order of Discalced Carmelites
  • Msg. Pablo de Santa María ‒ born Solomon Halevy
  • Fray Luis de León ‒ poet, humanist, Spanish translator
  • Fr. Benito Arias Montano ‒ priest, author, Spanish translator
  • Luis Carvajal y de la Cueva ‒ Spanish conquistador in Mexico
  • Jacob Frank
  • Fr. Augustin-Marie of the Blessed Sacrament ‒ born Hermann Cohen
  • Fr. Jacob Lieberman
  • Fr. Edgardo Mortara
  • Fr. Maria Theodor Ratisbonne
  • Fr. Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne ‒ founder of the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion
  • St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross ‒ born Edith Stein, member of the Order of Discalced Carmelites
  • Sister Rosa Stein ‒ member of the Order of Discalced Carmelites
  • Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger ‒ archbishop of Paris
  • Fr. Oswald Rufeisen ‒ member of the Order of Discalced Carmelites
  • Fr. Elias Friedman ‒ member of the Order of Discalced Carmelites
  • Fr. Arthur Klyber ‒ member of the Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris
  • Fr. Joseph Andrickson
  • Fr. Bruno Hussar
  • David Goldstein ‒ Catholic apologist
  • Gustav Mahler ‒ Classical composer
  • Roy Schoeman ‒ Harvard University professor
  • Bishop Jean-Baptiste Gourion ‒ auxiliary archbishop of Jerusalem
  • Henryk Wieniawski ‒ virtuoso violinist and composer
  • Israel Zolli ‒ former chief rabbi in Rome, Italy, during World War II; converted to Catholicism in February 1945
  • References

    Hebrew Catholics Wikipedia

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