Repairing the teaching of contempt: Jules Isaac’s
contribution to Jewish-Catholic relations
Ó Australian Catholic University 2018
Abstract This paper surveys and evaluates the contribution of Jules Isaac to the reorien-
tation of relations between Christians and Jews. Jules Isaac, French educator, historian and
bureaucrat committed his life to the repair of relations between Christians and Jews. He
played a pivotal role in promoting consideration of Jews and Judaism at the Second Vatican
Council. His life and career, while little known or appreciated by religious educators in the
English-speaking world, reveal how an agile application of committed diplomacy, critical
intellectual endeavour and cooperation across religious boundaries contributed to an increase
in Christian self-understanding and a revitalised approach to interreligious relations. The
work of religious educators is indebted to the life and career of Jules Isaac.
Keywords Jules Isaac Á Jewish-Christian relations Á Supersessionism Á Teaching
Noted Jewish scholar, Susannah Heschel (Minnich et al. 2012, p. 760) thinks that ‘‘rarely
has any religious community engaged in as profound a theological reorientation as the
Second Vatican Council in reconsidering Roman Catholic teachings regarding Jews and
Judaism’’. The turnaround in Catholic Church attitudes to Jews and Judaism that occurred
with promulgation of the Vatican Council document Nostra Aetate—the declaration on the
relation of the Catholic Church to non-Christian religions—has been profound and broad.
For contemporary religious educators, the impact of these changes on their work is like-
wise deep and wide. Yet, the reasons for these changes and the key people and events in the
Maurice Ryan is the publisher at Lumino Press.
& Maurice Ryan
Publisher, Lumino Press, Hamilton, QLD, Australia
j. relig. educ.