A fascinating conversation about Notre Dame and the Jews with Rabbi Professor Jeffrey Woolf, PhD in medieval history from Harvard University.
Notre Dame brings up a very dark history of the Catholic Church and the Jews, encapsulating the history of Jews in general and especially the history of Jews in Europe.
Notre Dame is one of the most important and beautiful iconic buildings in the world, especially in the Catholic world, many hundreds of years old. Interestingly enough, much of its artwork reflects Jews and Judaism. Click here to read more on that.
The news of the Notre Dame fire brings many Jews back to the time of one of the most horrific events in medieval Jewish history, when the Catholic Church burnt every single Jewish book found in France at the time, in the square by the Church in front of Notre Dame. To this day, Jews read a poem every year written by a witness to this event, the Maharam of Ruttenburg. The Catholic Church thought that by burning every single Jewish book, “the people of the book” would no longer be able to live Jewish lives and they would convert to Christianity. Rabbis at the time thought the Church would succeed, because they had no books to use to teach anymore. This horrendous book burning also began a whole string of Jewish book burnings by the Catholic Church across Europe.
We all understand that the Notre Dame is a precious 800 year old historic treasure. We also know that that treasure also symbolizes the deliberate attempt of the Catholic Church to destroy our people and our religion.
The Church literally built their vision for the downfall of Judaism into the structure, with the “synagogue” on the left losing her crown, a broken staff, slipping tablets and blinded by the serpent (the sin). Compared to the upright triumphant Church on the right.
Regardless of the dark history Notre Dame and the Catholic Church hold for the Jews, there is still a profound sadness that this iconic landmark suffered such fire damage. Whatever horrific atrocities have been done in the name of the Church throughout history, we are blessed to have so many Christians today who love and support Israel and the Jewish people, and vehemently disagree with how the Church treated Jews over the centuries.