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 by Roy Schoeman (San Francisco: Ignatius  Press)

Can anything good for Catholics come from M.I.T. and Harvard Business School? This is only one of the many surprises for readers of a fresh synthesis of salvation history in relation to Jews and Catholics just  out from Ignatius Press. 

Written by a former Jewish Harvard Business professor with a spectacular conversion story to the Catholic faith, Salvation is from the Jews, explores God's Providence for the Jewish people in ways that enlighten, inspire and thrill the soul of the Hebrew-Catholic.   

Sceptical? Have you read more than enough and can't absorb anything   more? That's the way I, a Hebrew-Catholic for more than 40 years and editor of conversion story books(The Ingrafting and Bread from Heaven), felt when Roy Schoeman's manuscript arrived for an endorsement.   

About 30 pages into it, I stopped reading in a desultory manner, and, at the edge of my seat, started praying while turning the pages faster and faster. I liked the popular but thorough and solid style of the book.   

To wet your appetite here are some ideas in the book new to me:  

God wanted the Jews of Old Testament times to be totally separate from the Gentiles  because the pagan gods (idols) were not superstitions, but were demonic spirits. 

Many Jews claim that events after the time of Christ do not fit the Jewish Scripture's prophecies of what would happen when the Messiah came, thus thinking they can prove Jesus was not the Messiah.  Schoeman shows, as other apologists do that this can be explained by taking into account that some of the prophecies refer to Christ's Second Coming rather than his first, while others refer to spiritual events not visible in the physical world. What was new to me was the application of this principle to the immediate and radical release of the dead from limbo. 

As for Jews claiming that Christian views of the afterlife are alien to Judaism, Maimonides, the great Jewish philosopher ofthe Middle Ages labeled as atheists and unbelievers unworthy to belong tothe Jewish community anyone who failed to believe "with perfect faith" in the resurrection of the dead. 

Schoeman masterfully summarizes the evidence of Hitler's involvement withSatanism and how closely allied the mentors of men like Saddam and Arafat were to Hitler. The quote that shocked me the most was from a letter AnwarSadat wrote to Hitler after the war, when Sadat mistakenly thought Hitler was still alive:   

"I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart. Even if you appear to have been defeated, in reality you are the victor. You succeeded in creating dissensions between Churchill, the old man, and his allies, the Sons of Satan."   

In 1953 Sadat wrote that Hitler had been falsely demeaned. On the contrary, he had been great in trying "to save the world from this malignant evil (the Jews)." 

Schoeman, carefully distinguishing between defined teachings of the Church and speculation, asks the reader to consider the possibility that Satan, knowing that the Second Coming must be preceded by the conversion of the Jewish people, inspired the Holocaust with the intent to either eliminate the Jews entirely or, failing that, to ensure that the survivors would associate Christianity with Nazism. Might today's attempts by contemporary Arab leaders to eliminate the Jewish state be the next phase in his campaign to avert the Second Coming? 

Orthodox Jews who went to their deaths during the Nazi holocaust retained hope to the end far more often than less religious Jews.One such orthodox Jew proclaimed in the face of despair: "The Jewish way is to bless and to hope and to bless and to hope, until hope and blessing surmount the pain and even the bitterness, and the living learn how to go on." 

The train that carried St. Edith Stein to the concentration camp was composed entirely of baptized Jews.  

A key to the meaning of Judaism post the Resurrection of Jesus is the intriguing passage from St. Paul (in Romans 11:16-24) concerning theingrafting of the Gentiles onto the tree with Jewish roots. After a fascinating analysis of the use of the word "seed" in Scripture, Schoeman concludes that the Jews retain the "blessing by nature" because they are the seed, while the Gentiles receive the "blessing by choice." "Therefore, when they (the Jews) do come to the faith (as St. Paul prophecies they certainly will) and thus are grafted back onto 'their own' olive tree, how blessed they will be, since they will then receive the blessing by choice originally intended for them which is perfectly matched to their blessing by nature (as seed) from which they were never separated." 

Since Jews have a horror of assimilation, some contemporary Catholics think that it is right for them to stay separate. Schoeman suggests that those Jews who choose to "disappear" into the Church might be seen as like yeast that is kept separate from the dough until its right time comes when it disappears into the bread.  "Just as the yeast does not lose its importance in disappearing into the dough but rather achieves it, so might the Jewish charism realize its unique importance in "disappearing" into the Church. And God in His providence, and in His timing in providing the grace of conversion, knows that the separate supply of yeast - the unconverted Jews - will last until the right time."  

Schoeman relates the Holocaust to the Second Coming in this way: "Grace is always "purchased" by suffering. Suffering and sacrifice is the coin that we here on earth have to offer up to God and receive grace in return... The first coming of the Messiah was purchased by the prayers and the sufferings of twenty centuries of Jews, climaxing in the particularly odious and offensive "slaughter of the innocents" under Herod. Is  it possible, as St. Paul intimates in Romans, that they also have a central role to play in the Second Coming? ...could the extreme suffering in the Holocaust be part of that role?... The Jewish people were called on to bear a disproportionate share in the suffering which preceded the first coming; perhaps they are also called upon to bear a disproportionate share of the pains of giving birth to the Second Coming."   A beautiful chapter about famous Jewish converts provides inspiration from the writings of Alphonse Ratisbonne, Rabbi Zolli, Cardinal Lustiger, and Charles Rich. The book also includes the miraculous story of Schoeman's own finding of Christ and His Church already excerpted in the H-C Newsletter pre-publication.  

When you are witnessing to your own conversion to other Jews, you will find that there are many questions they have you are not sure how to answer. Salvation is from the Jews provides a vision that is so appreciative of the Jewish role in religious history, that your relatives and friends may be more open to it than your own direct confrontation of them.   

When you run up against false theories among Catholics such as "The Jews have the Father, so they don't need to convert," you may not have as much background information as Roy Schoeman to answer them.     

How about your own doubts and perplexities about just where to place yourself in the on-going outreach to see our people find Jesus in the Church? Salvation is from the Jews leads you down paths that will help you discern.  

--  Ronda Chervin, Ph.D., professor of philosophy, and writer of numerous  books on Catholic living.