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Online essay claimed Jews deserve wrath

A Christian journal run by Harvard College undergraduates published an essay on its blog by an anonymous Jewish convert to Christianity who said that Jews killed Jesus and therefore deserve God’s wrath.

Noting the suffering Jews have experienced throughout history, including the Holocaust, the author wrote, “We, the Jews, collectively rejected God and hung Him up on a cross to die, and thus we deserved the punishments that were heaped on our heads over the last 2000 years.”

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The essay, titled “Why Us?”, was published online Wednesday by the Harvard Ichthus — a student group recognized by the university — and promoted on the journal’s Twitter account. It was removed Friday afternoon with a note indicating it was “under editorial review.”

Aaron Gyde, a senior and the journal’s editor in chief, wrote in an e-mail that the blog “does not have significant editorial oversight” and is “a place where authors often tease out ideas and post meditations that are not yet fully formed.”

In a follow-up e-mail, Gyde added: “As a staff, we would not argue that the fact some Jews were involved in the death of Jesus merits the persecution they have suffered over the past 2,000 years.”

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“We deeply regret the way many Christians have used our sacred texts to justify anti-Semitism. We did not feel that the intent or purpose of the article was specifically anti-Semitic.”

Claims that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus have been a staple of anti-Semitic rhetoric for centuries, despite being repudiated by religious leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.

The piece may be republished if “it can be revised so as to have a respectful and polite tone along with the theological rigor such a sensitive and important topic requires,” wrote Gyde, who declined a phone interview.

The author posted anonymously due to concern about personal attacks, the editor said, but the journal is also reviewing its anonymity policy.

Through Gyde, the author declined to speak to a reporter but answered a few questions via e-mail.

“What would I take back or change? I would emphasize more fully that it would not be justified for a Christian to persecute Jews,” the writer said.

In the essay, the author described having been forgiven by God after repenting and being baptized.

Two versions of the essay appeared before it was deleted, with Gyde having suggested some edits in between.

In the second version, available as of Friday morning, the author wrote that he or she was seeking, out of mercy and peace, “to warn my beloved Jewish friends and family of the judgment that lies ahead.”

Harvard spokesman Jeff Neal said the college does not endorse the views of any of its more than 400 student organizations. “As an institution of higher education, free expression is one of our fundamental principles,” he said in a statement.

The Harvard Ichthus, like many other student groups, received funding from the undergraduate student government.

Robert Trestan, New England regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, was critical of the essay.

“This is a misunderstanding and misreading of history and is offensive to Jews,” he said, “and I would imagine it should be offensive to people of other faiths as well.”

Marcella Bombardieri
can be reached at bombardieri@globe.com
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