"... deepening understanding between Jews and Catholics through shared study since 1967."
The Story of the Institute
The Institute came into being after a major transformation in Catholic teaching about Jews at the Second Vatican Council in 1965. Its declaration, Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”), called for Catholics and Jews to collaborate in “biblical and theological inquiry … and friendly discussions.” Almost at once the Jesuit community at what was then Saint Joseph’s College founded the Institute – the first such response to the Second Vatican Council by an American Catholic institution of higher learning. They believed that rapprochement between Jews and Catholics was integral to the Catholic and Jesuit identity of Saint Joseph's, and defined the mission of the Institute as seeking to increase knowledge and deepen understanding between the Jewish and Catholic peoples, thereby building shalom (or "right relationship") between the two communities. The Rev. Donald Clifford, S.J. directed the Institute in pursuing this mission for over four decades.
Today, the Institute's professors offer courses on Christian-Jewish relations in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. They partner nationally and globally to research Jewish and Christian reconciliation and reform. They promote opportunities for Christians and Jews to be study partners, teaching and learning about themselves and each other by studying and experiencing together texts, rituals, events, and places.
In 2015, this vision was enshrined in a sculpture created by artist Joshua Koffman to celebrate the golden jubilee of Nostra Aetate and the mission of the Institute. The longtime friend of Pope Francis, fellow Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka, was the keynote speaker at the dedication of “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time” at the Chapel of Saint Joseph on September 25th. Two days later, Pope Francis himself came to the campus. Embracing his friend, Rabbi Skorka observed of the female figures that symbolize Synagogue and Church: "They are you and I – Pope and Rabbi learning from one another." The Holy Father blessed the sculpture and the Institute's mission in service of what he has called the Catholic and Jewish "journey of friendship."
Beginning fall 2018, the emeritus rector of the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano in Buenos Aires, will work closely with the Institute directors to advance its educational and research mission. Dedicated to interreligious understanding his entire career, he and Pope Francis recently explained how much their dialogues have personally meant to them in this video.
In 2019, the Institute will host 22 scholars from several nations for a four-day conference to study major topics in Christian-Jewish relations, including identity and borders, mission, covenant, fulfillment, and the world religions. Nearly sixty proposals were received in response to the Institute's call for papers last October.
The Clifford Memorial Fund
A memorial endowment has been established in memory of the Institute's late director, the Rev. Donald G. Clifford, S.J., who directed its activities for over forty years. This endowment funds most of the Institute's many programs. Please consider supporting the mission of deepening understanding between Jews and Catholics.