By Brendan Kiley [From the SJU student newspaper]
A perspective in the wake of the Pittsburgh shooting
November 7, 2018
It is tough to put a tragedy in context. The nature of tragedies is they are so cruel, and in the case of Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, so evil that it is tough to even wrap one’s head around them.
When talking about Pittsburgh, we should talk about how the killer owned his guns legally and how the unhealthy political rhetoric generally contributed to this particular moment. That being said, we cannot neglect mentioning what this was on the most basic level. It was not an indiscriminate killing. It was an anti-Semitic hate crime against Jewish people.
Anti-Semitism is on the rise in the streets and online. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), there was a historic sixty percent jump in anti-Semitic attacks in the United States between 2016 and 2017.
The ADL has also found that, “the online public sphere—now a primary arena for communication about American politics—has become progressively inhospitable [sic] for Jewish Americans.”
The Pittsburgh killer was right at home in anti-Semitic online spaces. On the expansively uncensored online platform Gab.com, the killer published anti-Semitic screeds. While he was a far-right extremist, he was so far to the political fringe he thought all major American political figures, including President Donald Trump, were puppets in a Jewish conspiracy.
This form of anti-Semitism where Jews are international puppet masters, controlling governments and money is hundreds of years old. It is an insidious form of populism that has been played up by political figures time and time again. It is not a stretch to see it even now. (more…)
Wednesday, November 7, 2018
by Jeffrey Martin ’04, ’05 (M.A.)
Rabbi Abraham Skorka may have a friendship with someone who can affect change on a large scale, but he still believes in the power of person-to-person discourse.
“Change is produced by individuals,” he says. “Big moments can set the tone, but the work that makes an impact is done by individuals.”
A University Professor who is working closely with the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations (IJCR), Skorka was recognized for his singular impact on interfaith dialogue this weekend, receiving the Shevet Achim award at the annual conference of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Catholic Relations (CCJR), held at Providence College in Rhode Island.
In the wake of last week’s mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, a rabbi and close friend of Pope Francis noted that the roots of anti-Semitism are deep and complex.
“The history of anti-Semitism is a very long one, with more than 2,000 years of manifested hatred against Jews,” said Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a visiting professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and member of that school’s Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations (IJCR). Founded in 1967, the IJCR is the oldest university center of its kind in the U.S. created in response to the Second Vatican Council’s call for increased interfaith dialogue.
The Oct. 27 massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue, which left 11 dead and six injured, is believed to be the worst anti-Semitic attack in recent U.S. history. (more…)
A Statement in the Wake of the October 27, 2018 Synagogue Attack in PittsburghThe Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations of Saint Joseph’s University, along with the entire university community, is appalled and sickened by the mass shooting at a synagogue on October 27, 2018 in our own Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Worshippers gathering for Shabbat services were brutally gunned down by an assailant who shouted murderous antisemitic slogans as he did so. The fact that this atrocity occurred in the sacred spaces of a synagogue where several congregations worship only multiplies the revulsion we feel. This episode is also an assault on the principle of freedom of religion that is fundamental to the American experiment in democracy and pluralism. As Pope Francis said today, “all of us are wounded by this inhuman act of violence.”
We wish to express our deep sorrow and solidarity with the Tree of Life community in Pittsburgh, as well as to the Jewish communities who are the near neighbors and friends of Saint Joseph’s University. In the words of the traditional Jewish prayerbook: (more…)
The Day of Yom Kippur
by Abraham Skorka [University Professor, Saint Joseph’s University]
[Published in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, September 19, 2018, p. 6.]
Two expressions define the essence of Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. One is qodesh ha-qodashim, the “Holy of Holies,” the place in the temple of Jerusalem where was placed the Ark of the Covenant, which contained, according to the Talmudic sages, the fragments of the first Tablets of the law together with the second Tablets. The first had been carved and written by God himself, but Moses had dropped them when he saw the people dancing around the golden calf. The second tablets had been carved by Moses and composed by God after having forgiven the sons of Israel on the day of atonement, which has always remained on that day for all generations, according to the sages.
The only day of the year when the high priest could enter that sacred precinct was Yom Kippur, to offer incense before God, as part of the ritual by which the atonement was obtained. That day was defined in the Torah by a special expression, shabbat shabbaton [“Sabbath of Sabbaths”], which, as we said at the beginning, together with qodesh ha-qodashim forms the day’s very special essence.
The Ninth of September is the Beginning of the Jewish New Year
by Abraham Skorka [University Professor, Saint Joseph’s University]
[Published in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, September 9, 2018, p. 6.]
During the first ten days of each new Jewish year, according to tradition, the Eternal judges each individual, each people, each nation, and humanity as a whole. They are the Yamim Noraim, the
Days of Awe, full of prayer and petition, for the well-being of the individual and the well-being of all.
One of the most significant phrases interspersed in the liturgy during the Yamim Noraim can be translated as: “Remember us for life, O King who desires life, and inscribe us in the Book of Life, for Your purpose, O Lord of Life.”
This sentence contains one of the most important reasons for these observances, because it is the moment when God judges humanity and the destiny of its existence, both individually and collectively; the cry of the prayer is that the decision will be merciful and continue to renew our potential to express ourselves in life in its fullness.
The biblical conception of existence is a hymn to life, where this word is permeated with the spiritual, the just and the compassionate; a life that knows love, affection.
[originally published HERE]
by Menachem Wecker
Water has damaged the 18th-century frescos, but visitors to the cloister of the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo in Spain can still discern a haloed boy nailed to a cross depicted on one side of a doorway. On the opposite frame, the artist Francisco Bayeu painted the child’s abduction. In both works ominous, bearded men look on, reflecting the typical portrayal of Jews in connection with the historic accusation of blood libel.
The frescoes appear in an otherwise idyllic cloister, located about a 10-minute walk from Toledo’s Sinagoga del Tránsito, and another five minutes from the former synagogue of Santa María la Blanca, which is now a church. The anti-Semitic imagery hides in plain sight in an otherwise tranquil spot, the soft brush strokes masking a violent message.
Cardinal August Hlond, who led the Polish Catholic Church during WWII, warned about the “harmful moral influence of Jews.”
Prominent Jewish groups are condemning Pope Francis’ decision to push Poland’s top Roman Catholic priest during and after World War II further along the road to sainthood, claiming the would-be saint’s legacy is tainted by anti-Semitic views.
Pope Francis confirmed the “heroic virtues” of Cardinal August Hlond in late May, which means that he put a stamp of approval on a Vatican body’s initial review of the priest’s candidacy for sainthood. The Vatican now needs to confirm Hlond’s involvement in two miracles before the priest, who died in 1948, can become a saint.
But two leading U.S.-based Jewish organizations, the American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, have already stepped in to question Hlond’s attitude toward Polish Jews.
Rabbi David Rosen, the AJC’s director of interreligious affairs, criticized Hlond in a letter to the pontifical commission tasked with maintaining good relations with Jews.
At its May 17, 2018 meeting, the Institute’s Board of Directors expressed sadness, admiration, and gratitude to Dr. William Madges as he prepares to assume the position of Chair of the Department of Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati. The Board presented him with a miniature version of the original sculpture “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time,” which he had been instrumental in realizing.
Dr. Madges, who specializes in historical theology, came to SJU in 2006 to become the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. He left that position in 2013 to return to teaching and research in theology. Catholic-Jewish relations is particular important to him: he was a co-creator of the traveling exhibit, A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People, which has been seen by more that one million people in the United States and displayed in the Vatican Museum.
He has also been very committed to the mission of SJU’s Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations.
By A. James Rudin. RNS
(RNS) — Passover and Easter once again coincide this year. The first seder (Passover meal) of the eight-day Jewish festival is on March 30, and Easter falls two days later.
During this holiday season, the focus for Christians is on the last days of Jesus’ life, the subject of a new documentary hosted by “Downton Abbey” actor Hugh Bonneville. “Jesus: Countdown to Calvary,” will air on most public television stations before Easter.
Christian Passion plays will be performed in many venues, including an NBC live performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar” on April 1. On the same day, NBC will also air “Easter Mysteries,” an oratorio by Tony-award winner John O’Boyle that focuses on the Jewishness of Jesus and his followers. Both television productions feature an African-American actor portraying Jesus.
Philip Cunningham, a theology professor and co-director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at St. Joseph’s University, and the editor of “Pondering the Passion: What’s at Stake for Christians and Jews?,” describes O’Boyle’s efforts as “a reflection … upon the significance for Christian faith. … It is less concerned with the causes or the extent of his sufferings than with the new life that Christians find in the Raised Jesus.”