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.”
by Ryan Mulligan ’21
Rabbi Abraham Skorka has been appointed to the position of “University Professor,” according to a Feb. 19 announcement made by University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D.
Beginning in the fall of 2018, Skorka will work closely with the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations and will directly collaborate with the institute’s directors, Philip A. Cunningham, Ph.D., professor of theology and Adam Gregerman, Ph.D., assistant professor of Jewish studies, who both work in the department of theology and religious studies.
“He has a lot of experience in interreligious dialogue and Catholic-Jewish relations,” Cunningham said. “We’re looking forward to working with him on expanding and developing programs in connection with the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations.” (more…)
[From SJU News]
As Pope Francis’s papacy reaches the five-year mark, experts from Saint Joseph’s University, one of the nation’s 28 Jesuit universities, reflect on the meaning and power of his contributions to Catholicism and the global community and what makes his ministry uniquely Jesuit.
Pope Francis visited Saint Joseph’s campus during his 2015 American tour, where he was reunited with his longtime friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka. Their friendship is embodied in the University’s sculpture, Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time, which commemorates Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II document that transformed the relationship between the Catholic Church and other religions, most especially with Judaism.
The following article appeared in the spring 2018 issue of Intellect, the magazine of SJU’s College of Arts & Sciences.
Enabling Fruitful Dialogues
By Marisa (Fulton) Benjamin ’03
The International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ) was receiving the same request for help, over and over again. When local Jewish and Christian dialogue groups met, in countries all over the world, its members could not discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without verbal battle.
“The polarizing power of this topic is tremendous,” says interfaith scholar Philip A. Cunningham, Ph.D., professor of theology and director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations (IJCR) at Saint Joseph’s. “I was hearing reports regularly that when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict came up, people were suddenly at each other’s throats.” Cunningham is the ICCJ’s most recent past president.
Appointment will help to further the mission of the University’s Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations
PHILADELPHIA ([date] 2018) – Saint Joseph’s University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., announced today the appointment of Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Ph.D., as University Professor beginning in the fall of 2018. He will work closely with the directors of the University’s Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations to develop and expand its educational and research programs with the goal of promoting deeper understanding between Catholics and Jews.