Passover and Easter: God can and will prevail

April 18, 2019
[Published in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, April 18, 2019, p. 1.]

By Abraham Skorka*

The identity of the Jewish people is determined by everything that happened to our ancestors in Egypt: their process of liberation by God, their wandering through the desert, and the revelation and bestowal of the Torah at Sinai.

These events are invoked in Judaism’s daily prayers because they enshrine the heart of Israel.  The priority of freedom, the dignity of the individual, and the spirituality of Jewish culture is powerfully grounded in the celebration of Passover, in Hebrew called Pesach.

The biblical text itself prescribes that year after year the descendants of the Children of Israel must recreate the dinner their ancestors ate in Egypt on the eve of their liberation. Just as on that night thirty-three hundred years ago, so too today one finds on the Passover table unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Parents pass on to their children this story and its moral lessons about human dignity, which each individual must uphold and sustain.


In era of division, they break bread at interfaith seder meal

April 16, 2019

A table is set for an interfaith seder hosted by the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at St. Joseph’s University, April 7. (Photo by Gina Christian)

More than 100 area Catholics, Christians and Jews joined to celebrate the common origins of their respective faiths at an April 7 Passover seder hosted by St. Joseph’s University.

The gathering was organized by the 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. Additional sponsors of the seder included the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Main Line Reform Temple Beth Elohim and the American Jewish Committee.


Breaking (Unleavened) Bread: How Passover and Easter Can Inform Interfaith Friendship

April 16, 2019

On Sunday, April 21, Christians around the world will observe the most significant holiday on their liturgical calendar: Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At the same time, as is often the case, those in the Jewish faith will be in the midst of celebrating a major holiday in Passover, the eight-day commemoration of their ancestors’ liberation by God from slavery in Egypt.

The intersection of the two holidays is far from a coincidence, according to Philip Cunningham, Ph.D., co-director of Saint Joseph’s Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations (IJCR).


Rabbis Skorka and Sandberg Interviewed on NBC-TV’s “10 @ issue”

April 14, 2019

On the NBC-TV 10 news program “10 @ issue,” Journalist Erin Coleman interviewed Rabbis Abraham Skorka and Ruth Sandberg on the need for interreligious dialogue to address hate crimes.  Rabbi Skorka is SJU University Professor and Rabbi Sandberg is a Professor at Gratz College and an Institute Board member.

 Watch the video HERE.


SJU Magazine: “Preaching a Personal Approach to Religious Kinship”

March 28, 2019

On Saturday, October 27, a gunman walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and opened fire, killing 11 congregants and wounding several others, including four responding police officers.

If that day, which is now considered the deadliest attack against the American Jewish community in history, had been a singular event, it would be bad enough. But according to data released a month later by the FBI, anti-Semitic attacks — harassment, vandalism, intimidation and physical violence — rose by more than a third in 2017 and accounted for more than half of religion-based hate crimes that year. The trends look bleak enough for many to consider that the tenor of relations between Jews and people of other faiths in America is irreparable.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka understands the difficulties, but he sees a hopeful path forward.


Jewish Community Responds to Deadly Mosque Attack

March 20, 2019

By Janet Perez and Liz Spikol

International, national and local Jewish communities are condemning last week’s white supremacist attack on two New Zealand mosques that killed 50 people and wounded dozens.

A crowd, including members of Jewish Federation and JCRC staff, gathers for a “Service of Interreligious Solidarity” held by the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at Saint Joseph’s University in the wake of the Christchurch massacre. (Photo by Jason Holtzman)

The attacks took place in the city of Christchurch at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque during March 15 morning prayers. The “worst act of terrorism committed on our shores,” as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern characterized it, was allegedly carried out by a 28-year-old Australian national who’d penned an 87-page manifesto filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

The response from Jewish organizations came swiftly.

“This attack on a Muslim community at prayer is an attack on the sanctity of life and tears at the fabric of society,” said the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, in a statement. “We stand together with the Muslim community to denounce and oppose violence, hatred and bigotry in all its forms.”

The Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia also released a statement, signed by board president, Rabbi Joshua Waxman. (more…)

SJU holds an Interreligious Service of Solidarity in memory of New Zealand mosque shooting victims

March 18, 2019

Photo courtesy of Matt Barrett, The Hawk

On Monday, March 18, 2019, approximately 125 members of the campus and neighboring communities gathered at the sculpture of “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time” to remember the fifty Muslims who, while at prayer, were victims of a gunman at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on the previous Friday. The Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations was one of several campus organizations that organized the service.


Pope Pius XII documents won’t resolve Holocaust questions, experts say

March 11, 2019

Pope Pius XII is pictured at the Vatican in a file photo dated March 15, 1949. (CNS file photo)

Unsealing documents on Pope Pius XII in the Vatican’s Secret Archives will not necessarily resolve whether the wartime pontiff sufficiently advocated for Jews during World War II, according to two local experts.

“The focus on Pius XII is understandable, but also somewhat excessive,” said Adam Gregerman, associate professor of Jewish studies at Saint Joseph’s University and the co-director of the 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.

Both Gregerman and fellow IJCR director Professor Philip Cunningham applauded Pope Francis’ recent announcement that the material will be made available to scholars as of March 2, 2020. Archival staff at the Vatican have spent the past 13 years organizing the collection, whose 16 million pages include Vatican diplomatic documents and thousands of notes regarding Pope Pius XII’s activities.


Institute Concludes Its First International Conference and Roundtable

January 10, 2019

From January 7-10, 2019, the Institute hosted 20 scholars from nine nations for a four-day conference and roundtable to study major topics in Christian-Jewish relations. Residing at the Saint Raphaela Center in Haverford, the participants, whose names and institutions can be found HERE, presented and discussed papers on the topics that follow.

(seated, l to r:) Ruth Langer, Adam Gregerman, Leo Lefebure, Perry Dane, Abraham Skorka, Amy-Jill Levine, Mary Boys (standing:) Peter Pettit, Philip Cunningham, Jesper Svartvik, Gavin D’Costa, Stanislaw Krajewski, Alan Brill, Gregor Hoff, Emma Polyakov, Peter Admirand, Karma Ben Johanon, Pim Valkenberg, Mark Nanos, Matthew LaGrone, Christian Rutishauser, Matthew Tapie


The Hope of Peace: The Coming of the Messiah

December 28, 2018

by Abraham Skorka [University Professor, Saint Joseph’s University]

[Published in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, December 29, 2018, p. 7.]


“Root of Jesse” by Marc Chagall (1975)

The hope for a world of peace and harmony, in which the destructive instincts of humanity can be controlled and the spiritual potential inherent in human beings is manifested to the highest degree, attained full expression within the Jewish people in the generation of Isaiah, Hosea, Micah and Amos. It is in their texts that the image of a king who would lead the Jewish people with justice and goodness appears clearly for the first time, imagining a reality in which peace will be attained by the whole of humanity and in which God will be fully revealed to all peoples and nations.

Since then, the concept of Mashiach –  the “anointed one” in Hebrew (because pouring oil on the head was part of a king’s coronation ritual) – has become a central theme in the faith of Israel. It became connected with the last day,” the eschatological time when these prophetic images would materialize and become real. These concepts are fundamental elements in the writings of all the later prophets, up to the texts of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, and also in Daniel, in the Dead Sea scrolls and in the apocryphal texts. They are essential for understanding the life of Jesus and the books of the Gospels, as well as other writings in the Christian Bible.

The controversy between Jesus early followers and those Jews who did not accept what was said of him after his death derived from their different interpretations of these prophetic texts. Following the establishment of the first Christian communities in the Middle East, the debate continued in various ways. (more…)