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).
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.
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.
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.
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…)
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.
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.
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.
by Abraham Skorka [University Professor, Saint Joseph’s University]
[Published in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, December 29, 2018, p. 7.]
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…)
From songs on the radio to decorations in public squares, it can often seem like Christmas is the star of the holiday seasons. But billions of non-Christians are the world spend some time in the last quarter of the year observing a different holiday. For those in the Jewish faith, it’s Hanukkah.
And while the timing of the celebration may make it one of the better-known Jewish holidays, Adam Gregerman, Ph.D., assistant director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations (IJCR) at Saint Joseph’s, explains that, liturgically, it’s not among the highest of holy days.
Gregerman and Cunningham’s discuss the holiday season in the latest episode of “Good to Know: The Saint Joseph’s University Experts Podcast.” Click below to listen.
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…)