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…)

Shining a Light on Hanukkah

December 7, 2018

Cunningham (left) and Gregerman

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.


The Hawk: “The Rise of Anti-Semitism”

November 7, 2018

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, 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…)

SJU’s Skorka, Gregerman Recognized for Leadership in Interfaith Dialogue

November 7, 2018

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.

Local Jewish-Catholic center offers insight, hope after Pittsburgh massacre

November 2, 2018



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…)

“Dialogue is the Only Way” – Pope Francis

October 28, 2018

A Statement in the Wake of the October 27, 2018 Synagogue Attack in Pittsburgh

Interreligious Service of Solidarity – Oct 29, 2018    VIDEO

The 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…)

Institute director receives Eternal Light award from Saint Leo University

October 25, 2018

by Dr Matthew Tapie, Director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Saint Leo University, Florida.

Prof. Cunningham is Professor of Theology and Director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA. He earned his BA in History and MSEd from Fordham, his MA in religious education from LaSalle University, and his PhD in Religion and Education from Boston College. He is most recently the author of Seeking Shalom: The Journey to Right Relationship between Catholics and Jews (Eerdmans, 2015), and the co-editor of Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: New Explorations of Theological Interrelationships (Eerdmans, 2011) and The Catholic Church and the Jewish People: Recent Reflections from Rome (Fordham University Press, 2007).

On the evening of October 25th, Dr. Cunningham facilitated a Catholic-Jewish dialogue for over one hundred people in the Tampa Bay community, which included numerous priests and rabbis, Saint Leo University faculty, staff, and students; as well as lay leaders from the Diocese of St. Petersburg, and several synagogues. The event took place at Higgins Hall, at St. Lawrence Catholic Church, Tampa, and opened with a welcome by Bishop Gregory Parkes. Participants shared a meal as they were guided by Dr. Cunningham in small group discussions on a recent Vatican and a recent Orthodox Jewish statement. (more…)

For God and for Humanity

September 19, 2018

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.]


“Prophet Jeremiah” by Marc Chagall, 1968.

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.


Prayer and Wisdom for Us All

September 8, 2018

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.]


Marc Chagall, “Moses receiving the tablets of the law” (1952)

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.