These pages list past Institute programs and its directors' presentations elsewhere. Streaming videos are available for many recent events.

Did the Bible Sanction Slavery?

November 7, 2019

How the Churches Used the Bible to Justify Slaveholding

Wednesday, November 6, 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

North Doyle Banquet Hall, Campion Student Center [Campus Map]

Video

This presentation discusses how supporters of slavery in the United States and Europe used the Bible and other religious arguments to justify the enslavement of Africans and Native Americans in Europe and the Americas from the 1400s to the late 19th century. Yet, those who advocated the abolition of slavery also called upon the Bible to condemn it as immoral. The dispute demonstrates the complex place of the Bible in American society and jurisprudence.

 

Dr. Paul Finkelman is the President of Gratz College in Philadelphia and the author of Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson (2014); Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation’s Highest Court (2018) and Defending Slavery (2019). He has been cited in four decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, numerous other courts, and in many appellate briefs.  He has lectured on slavery, human trafficking, and human rights at the United Nations, throughout the United States, and in over a dozen other countries, including China, Germany, Israel, and Japan.  In 2014, he was ranked as the fifth most cited legal historian in American legal scholarship in Brian Leiter’s “Top Ten Law Faculty for Scholarly Impact, 2009-2013.”


Session 3 of the three-part fall 2019 series:

The Intersection of “Race” and “Religion” in the USA

African Americans, Jewish Americans, and Trauma

In this series, three outstanding speakers discuss the experiences of African Americans and Jewish Americans in the predominantly Protestant Christian ethos of the United States. The social constructs of “race” and “religion” and notions of “whiteness” and “blackness” have all interacted in complex ways in the lives of the two groups, which have both similarities and differences as minorities often either forcibly taken or forced to flee from the lands of their birth. You are invited to any or all of the presentations.


 

Suffering Citizens: Past Traumas in Jewish and African American Youth Literature

October 23, 2019

Wednesday, October 23, 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

North Doyle Banquet Hall, Campion Student Center [Campus Map]

 

Cover: As Good as Anybody
Raul Colón, illustrator

Youth literature about and written by Ashkenazi Jews, Christian African Americans, and African American Jews all rely on themes of suffering to graft their subjects into the American body politic. This rhetorical strategy has failures and weaknesses in an age of growing white supremacism. Reading “multi-directionally,” we can see how Jewish and African Americans utilize similar literary strategies but also where their historical experiences differ, and what happens at the intersection of those two identities, as in the case of author Julius Lester and others.

Dr. Jodi Eichler Levine is Director of American Studies, Berman Professor of Jewish Civilization, and Associate Professor of Religion Studies at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. The author of Suffer the Little Children: Uses of the Past in Jewish and African American Children’s Literature (2013, 2015), she analyzes what is at stake in portraying religious history for young people, particularly when their histories are traumatic ones. Her work is located at the intersection of Jewish studies, religion in North America, literature, material culture, and gender studies. Future projects include a book on Jewish women, material culture, politics, and performance, currently titled Crafting Judaism: Creativity, Gender, and Jewish Americans and ongoing research into Jewish children’s literature, popular culture, race, ethnicity, and religion in the USA.


Session 2 of the three-part fall 2019 series:

The Intersection of “Race” and “Religion” in the USA

African Americans, Jewish Americans, and Trauma

In this series, three outstanding speakers discuss the experiences of African Americans and Jewish Americans in the predominantly Protestant Christian ethos of the United States. The social constructs of “race” and “religion” and notions of “whiteness” and “blackness” have all interacted in complex ways in the lives of the two groups, which have both similarities and differences as minorities often either forcibly taken or forced to flee from the lands of their birth. You are invited to any or all of the presentations.


 

Longing for Mayberry: Cultural Ideals as Weapons of Exclusion

September 25, 2019

Wednesday, September 25, 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

North Doyle Banquet Hall, Campion Student Center [Campus Map]

 

Historically, the concept of an ideal community that is populated with ideal people includes appeals to nostalgia, as seen in the fictional idyllic 1960s television town of Mayberry. The ideals look innocent on the surface, but they are arranged according to a cultural template that actually gives license to exclude and to do harm to others who seem outside the template.

 

Dr. Reggie L. Williams is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and an expert on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Protestant minister who was executed for participating in an assassination plot against Hitler. His 2014 book, Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance was selected as a Choice Outstanding Title in 2015 in the field of religion. His research interests include Christology, theological anthropology, Christian social ethics, race, politics and black church life. His current book project is a religious critique of whiteness in the Harlem Renaissance, entitled Interrogating Theological Anthropology in the Harlem Renaissance: The Figure of the Human as a Problem for Christian Ethics. In addition, he is working on a book analyzing the reception of Bonhoeffer by liberation activists in apartheid South Africa.


Session 1 of the three-part fall 2019 series:

The Intersection of “Race” and “Religion” in the USA

African Americans, Jewish Americans, and Trauma

In this series, three outstanding speakers discuss the experiences of African Americans and Jewish Americans in the predominantly Protestant Christian ethos of the United States. The social constructs of “race” and “religion” and notions of “whiteness” and “blackness” have all interacted in complex ways in the lives of the two groups, which have both similarities and differences as minorities often either forcibly taken or forced to flee from the lands of their birth. You are invited to any or all of the presentations.


 

Jews and Pharisees: Reality versus Portrayal in Christian Preaching

September 18, 2019

Video

Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Dr. Philip A. Cunningham from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia discuss the facts on the ground during the Second Temple period, which includes the time of Jesus of Nazareth, with regards to the group known as the “Pharisees.”  Skorka and Cunningham detail the Pharisees’ relations with Jesus before the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, as interpreted in the Gospel of Matthew after that event, and their connection with what would become the rabbinical establishment in post-Temple Judaism.  The two scholars also touch on their meetings with Pope Francis and how contemporary interfaith educational efforts regarding the truth about the Pharisees can help heal the ancient wounds of antisemitism caused by misunderstandings and polemics about the Pharisees’ historical role and their true identity.  A program of AJC Westchester/Fairfield and the “Shared Roots, Divergent Paths” Series at Iona College, this event was recorded at Iona College in New Rochelle, NY on September 18, 2019.

 

Who Were the Pharisees and Why Is That Important in 2019?

August 19, 2019

Audio

The New Testament often depicts Pharisees as the foes of Jesus.

Institute Co-Director Philip A. Cunningham was interviewed today on the radio program “AJC Live” by host Scott Richman, regional director of American Jewish Committee of Westchester/Fairfield. This edition of the biweekly radio show focused on the ancient Jewish sect known as the Pharisees. Who were they, and how were they perceived then and now? This show explored these questions as part of a continuing process to build better relations between Christians and Jews. Dr. Philip Cunningham, Professor of Theology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia was interviewed by AJC Westchester/Fairfield Director Scott Richman on this issue in anticipation of his visit to Westchester. Dr. Cunningham will speak on the topic of the Pharisees, along with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, on September 23rd at Iona College as part of the “Shared Roots, Divergent Paths” series of programs. Also joining the show were Dr. Elena Procario-Foley, Driscoll Professor of Jewish-Catholic Studies and Chair of the Religious Studies Department at Iona College, as well as Nancy Fried-Tanzer who chairs the Shared Roots, Divergent Paths series on behalf of AJC Westchester/Fairfield.

 

The Challenges of Post-Supersessionism in Contemporary Christianity

May 9, 2019

Video

Institute Co-Director Adam Gregerman gave this presentation at a conference called “The Identity of Israel: Jews, Christians, and the Bible” at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto. He discusses the following questions:

  • What is the status of the biblical covenant with the (original) people of Israel / the Jews after Christ?
  • What tensions are raised for Christian theology with the rejection of supersessionism?
  • If the Jewish covenant with God is valid, should Christians seek to convert Jews?
  • If God’s covenant with the Jews remains valid, do the specific land promises within it also remain valid?
  • If the Old Covenant with the Jews remains valid, of what value is the New Christian Covenant?

 

The Pharisees as a Textbook Case: How the Pharisees Are Presented in Catholic Religion Textbooks

May 9, 2019

Video

Institute Co-Director Philip Cunningham offered this multimedia presentation during an international conference “Jesus and the Pharisees: An Interdisciplinary Reappraisal,” sponsored in Rome by the Pontifical Biblical Institute. This presentation summarizes the results of three content analyses of Catholic religion textbooks and one of Protestant textbooks in the United States over the past several decades in terms of their presentations of the Pharisees. These studies are supplemented with surveys of current textbook materials in the United States and Italy, and a parallel content analysis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The Italian texts were studied by Dr. Maria Brutti. The presentation examined the reasons why textbook treatments of the Pharisees and Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries are so challenging and concluded with concrete recommendations for improvement in the future.

 

The Pharisees as Seen by Medieval Rabbis

May 8, 2019

Video

University Professor Rabbi Abraham Skorka offered this lecture during an international conference “Jesus and the Pharisees: An Interdisciplinary Reappraisal,” sponsored in Rome by the Pontifical Biblical Institute. He examines the writings of the medieval sages Rashi, Nachmanides and Maimonides for their understanding of the relationship to those called the Perushim (usually rendered as the Pharisees) with the Early Hasidim, the later Hasidim (holy or pious ones), the Early Hakhamim and the later Hakhamim (the sages or wise ones). He concludes that the Medieval writers used the word Perushim in particular circumstances with regard to a pious Jew who fulfills the commandments in a very intense or zealous way. Despite the many cases in the Talmudic literature where the teachings of the Perushim were seemingly accepted by the Hakhamim, there is not sufficient evidence to allow us to see the Hakhamim as the continuation of the Perushim. Nevertheless, many of the teachings of the Perushim were adopted by the Hakhamin since they maintained a spiritual vision that (in contrast with the Sadducees and other sects) remained in many respects the view and vision of the Jewish people throughout the generations.

 

The Passover Seder at SJU

April 7, 2019

Jews and Christians Experiencing Exodus Together

Sunday, April 7, 2019 at 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

 

McShain Hall: Haub Conference Center, Large Maguire Room

[Campus Map]

 

The Passover Meal, the Seder, marks one of the major feasts on the Jewish calendar. Passover is also important for Christians since the story of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt is a principal element of many Christian observances, especially during Holy Week. The Seder meal is a wonderful way for Christians to have a direct experience of Jewish spiritual life, and for both communities to rededicate themselves to a world in which slavery and injustice are no more.

The Passover Seder at SJU is a full catered kosher meal. Participants will join in the prayers, songs, and celebration in as close to a traditionally Jewish form as possible.

Registration is required. A limited number of seats are available for a roughly equal number of Christians and Jews (others welcome, too!). Register soon: first come, first served!

 

 

 

Fulfilling the Promise of a New Relationship: A Public Roundtable on Covenant and the Land

January 8, 2019

Tuesday, January 8, 2019 at 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Campion Student Center: Doyle Banquet Hall North

Video 

 

From Monday, January 7 through Thursday, January 10, 2019, the Institute welcomed twenty scholars from eight countries to study together major issues in Christian-Jewish relations. Participants heard and discussed papers on topics that included identity and borders, fulfillment, Jewish and Christian missions, Christology, covenant, the Apostle Paul, and the connections between Christian-Jewish relations and global religious pluralism.

Gavin D’Costa
University of Bristol
United Kingdom

Amy-Jill Levine
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, Tennessee

On Tuesday evening, an open session of the conference provided an experience of its deliberations in a “fishbowl” format. Dr. Gavin D’Costa from the University of Bristol, U.K. presented his paper, “Catholic Theology and the Promise of the Land as Part of the Jewish Covenant.” Dr. Amy-Jill Levine from Vanderbilt University responded, followed by a general discussion among all the conference participants and the audience. This was an unusual opportunity for intensive theological dialogue and reflection.