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

Cursing the Christians? A History of the Birkat HaMinim

February 27, 2012


Rabbi Dr. Ruth Langer

Monday, February 27, 2012 at 7 p.m. | Campion Hall: Banquet Hall North


The Birkat Haminim is a Jewish prayer that in its earliest forms cursed apostates, sectarians, Christians, and enemies of Israel, especially imperial powers.  In her new book Cursing the Christians?, Prof. Ruth Langer draws on shifting liturgical texts and the diverse polemics and apologetics concerning the prayer to trace its history from Late Antiquity, through the Middle Ages and modernity, to the prayer’s transformation into a general petition that God remove all evil from the world. Her research is sure to be the definitive treatment of this topic for many years to come.

Rabbi Dr. Ruth Langer is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Associate Director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College. Her research and writing focuses on Jewish liturgy and Christian-Jewish relations. Currently serving as chair of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations and co-editor of its professional journal, Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations, Prof. Langer is the also author or editor of: Liturgy in the Life of the Synagogue: Studies in the History of Jewish Prayer, ed. with Steven Fine (Eisenbrauns, 2005) and To Worship God Properly: Tensions between Liturgical Custom and Halakhah in Judaism (Hebrew Union College Press, 1998).

Hairy Women and Noble Savages: Jews, Christians, and Others during the Long 18th Century

December 5, 2011

Dr. Iris Idelson-Shein
Monday, December 5 – 7 p.m. | Haub Executive Center, McShain Hall

Dr. Iris Idelson-Shein teaches history at Tel Aviv University and is currently a fellow at Penn’s Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. She studies early modern and modern Jewish thought and published on early modern views of gender and ethnicity. She will discuss the radical transformation in how 18th-century Europeans defined identity. The shift from a worldview dominated by scripture and faith, to one dominated by science demanded new explanations for the differences among people. She will explore how Jewish writers tackled these changes while trying to define their own position in the new paradigm.

Dr. Idelson-Shein’s presentation at SJU is the last of a three-part series, “Between Cross and Crescent: Jews in the Christian and Muslim Worlds,” co-sponsored by the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Beth Am Israel, and Main Line Reform Temple-Beth Elohim.

An Abrahamic Reunion: How Religion Can Be a Force for Peace in the Middle-East

November 10, 2011

Audio (from National Public Radio)

11:30 a.m. in Bellarmine 246.

Sheikh Ghassan Manasra is Director of the Islamic Cultural Center in Nazareth where as a Sheikh and Fulbright scholar he teaches tolerance and interreligious dialogue to high school teachers and principals; publishes an Arabic newspaper to spread a moderate and tolerant Islam; and teaches courses on Judaism to Muslims.

Rabbi Eliyahu McLean is Director of the Jerusalem Peace-Makers, a network of religious leaders and grassroots peace workers in Jerusalem and the and Holy Land. He travels globally to teach interreligious dialogue and to organize reconciliation  events.

Toward a Jewish Theology of Other Religions

November 2, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 – 7 p.m. | Mandeville Hall 103


Dr. Deborah Weissman holds the Ph.D. in Jewish education from Hebrew University. A prize-winning Jewish educator, she is currently the President of the International Council of Christians and Jews. She will address the topic of Judaism and religious pluralism. Learning to live with the Other—without stereotyping, prejudice, and, even more serious, the violence engendered by such prejudice—is an issue that may determine the very survival of the human race on this planet. What does Jewish theology have to contribute, if anything, to an exploration of these questions? Using classical and modern Jewish sources, how can Jews begin to think about believers in other religions and their beliefs?

“And When I Left, My Heart Wept for Both of Them” 

October 16, 2011

Reflections on Eleven Years of Living on the Seam between Israel and Palestine

Sunday, October 16, 2011 – 3 p.m. | Mandeville Hall 103


Rev. Michael McGarry was recently named President of the Paulist Fathers. For the past eleven years he was rector of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, at the southern end of Jerusalem, just north of Bethlehem. Tantur is an international center for mainly English-speaking Christian scholars to come, to study, to explore. Staffed by Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian, Tantur is uniquely located between two populations earnestly yearning for peace. Throughout his career, Fr. McGarry has worked for better relations between Christians and Jews, but his time in the Holy Land has profoundly affected his ministry, his perspective on prospects for peace, and his ideas about authentic relations between Christians and Jews. He will address both academic and real-life situations affecting Christians and Jews concerned about peace in the Holy Land and our relations in the USA.

Jewish-Catholic Seder: Experiencing Exodus Together

March 27, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011, 5 p.m.

Haub Executive Suite – McShain Hall

Co-sponsored by the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations of Saint Joseph’s University, the Jewish Community Relations Council, Main Line Reform Temple-Beth Elohim, Temple Har Zion, Temple Adath Israel, and SJU’s Interfaith Task Force.

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 SJU Jewish-Catholic Seder 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. A limited number of seats are available for 50 Christians and 50 Jews – first come, first served – so register as soon as possible!

The People Israel, Christianity and the Covenantal Responsibility to History

February 22, 2011


Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 4 p.m. | Mandeville Hall Room 103

Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn is the North American Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation. Ordained by the Israeli Rabbinate and with a doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University, he has dedicated his professional career in the area of Jewish-Christian relations and Jewish ethics & law. He served as the Executive Director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding at Sacred Heart University, and was the Director of Interfaith Affairs for both the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Congress. His vocation within the field of Jewish ethics and law led him to serve as the Judaic Scholar at the JCC and Federation of MetroWest (NJ) and the Director of Leadership Education and Development at the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jerusalem. He also has taught at Yeshiva and Columbia Universities.

Rabbi Korn will discuss these important questions for a theology of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity: How can Jewish theology understand Christianity in covenantal terms? Are there authentic grounds for a new theological relationship in which Jews see Christians as participating in a common covenant with them? If so, what are the boundaries of this commonality?

Responses will be offered by:

Rabbi Richard Hirsh is the Executive Director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and Adjunct Instructor of Jewish Thought at Reconstructionist Rabbincal College. His commentaries appear in the new Reconstructionist High Holiday makhzor and in A Night of Questions, the Reconstructionist haggadah. He is the author of A Guide to Jewish Practice: The Journey of Mourning and A Guide to Jewish Practice: Welcoming Children. He has authored more than 100 articles, essays and Torah commentaries.

Dr. Philip A. Cunningham is Director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations of Saint Joseph’s University and a Vice-President of the International Council of Christians and Jews. He is among the editors of Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: New Explorations of Theological Interrelationships, forthcoming in March from William B. Eerdmans Publishing and Gregorian & Biblical Press.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

February 22, 2011

How Its Complexities Obstruct Jewish-Christian Understanding

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 11:30 am – 12:45 pm
Bellarmine Hall – Room 003


In December 2009, a group of about fifteen Palestinian Christians issued a statement called: “Kairos Palestine — A Moment of Truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.” It was addressed to Palestinian churches and leaders, to “Palestinian society and to the Israeli society, to the international community, and to our Christian brothers and sisters in churches around the world.” Kairos Palestine declared that “the military occupation of our land is a sin against God and humanity,” saw dialogue among Christians, Jews, and Muslims as a “sign of hope,” called for “a system of economic sanctions and boycott to be applied against Israel,” and insisted that the “cycle of violence” could be broken only “through our love, [which] will overcome injustices and establish foundations for a new society both for us and for our opponents.”

Reactions to the statement were predictable: to generalize (and there are always exceptions), evangelical Christian and mainstream Jewish voices criticized or dismissed it while mainline Protestant and left-wing Jewish voices embraced or grappled with it.  The International Council of Christians and Jews became alarmed at a perceived unprecedented amount polarization and polemic erupting in Christian-Jewish dialogues. It, in turn, issued in July 2010 a “plea to all who seek interreligious understanding” entitled, “Let Us Have Mercy upon Words.”

The Panel

The Institute for Jewish-Christian Relations has organized this panel to acquaint the SJU community with some of these issues.  It will point to some of the historical and political complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the impact of that conflict on the efforts of Jews and Christians around the world to achieve mutual understanding, and suggest factors that must be considered if peace is to come to this seemingly intractable and dire situation.   

Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn is the North American Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, New York and Israel.



 Rev. Dr. Peter Pettit is Director of the Institute for Christian-Jewish Understanding at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.



Dr. Philip A. Cunningham is Director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations of SJU.

Doing Theology in the Context of the Gift and the Promise of Nostra Aetate

October 27, 2010

Dr. Terrance Tilley

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | 4:30 p.m. | Campion Banquet Hall North

The Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations will hold its 9th annual meeting at Saint Joseph’s University on October 27-28, 2010, hosted by the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations. The meeting will coincide with the forty-fifth anniversary of the groundbreaking Second Vatican Council document, Nostra Aetate.

The keynote address will be offered by Dr. Terrence Tilley, the Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology and Chair of the Theology Department at Fordham University in New York.  He is also a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

Dr. Tilley’s presentation, “Doing Theology in the Context of the Gift and the Promise of Nostra Aetate,” will consider the development of Christian theologies that are non-supersessionist with respect to Judaism.

Brief responses will be offered by three contributors to a forthcoming book addressing a similar topic, entitled Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: New Explorations of Theological Interrelationships. The respondents are: Philip A. Cunningham (Saint Joseph’s University), Edward Kessler (Cambridge University), and Barbara Meyer (Hebrew University and Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem).

Please join us for this important anniversary discussion!

Living in Covenant with God

September 28, 2010

The Christian’s Call to Priestly, Prophetic, and Kingly Life; The Jew’s Call to a Life of Torah

Aldegonde Brenninkmeijer-Werhahn and Rabbi Alan Iser

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 7:30 p.m.

Saint Joseph’s University –  Haub Executive Center – McShain Hall

Every day, Jews and Catholics seek to live out their respective covenantal relationships with God in various ways. In this evening’s conversation Aldegonde Brenninkmeijer-Werhahn will present one Catholic approach to the daily living of the Christian faith in terms of the priestly, prophetic, and kingly callings imparted by baptism, and Rabbi Alan Iser will discuss the daily living of Judaism according to various approaches to the Torah. Following their presentations, participants will compare and discuss the ideas that have been raised.

Aldegonde Brenninkmeijer-Werhahn, a resident of Brussels, Belgium, is the Director of INTAMS, the International Academy for Marital Spirituality, which she co-founded in 1989 with her husband, Hubert. Having studied social sciences (Institute for Social Sciences, Dortmund, Germany) and theology (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium), she is the author of numerous articles on married spirituality. Intensely committed to Catholic-Jewish relations, her presentation will bring her work on married spirituality into the Catholic dialogue with Judaism.

Rabbi Alan Iser is an adjunct faculty member of the Department of Theology at Saint Joseph’s University and Villanova University. He is a doctoral candidate in rabbinic literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he also received his rabbinic ordination. He also holds a M.A. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University and was formerly a congregational rabbi and a Hillel director.