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Catholic-Jewish Dialogues Explore Economics, Education, Religious Freedom And Jewish Take On New Testament

 
July 6, 2012

WASHINGTON—Gatherings of two different Catholic-Jewish dialogues explored topics including economics, education, religious freedom and even a Jewish commentary on the New Testament.

The semi-annual consultation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/National Council of Synagogues (USCCB/NCS) discussed the publication of Amy Jill Levine and Mark Zvi Brettler's book, The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford, 2012) at their May 22 meeting in New York City. Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary of Baltimore, and Rabbi David Straus of the Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania co-chaired the meeting.

"The publication of Levine's and Brettler's comprehensive work on the New Testament represents an important milestone in Catholic-Jewish relations," said Bishop Denis Madden, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. "Never before has a group of Jewish scholars made so learned and technical a reading of the New Testament. Clearly, this new effort reflects the progress we have made since the Second Vatican Council in mutual respect for each other's sacred Scriptures."

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of USCCB, joined the meeting to extend his greetings and welcome to all the participants. He made brief remarks on the central importance of Catholic-Jewish dialogue and, in particular, of the work done between the USCCB and National Council of Synagogues. He thanked all of the members present for their continued dedication.

Professor Amy Jill Levine of Vanderbilt University gave a brief overview of her work, co-edited with Professor Marc Brettler of Brandeis University, while Jesuit Father John Donahue, professor of New Testament at Loyola University, Baltimore, offered a Catholic response. Dialogue members then discussed various aspects of biblical studies, as well as how the publication of The Jewish Annotated New Testament marked a deepening of understanding in Catholic-Jewish relations. Levine stressed that it is vital for Jews to study the New Testament to gain respect for their Christian neighbors, even as Christians must do the same with the Hebrew Scriptures.

Rabbi Gil Rosenthal, executive director of the National Council of Synagogues, remarked: "This important volume is testimony not only to the enormous competence of its editors and authors, but to the spirit of dialogue that can allow Jews to read and appreciate the Jewish context of Christian scriptures."

Reports on other dialogue issues, such as continued progress in the implementation of practical aspects of the Vatican-Israeli accord, and updates on the reconciliation of the Society of St. Pius X with the Vatican filled the second half of the meeting. Plans for a two-day October dialogue were considered, centered around the topic of the role of religion in the public square.

On May 25, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America/Rabbinical Council of America (USCCB/OU/RCA) met for their semi-annual consultation to discuss global economics, religious education, religious freedom and the state of Israel. Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, and Rabbi David Berger, Ph.D., of Yeshiva University co-chaired the meeting.

The meeting began with a discussion of a religious perspective on financial reform and a vision for a just economic order. The group review of the full text of the Bilateral Commission Meeting of the Delegations for the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, which took place March 27-29, at the Vatican. Both traditions underscored the need for the moral leadership of religious groups to shed light on ethical considerations in economic systems, their failures and possible reforms.

James Cultrara, director of education for the New York Catholic Conference, and Michael Cohen, New York State political director for the Orthodox Union, updated the group on the funding of religious schools in the state of New York, a topic of shared concerns for both communities. "There is a tuition crisis in both of our communities," Cohen told the group. "The escalating cost of tuition, in some communities it has doubled within six or seven years. We need to find the solution that works."

Thomas Renker, legal counsel for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, updated the group on developments in the federal HHS contraception mandate and the response of the Catholic community. The group discussed the situation at some length with several noting the inherent threat to religious freedom for all faith traditions which the situation presents.

Rabbi Tzvi H. Weinreb, executive vice president emeritus of the Orthodox Union, gave a brief presentation on current cultural and domestic policy issues in Israel. Bishop Murphy gave a brief report on the new Catholic Catechism for Youth titled "YouCAT." Of specific interest to the group were sections dealing with Jewish people. Some concerns had previously been voiced surrounding the formulation of some parts of the text, initiating a revision.

Additional Jewish participants in the USCCB/OU/ RCA consultation included: Maury Litwack, director of political affairs, OU; Betty Ehrenberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress North America; Nathan Diament, director of public affairs, OU; Rabbi Basil Herring, executive vice president, RCA; Rabbi Aaron Glatt, Young Israel of Woodmere; and Mr. Avi Schick, an attorney with experience in both government work and interfaith relations.Additional Catholic included: Msgr. Donald Beckman, ecumenical officer of the Diocese of Rockville Centre; Father Robert Robbins, pastor of the United Nations Parish Church of the Holy Family and New York archdiocesan director for ecumenical and interreligious affairs; Msgr. Robert Stern, Catholic Near East Welfare Association; Father John Crossin, executive director, USCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (SEIA); Kirsten Evans, program and research specialist, USCCB SEIA.

Jewish participants at the USCCB/NCS consultation included Rabbi Lewis Eron, Cherry Hill, New Jersey; Rabbi Joel Meyers, executive vice-president emeritus of the (Conservative) Rabbinical Assembly; Rabbi Jonathan Waxman, Temple Beth Sholom, Smitonthtown, New York; Rabbi David Straus, Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rabbi Gilbert Rosenthal, National Council of Synagogues; Rabbi Daniel F. Polish of La Grangeville, New York; Ruth Langer, Ph.D., of Boston College; Rabbi David Sandmel, Ph.D. of The Catholic Theological Union, Chicago; Rabbi Alvin Berkin of The Tree of Life Congregation, Pittsburgh; Rabbi Jeffrey A. Wohlberg of Adas Israel, Washington; Rabbi Jerome Davidson of Temple Beth-El, Great Neck, New York; Judith Hertz of the International Council of Presidents of the World Conferences of Religions for Peace and Betty Ehrenberg, executive director of the North American Division of the World Jewish Congress. Catholic participants at the consultation included Bishop Basil H. Losten, former bishop of Stamford for Ukrainians; Brother of the Christians Schools David Carroll, former associate director at Catholic Near East Welfare Association; Msgr. Robert Stern, former director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association; Father Dennis McManus, USCCB consultant for Jewish Affairs and Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, editor of America Magazine.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/National Council of Synagogues (USCCB/NCS), U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America/Rabbinical Council of America (USCCB/OU/RCA), The Jewish Annotated New Testament, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bishop Denis Madden, Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Bishop William Murphy, Rabbi David Straus, Amy Jill Levine, Mark Zvi Brettler, Rabbi David Berger

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