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

July 6, 2012 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—Gatheringsof 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 theU.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 Templein Wynnewood, Pennsylvania co-chaired the meeting.

"Thepublication of Levine's and Brettler's comprehensive work on the New Testamentrepresents an important milestone in Catholic-Jewish relations," said BishopDenis Madden, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and InterreligiousAffairs. "Never before has a group of Jewish scholars made so learned andtechnical a reading of the New Testament. Clearly, this new effort reflects theprogress we have made since the Second Vatican Council in mutual respect for eachother's sacred Scriptures."

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

Professor Amy Jill Levine ofVanderbilt University gave a brief overview of her work, co-edited withProfessor Marc Brettler of Brandeis University, while Jesuit Father JohnDonahue, professor of New Testament at Loyola University, Baltimore, offered aCatholic response. Dialogue members then discussed various aspects of biblicalstudies, as well as how the publication of TheJewish Annotated New Testament marked a deepening of understanding inCatholic-Jewish relations. Levine stressed that it is vital for Jews to studythe New Testament to gain respect for their Christian neighbors, even asChristians must do the same with the Hebrew Scriptures.

Rabbi Gil Rosenthal, executive directorof the National Council of Synagogues, remarked: "This important volume istestimony not only to the enormous competence of its editors and authors, butto the spirit of dialogue that can allow Jews to read and appreciate the Jewishcontext of Christian scriptures."

Reports on other dialogue issues,such as continued progress in the implementation of practical aspects of theVatican-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 atwo-day October dialogue were considered, centered around the topic of the roleof religion in the public square.

On May 25, the U.S. Conference ofCatholic Bishops/Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America/RabbinicalCouncil of America (USCCB/OU/RCA) met for their semi-annual consultation todiscuss global economics, religious education, religious freedom and the stateof Israel. Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, and Rabbi DavidBerger, Ph.D., of Yeshiva University co-chaired the meeting.

The meeting began with a discussion ofa religious perspective on financial reform and a vision for a just economicorder. The group review of the full text of the Bilateral Commission Meeting of the Delegations for the Chief Rabbinateof 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 theneed for the moral leadership of religious groups to shed light on ethicalconsiderations in economic systems, their failures and possible reforms.

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

Thomas Renker, legal counsel for theDiocese of Rockville Centre, updated the group on developments in the federalHHS contraception mandate and the response of the Catholic community. The groupdiscussed the situation at some length with several noting the inherent threatto religious freedom for all faith traditions which the situation presents.

Rabbi Tzvi H. Weinreb, executivevice president emeritus of the Orthodox Union, gave a brief presentation oncurrent cultural and domestic policy issues in Israel. Bishop Murphy gave abrief report on the new Catholic Catechism for Youth titled "YouCAT." Ofspecific interest to the group were sections dealing with Jewish people. Some concernshad previously been voiced surrounding the formulation of some parts of thetext, initiating a revision.

Additional Jewish participants inthe USCCB/OU/ RCA consultation included: Maury Litwack, director of political affairs,OU; Betty Ehrenberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress NorthAmerica; Nathan Diament, director of public affairs, OU; Rabbi Basil Herring,executive vice president, RCA; Rabbi Aaron Glatt, Young Israel of Woodmere; andMr. Avi Schick, an attorney with experience in bothgovernment work and interfaith relations.Additional Catholic included: Msgr. DonaldBeckman, ecumenical officer of the Diocese of Rockville Centre; Father RobertRobbins, pastor of the United Nations Parish Church of the Holy Family and NewYork 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/NCSconsultation included Rabbi Lewis Eron, Cherry Hill, New Jersey; Rabbi JoelMeyers, executive vice-president emeritus of the (Conservative) RabbinicalAssembly; Rabbi Jonathan Waxman, Temple Beth Sholom, Smitonthtown, New York;Rabbi David Straus, Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rabbi GilbertRosenthal, National Council of Synagogues; Rabbi Daniel F. Polish of LaGrangeville, New York; Ruth Langer, Ph.D., of Boston College; Rabbi DavidSandmel, Ph.D. of The Catholic Theological Union, Chicago; Rabbi Alvin Berkinof The Tree of Life Congregation, Pittsburgh; Rabbi Jeffrey A. Wohlberg of AdasIsrael, Washington; Rabbi Jerome Davidson of Temple Beth-El, Great Neck, NewYork; Judith Hertz of the International Council of Presidents of the WorldConferences of Religions for Peace and Betty Ehrenberg, executive director ofthe North American Division of the World Jewish Congress. Catholic participantsat the consultation included Bishop Basil H. Losten, former bishop of Stamfordfor Ukrainians; Brother of the Christians Schools David Carroll, formerassociate director at Catholic Near East Welfare Association; Msgr. RobertStern, former director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association; FatherDennis McManus, USCCB consultant for Jewish Affairs and Jesuit Father DrewChristiansen, 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 ofAmerica/Rabbinical Council of America (USCCB/OU/RCA), The Jewish Annotated New Testament, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, BishopDenis Madden, Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Bishop WilliamMurphy, Rabbi David Straus, Amy Jill Levine, Mark Zvi Brettler, Rabbi DavidBerger

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