Minutes of Meeting

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Date: November 15, 1992

Location: Room 101, Alumni Hall, University of Dayton

Meeting Topic: National Workshop on Christian-Jewish Relations, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Facilitators: Jerry and Lorraine Kotler, Eileen Moorman

MEMBERS PRESENT: Jerry & Lorraine Kotler, Cochairs; Bert Buby, Phil Hoelle, Arch McMillan, Eileen Moorman, Shirley McKee, Faith Magee, John Magee, Ruth Precker, Kenneth Rosenzweig, Lou Ryterband, Harold Silverman.

The meeting was called to order at 8 PM. As the opening prayer, Father Bert read Psalm 27. The Dialogue then discussed a number of its upcoming events. Some changes were made which are incorporated in the attached Tentative Schedule.

Jerry reported on the construction of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Next he reported on a request from the Holocaust Remembrance Committee of Sinclair Community College for a $250 grant from the Dialogue for the 1992-93 Holocaust Remembrance program in connection with our cosponsorship of that event. The focal point of that program is the internationally-acclaimed Anne Frank in the World exhibition. Lou agreed personally to donate $150 to the program so that the Dialogue's financial commitment would only be $100. The Dialogue members in attendance expressed their great appreciation to Lou and then approved the grant to the Holocaust Remembrance Committee. Then discussion turned to publicity for the Open Meeting of the Dialogue scheduled December 13.

Jerry opened discussion of the National Workshop on Christian-Jewish Relations held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from November 8 through November 11 by listing the Dialogue members who attended: Bert Buby, Shirley and Paul Flacks, Father Jack Kelley, Jerry and Lorraine Kotler, Eileen Moorman, and Lou Ryterband. Jerry reported that Eugene Fisher gave the opening remarks. He noted that Fisher has a Ph.D. in Judaica and replaced Father Flannery in the Secretariat for Christian-Jewish Relations of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Fisher mentioned in his talk that the movement represented by the Workshop began in a living room in Dayton, Ohio. From that beginning, it has grown to produce the Workshop, held in the Pittsburgh Hilton, which had about 600 participants, five plenary sessions, and a total of 57 sessions.

The Keynote Address was given by Rev. James A. Forbes, Jr., Senior Minister of NewYork's Riverside Church. The topic of the talk was "Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Religion." Jerry noted that Rev. Forbes was an incredible speaker with considerable acting talents. He talked about the "gift of ethnicity" as positive benefit and also a potential virus when it causes us to think only of ouselves. Lorraine noted that Rev. Forbes called for people to treat their interreligious comrades as "Daddy biscuits." Since Daddy was not a regular cook, the biscuits he cooked were individually formed and unique with their own thumb print. Likewise, we should value the individuality and uniqueness in our comrades of other religions.

Jerry went to a session entitled "Theological Issues in Dialogue." Presenters included a Lutheran minister at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, a Dean of a Virginia seminary, and the Rabbi of a large Pittsburgh Reform congregation. Points made in the presentation included the fact that the Jewish Covenant with God is not revoked and the fact that every individual person, regardless of his religion, has value.

Jerry also went to a session entitled "Introduction to Black-Jewish Dialogue." This session's presenters were Rabbi Lynne Landberg, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C. and Leon Haley, President of the Pittsburgh Urban League. Some points made in this session included the fact that the interests of Blacks and Jews often overlap but they do not always coincide. Also Blacks tend to view Jews as simply White oppressors. The Black-Jewish political alliance of the 1960s and before fell apart because of a turning inward of Blacks and Jews in the 1970s.

Another session that Jerry reported on was "Japan and America: Religion's Differing Impacts Upon Society." Presenters included two Jews who work for a Japanese university in Denver, Colorado, Teikyo Loretto Heights University. A major point made about the way Shintoism differs from many Western religions was its characteristic of syncretism. Syncretism means that a religion can absorb people of many religious beliefs, even beliefs that conflict with one another.

Eileen reported on a session which she attended, "Reflections on Zionism: From a Black and Jewish Perspective." Presenters were Nathan Firestone, a professor at Point Park College and Laurence Glasco, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. The presentations included discussion of the history of Black-Jewish relations until 1960. One major point of discussion was the break between Blacks and Jews which occurred after the 1967 Six Day War. Both groups were becoming more nationalistic at that time--Jews as a result of pride in the victory of Israeli forces, and Blacks as a result of the Civil Rights Movement. However, Jewish nationalism became associated with successful accomplishment of Jewish aspirations while Black nationalism ultimately was perceived as failing to elevate the vast majority of Blacks. This divergence led to a breakdown in the formerly amicable relationship of Blacks and Jews.

Bert reported on the presence at the Workshop of two groups which were not formerly involved: Blacks and Orthodox (formerly known as Greek or Eastern Orthodox). He pointed out that, although both groups lacked the sensitivity to language and issues that is characteristic of people in regular dialogue, the future involvement of these groups in Dialogue should sensitize them to these factors.

Lorraine reported on a session, "Encountering the Other in Faith," presented by Rabbi Leon Klenicki, Director, Department of Interfaith Affairs of the Anti-Defamation League. The major point of the session was that people of different religions need to talk to each other as persons rather than subjects. They need to understand the other as a person of faith. The dual problems of triumphalism and syncretism must be avoided. Christians need to eliminate the theological basis for anti-Semitism, and Jews need to overcome 2,000 years of prejudice and memory, including the fear of conversion efforts directed against them. Another point was that people in dialogue need to get beyond the state of "tea and sympathy" and learn to discuss the meanings of evil and God. Another point made was that truth is contextual. This point generated a good deal of controversy and discussion among the Dialogue members in attendance at Alumni Hall.

Another session which Lorraine reported on was titled "Proselytizing and Pluralism." One presenter, Judith Banki, Interreligious Affairs Specialist for the American Jewish Committee, discussed the contrasting meanings of the terms evangelizing and proselytizing. In any case, since the Holocaust, the interest of most Christians in converting Jews has declined. A second presenter, Susan Hansen, a sociology professor at the University of Pittsburgh, discussed the history of conversion efforts. The third presenter, Rev. Gordon T. Walker, a former Southern Baptist and convert to the Christian Orthodox Religion, admitted that he sees his religion as requiring attempted conversion.

There followed in the Dialogue meeting a discussion of proselytizing and evangelizing. Bert and Eileen commented on the considerable change in the Catholic Church's view on missionizing. Eileen said that her image of God is a God of all religions, and therefore there is no point in proselytizing. Lou discussed his warm feelings about Eileen's tolerant concept of religious belief. John elaborated on the revulsion that his Protestant church feels toward proselytizing. However, since his church's members are aging and there are few young members, some have proposed a rethinking of the prohibition on proselytizing.

Jerry Kotler reported the quote by John Pawlikowski of David Hartman that spiritual monism is fatal. Also Michael Kogan, Head of the Religion Department at Montclair State College, said that the Shoah and the rebirth of Israel resulted in the Christian-Jewish Dialogue Movement. Modern Christianity needs Judaism to help explain the Jewish background of Jesus. John Pawlikowski said that Christians must be sensitive to the blocks that Jews feel about "total dialogue." Jews have not grappled with the implications of the bonding that would result from such a process. Also Dr. Franklin Sherman reported on how the past "quest for the historical Jesus" has evolved into the current "quest for the Jewish Jesus."

In conclusion, Jerry told a story about a Jewish woman who told her child that, at one time, some Jews owned slaves. The child asked incredulously, "Didn't they know about Passover?"

The meeting adjourned at 10:00 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Kenneth Rosenzweig


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