DAYTON CHRISTIAN JEWISH DIALOGUE
Minutes of Meeting
Date: March 8, 1992
Location: Grailville Conference Center
Meeting Topic: Retreat
Facilitator: Sister Katherine Edgar, Coordinator of Spiritual Development Programs, Bergamo Conference Center, Loveland, Ohio
MEMBERS PRESENT: Jerry & Lorraine Kotler, Cochairs; Arthur Auster, Judy Auster, Glenn Duckwall, Phyllis Duckwall, Shirley Flacks, Edith Holsinger, Sophie Kahn, Stephen Kahn, Eleonor Koenigsberg, Harry Koenigsberg, Carrie LaBriola, Shirley McKee, Bill Rain, Mary Ellen Rain, Ken Rosenzweig, Louis Ryterband, .
GUESTS PRESENT: Elizabeth Burks, Holly Eck, Anna Jenkins, Chris Leaming, Sharon Rogers, Mary Shank, Kevin Smith, Kathy Willet.
After a period during which the attenders greeted each other, Sister Katherine called the retreat to order at about 1:30 PM. She began by introducing herself. She is a member of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus and she holds the position of Coordinator of Spiritual Development Programs at Bergamo Conference Center.
In the first session, Sr. Katherine established the theme of the retreat, spiritual development. She discussed such concepts as maturity and adulthood and correspondingly the childlike characteristics worth preserving in adulthood, including imagination and risk taking. Other themes discussed were stewardship and the bringing together of the secular and the sacred aspects of life. In developing these themes, Sr. Katherine utilized stories from both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures as well as Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev. At the end of this session, Sr. Katherine handed out a list of questions for reflection and asked the attenders to consider them over the break.
The Retreat reconvened at 2:55 PM, at which time Sr. Katherine asked people to share their reflections. Steve shared a poem written by Rabbi Ben Ezra. Jerry & Lorraine shared the story of Rabbi Sousha who was not afraid that, after his death, God would ask him whether he had been Moses, but rather he was afraid that God would ask him whether he had been Sousha. Jerry shared with the group his own journey to synthesize the concepts of science and religion and his discomfort with some traditional interpretations of prayer. Arthur suggested that an important part of Jerry's journey is expressed in his singing. Lorraine raised the topic of the search for the meaning of life. Sr. Katherine suggested consideration of Meister Eckard's four paths to creation. Edith volunteered that understanding the meaning of life comes with perseverance and time. Steve said that age leads to a recognition of human limits. Phyllis stated that we must not be hung up on limits.
Next, Sr. Katherine handed out a sheet which listed paradigmatic experiences of the two religions, Judaism and Christianity. Based on this handout, there was some discussion of the concept of "surrender" that is common in Christianity. Some Jewish attenders expressed their discomfort with the idea of surrender. Lou mentioned that the concept of retreat itself is foreign to Judaism. Shirley responded that the Sabbath is a form of retreat. Steve said that struggle is important though sometimes we fail. Carrie maintained that "trust" is critical to any relationship, whether it be between God and human beings or between different human beings. Carrie maintained that, as a consequence, God's covenant with the Jewish people must be everlasting. If God reneged on that covenant, how could humans trust God? Someone pointed out that human parties to that covenant are capable of arguing with God. Arthur cited the freedom theme in the Passover story. There was a discussion of the association between responsibility and commitment and freedom. Lorraine maintained that spiritual freedom comes from accepting the bondage of the law and through isolation of the desert. Carrie stated that Lent is a form of going into the desert.
At 3:55 PM, Sr. Katherine suggested that, after a break, the Retreat break up into groups of about five people to discuss the meaning of covenant. The groups convened at about 4:10 PM and disbanded at about 5:30 PM, at which time the larger group reconvened. Representatives of the groups shared the contents of the respective group discussions. Some topics brought out during these discussions were differences between Jewish and Christian concepts of prayer (ritualistic, communal, and individual), differences and similarities of Jewish and Christian symbols (Torah and Eucharist), different ways of approaching God (through service and faith-sharing), different views of the ordering of the relationship between religious faith and good works (does faith lead to good works or do good works lead to faith or are they simultaneous?). The Retreat adjourned to the Dining Room for dinner shortly before 6 PM.