Minutes of Meeting
January 9, 1994
Alumni Hall Room 101
University of Dayton
Topic: "Prayers of the Heart:" Why certain prayers/psalms/songs (of both communities) have special meaning
Speakers: Dieter Walk and Eric Friedland
Hosts: Glenn & Phyllis Duckwall
PRESENT: Dieter and Suzie Walk, Cochairs; Arthur Auster, Judith Auster, Bert Buby, Glenn Duckwall, Phyllis Duckwall, Shirley Flacks, Jack Hickey, Sophie Kahn, Steve Kahn, Eleanor Koenigsberg, Harry Koenigsberg, Jerry Kotler, Lorraine Kotler, Faith Magee, John Magee, Cy Middendorf, Judith Moore, Eileen Moorman, Bill Rain, Mary Ellen Rain, Kenneth Rosenzweig, Louis Ryterband, Gil Unger, Murray Weisman.
The meeting was called to order at about 7:50 PM by Dieter Walk. To open the meeting, Judith Moore delivered a prayer for peace obtained from the Jewish prayer book. Phyllis delivered the Treasurer's Report. The Dialogue has a bank balance of $219.99. Dialogue members thanked Phyllis and Ken for their work respectively as Treasurer and Secretary. There followed a discussion of upcoming Dialogue events. A meeting to plan the retreat was scheduled at the home of Shirley Flacks on Tuesday, January 11, at 7PM.
Bert commented upon the recent agreement for formal diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the State of Israel. He also announced that Father Jack Kelley is involved in reviewing Vatican policies concerning revision of the Catechism (religious curriculum for Catholics). The Catechism may have important implications for how Catholics view Jews and the Jewish religion.
The formal program began about 8:10. Dieter asked those in attendance to limit their comments on prayers/psalms/songs to a couple of minutes. Steve began by citing a prayer with special meaning for him which includes, "Walk humbly with thy God . . ." Phyllis delivered a brief prayer which is from the 51st Psalm. Arthur discussed a favorite prayer from the Tomlit Brachott. It is a prayer for peace and includes the statement, "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord." Jerry sang one version of this prayer and Murray sang another version which is in the Yiddish style. Eileen cited a favorite prayer titled Memorary which is to the Virgin Mary. In this prayer, Mary answers people's prayers and is seen as a goddess, a mother, and a friend.
Shirley described the special meaning that the blessing over the Sabbath candles has for her. This blessing initiates the Sabbath on Friday evening, is normally delivered by the woman of the house, and has special significance for the sanctification of the home. Other attendees talked about the special hand motions that often accompany the recitation of this prayer. Arthur pointed out that the Jewish Sabbath is both initiated and concluded with candle flame (the Havdallah service on Saturday evening involves lighting a special multi-strand woven candle).
Bill Rain discussed a prayer that is important to him particularly on stressful days, "God grant me the courage to change what I can . . ." Jerry read a creative translation of part of the "Shma" prayer, the central prayer of the Jewish religion. The translation was from a Jewish religious retreat which he and Lorraine attended and involved the requirement to teach the commandments to ones children through all the stages of life, even when "lying down." Jerry cited a poignant illustration of Rabbi Adler who prepared children for their Bar and Bat Mitzvah's at Beth Abraham Synagogue. Even on his deathbed, he continued to teach the children, thus fulfilling the Shma's mandate. Eleanor followed up Jerry's presentation with a more traditional translation of the Shma, "You shall love the Lord your God . . . "
Dieter described a teaching of Psalm 119 in which he encouraged his Sunday School students at the Assembly of God church to memorize in Hebrew the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. The Psalm needs to be learned in Hebrew because it is an acrostic which is a series of lines in which the first letters form a word or phrase. Jerry pointed out that acrostics were popular before the wide availability of printing and books because they facilitated the memorization of long works. Ken read two modern prayers from the Reform Movement prayer book, Gates of Prayer. One prayer was for the United States government and the second was for the State of Israel. Jerry followed up by discussing an old prayer book for women called the "Tsenarenna" which was primarily in Yiddish and included a prayer for the Czar of Russia.
Mary Ellen described an old-style Catholic prayer book with Latin and English translation. Traditionally, users of the prayer book would place prayer cards in them which included a picture of a saint and memorialized some deceased family member. After a prayer card was passed around, there was much interested discussion of the tradition of prayer cards. Judith Moore described a prayer that Jews recite upon first waking in the morning. This prayer thanks God for allowing us to get our souls back. Judith pointed out that there is a Jewish prayer for almost any bodily function. Dieter asked about the tradition of "minyamim" (women's prayer groups). Shirley explained that in traditional Judaism, such minyamim must be totally exclusive of men. Lorraine explained why women in traditional Judaism cannot be counted in a "minyan" (prayer group of at least ten men). Only those who are mandated to pray three times a day can be counted in the minyan, and women are exempt from time-bound commandments.
Jerry talked about the requirement for a thread of blue in the tsitsis (the four tassels at the corners of the tallith prayer shawl). In ancient times, the blue dye was obtained from a mollusk but the dye technology died out and for hundreds of years, tsitsis did not have this blue thread. Recently, some tsitsis have once again been made with the blue thread. Murray described a reading from the Pirkey Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) which defines the three ways to avoid sin. Father Cy Middendorf described the prayer for the Guardian Angels which he and many Catholics say before riding in an automobile. Bert said that he studies 9 or 10 psalms each day. One of these is Psalm 131 (Song of Ascent) which focuses on our forefathers and foremothers. Jerry followed up by citing the case of Nathan Sharansky, the Russian Jewish activist, who was able to memorize 150 psalms while in jail. Lorraine described a beautiful meditation that is at the end of the Amidah prayer (a silent devotion). Lou cited a reading from Isaiah, "I (God) do not need your prayer; I need you to take care of your fellow man." Jack described Catholics' invocation of the arch-angel, St. Michael.
Gil Unger discussed the inability of those who have passed away to send information back about the after-life by reciting an imaginative story about larvae in the mud of the ocean bottom. One of these larvae rises to the surface and hatches out to become a beautiful dragon fly. The larvae on the ocean bottom cannot know about this wonderful possibility because the dragon fly cannot return to the ocean bottom to describe the beauties above.
Jerry asked the Christians in attendance whether prayers which do not include Jesus have less efficacy for them since such prayers delivered in interdenominational settings often have the effect of excluding Jews and those of other non-Christian religions. Eileen answered no; the important thing is the feeling the prayer engenders in the heart. John Magee stated that referring to Jesus in interreligious prayers reflects an insensitivity of Christians to those of other religious. There followed a discussion of the gender of God. Lou stated that his referring to a feminine God has often caused a bitter reaction from some of his patients.
Arthur told a humorous story about the Dayton flood of 1913 which destroyed a synagogue. The congregation built a new sanctuary in another place and, when it was complete, there was a celebration in which congregants marched to the new synagogue carrying the Torahs. A non-Jewish band was hired to march behind and one of the pieces the band played was Onward Christian Soldiers. Steve described a news report during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in which the news commentator speculated why the Israelis could not act more like "Christians."
The meeting adjourned at 9:40 PM.