Minutes of Monthly Meeting

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March 9, 1997

Location: Alumni Hall, University of Dayton

Meeting Topic: Reflections of Christians and Jews on Their Visits to Jerusalem and Israel

Speakers: Connie Breen, Eileen Moorman, Suzie Walk, Jerry and Lorraine Kotler

Hosts: Connie Breen and Eileen Moorman

PRESENT: Connie Breen and Lou Ryterband, Cochairs; Gloria Anticoli, Arthur Auster, Judy Auster, Bert Buby, Phyllis Duckwall, Agnes Hannahs, Jack Hickey, Edith Holsinger, Sophie Kahn, Steve Kahn, Jack Kelley, Eleanor Koenigsburg, Harry Koenigsburg, Jerry Kotler, Lorraine Kotler, Arch McMillan, John Magee, Bob Mass, Barry Mersman, Eileen Moorman, Bill Rain, Ken Rosenzweig, Robin Smith, Leonard Solganik, Lois Solganik, Dieter Walk, Suzie Walk, Marianne Weisman, Murray Weisman, William Youngkin, Frederick Zollman.

Connie called the meeting to order at about 8:00 PM and welcomed the attendees. Eileen and Connie provided the refreshments. This included kosher Carmel wines purchased from Arrow Wine Store. Connie announced that Paul Flacks is in the hospital. She asked for a silent prayer for Paul. Connie read a hymn on God's creation of the world in honor of Paul. Suzie then discussed the Open Meeting with David Dolan, scheduled for April 6 (see Schedule later in these minutes). She asked for help in distributing the flyer for the occasion. Suzie said she has sent a press release to various organizations and news media in the Dayton area. Susan Stavenhagen, a professor in the Department of Communications at the University of Dayton, is having her public relations class prepare publicity for the event. Suzie asked for help in promoting the event. Rabbi Hillel Fox told Suzie that there is a kosher restaurant at Congregation Beth Jacob on that evening and all Dialogue Open Meeting attendees are invited to come afterward . The restaurant will be open from 6:30 until 9:00 PM and will feature all you can eat Middle Eastern cuisine (see Announcement later in these minutes). An announcement was made that Dialogue dues for the year 1997 are past due. Those not paying within the next month will be removed from the mailing list (see Dues Announcement later in these minutes.)

Father Kelley then discussed a number of items. He recently attended a passion play in Lake Wales, Florida. passion Plays are dramas that reflect on the last days and hours of Jesus. They have often been controversial because of their negative depiction of Jews. Some passion Plays have been cleaned up. Lorraine asked whether this referred to removal of anti-Semitism and Jack answered in the affirmative. For example, the Jewish priests in the Florida passion play did not have horns on their heads as they have had in other plays. The American Catholic Bishops have issued a publication governing passion plays, Criteria for the Evaluation of Dramatizations of the passion. On a related matter, a recent passion play in New Jersey features a black actor as Jesus. There has been much controversy about this play. Many people have refused to attend. On another matter, Jack stated that Father Ray Brown is the best Catholic scriptural scholar in the nation. A brochure of his life work on the passion of Jesus has been published. It was suggested that a number of copies be purchased for sale to Dialogue members. Jack gave a recent talk on the scandal of passion plays. Jack then announced that he does not need money from the Dialogue for his trip to the Holocaust conference because others have contributed to it. The Jewish Federation has given $400 to the project. Erika asked a question about the demonization of Jews in the passion plays. She noted that Moses has often been portrayed with horns; in fact, this is a misinterpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures; the horns are actually rays of light. The writers of passion plays may have picked up this horn allusion and applied it to the Jewish priests in the passion. This ought to be clarified. Jack replied that this is true, but Christians still have a problem because of anti-Jewish statements in such texts as the gospel of John.

Ken passed around the newsletter, Ma Nishma? of the Gesellschaft fuer christlich-judische Zusammenarbeit--Augsburg und Schwaben (Christian Jewish Dialogue of Augsburg, Germany). He also passed around an article on the Goldhagen tour of Germany from the New York Times Magazine.1 Ken noted that the article reports that Goldhagen has received a surprisingly positive response even though the thesis of his book, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, is that ordinary Germans were actively and enthusiastically involved in the killing of Jews in the Holocaust.

Suzie Walk's Presentation

Suzie went on the Jerusalem 3000 Partners Tour. Seventeen people from Dayton went on the tour; there were about 86 people altogether. The tour group was composed of Jews, Protestants, and Catholics, all of whom had a wonderful time. The group traveled around Israel on two buses. A publication from Suzie's church reports on the tour. The tour was led by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Rabbi Eckstein grew up in Ottawa, Canada and his organization is based in Chicago. Rabbi Eckstein has reached out to Evangelicals in the US. He has authored a book, What Christians Should Know About Jews and Judaism. Suzie arranged an event through the son in law of Rabbi Fox; the tour group visited Efrat, a community in the West Bank that is very orthodox. Because it was the Sabbath, some tour group members had to walk in from the gate; however, the buses were allowed to drive in because of the elderly people. The tour group received a talk about the problems of living in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

Connie Breen's Presentation

Connie has been to Israel twice, but this most recent trip was quite different than the prior one in that she saw more of the accomplishments of the State of Israel. Connie stated that the pillars of Israel are the Torah, the land, the people, and the love of God. During her tour, Connie visited Tel Aviv and Ceasaria, where she saw the flower called the Rose of Sharon. In the distance she saw Mount Carmel, where there are many wine vineyards. Connie noted that she brought Carmel wine for the Dialogue meeting attendees to drink. Later she went to Jaffa, where she observed the many trees planted by the Jewish National Fund. She noted that it is a custom that wedding couples come to Jaffa Park with brides wearing their wedding gowns. Later in the tour, Connie saw cotton fields and banana plantations. Connie observed that Israel's technology is highly advanced. Of particular note is the world renowned drip irrigation system for agriculture. In the Israeli countryside, Connie observed wheat and barley crops and groves of olive trees and pomegranates. She also saw fish hatcheries. Many of the farms are managed by Kibbutzim. In the Negev, which is a desolate dry region, she saw Bedouins living in tents made of goat hair. Many of the Bedouins are now moving into cities. Connie also saw many flower farms. Among Israel's many products are seedless tomatoes, cucumbers, balsam, and coriander. Connie's tour also went to the Dead Sea which is the lowest spot on earth. At the Dead Sea, there is a huge cosmetics industry. Israel has many parks; the sister of Eileen's daughter-in-law manages the Israeli park service. Connie concluded her talk by saying that her visit was a wonderful and enlightening experience.

Eileen Moorman's Presentation

Eileen reflected on things that were vivid in her memory from her Israeli tour. She saw most of the eight gates into the Old City in Jerusalem. For Eileen, one of the most important parts of her trip was the visit to the Wailing Wall (also known as the Western Wall) which she found extremely moving. Of course, she had to go to the wall on the women's side. As is the custom, Eileen put names of her loved ones in the crevices of the wall. She also put the Dayton Christian Jewish Dialogue on one slip. Another visit was to an archeological find of steps outside the wall of Jerusalem. While sitting on these steps, she mused that it is very possible that people going up to the Temple Mount in ancient times would have trod on these steps. She also visited the Mount of Olives where there is a cemetery in which Christians, Jews, and Muslims are buried. All three religions believe that, when the Messiah comes, the people in this cemetery will pass through its Golden Gates on their way back to Jerusalem. There are many old olive trees here. This is also where Jesus had his agony (the realization of his imminent fate). Eileen said that, as a result of her trip, she is really excited about Israel. She also visited a place called the cardo which is a Byzantine street that has been excavated and the Pool of Siloea where the Christian Scriptures depict Jesus telling a man to bathe in the pool so that he may be healed. It has alcoves underneath for the soldiers of Pontius Pilate. The group also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Nations. The Church of the Nations is a nondenominational church with a magnificent mosaic front. On Saturday, they went to a service there and took the Eucharist during a Spanish service. The group also went to the Church of St. Anne. Another day, the group went into the Garden Tomb where the resurrection was supposed to take place. They also went to the place of the Last Supper. Ken asked about whether Rabbi Eckstein accompanied the group to all the Christian sites, and Eileen replied that he did.

The group visited Yad Vashem, and Eileen noted the day became a holy day in itself. In Yad Vashem, she walked the street of the righteous (gentiles) and went to the Children's Pavilion--this place is lighted by a single candle and light is dispersed by means of mirrors. The names of children killed in the Holocaust and their country of origin are constantly being repeated over loud speakers. Eileen was so affected that she did not recover from crying for hours. In Yad Vashem, there is also a room with letters from people in the camps. The whole Yad Vashem site covers acres. Eileen also went to the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem which is known for its Chagal windows. The Hospital is composed of high, impressive buildings with a tiny synagogue in the center of the buildings. The twelve Chagal windows depict the twelve tribes of Israel. At this point, Arthur pointed out that he and his wife Judy saw them at the Louvre before they were shipped to Israel. Eileen said that the Hadassah Hospital is in the center of a beautiful pine forest. Eileen and her tourmates also went through the Hasmonean tunnel, including the newly opened exit that was so controversial. Some critics of the Israeli opening of the tunnel exit claimed that the tunnel weakened the Al Aksa Mosque. This is not true, as the Mosque is far away. Lorraine thought the Arabs should be thrilled by the tunnel opening because of the increased commercial business in East Jerusalem that it would generate. Felix pointed out that the Arabs may be protesting anything the Jews do in Jerusalem because of sovereignty issues.

The tour group also visited Bethlehem where they stood on a hillside at evening tide while lights were coming on in the city and sang Christmas carols. As a shepherd boy came up to them, two thousand years of time seemed illusory. In Bethlehem, the group went to the Church of the Nativity which is the place where Jesus is reputed to have been born. In an old section of the church which is owned by the Byzantines, there was a huge crowd of people. Women were praying on their knees. At this point, the group was surprised that a Byzantine priest, in an obnoxious way, demanded to be let through. Lorraine pointed out that when she was at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, a group of priests also marched through in an arrogant way. The group also went to Caesaria and to Qumran where they examined the archeological excavations. At Masada, the group went to the top in cable cars. From there, they observed the areas where the Roman soldiers besieging the Jewish Zealots in about 70 AD had their encampments. What shocked her was that King Herod had built the palace on top of Masada. There were frescoes on the walls. Felix commented on the Roman-built road up to Masada which was designed to enable the Roman soldiers to storm the fortress. Eileen commented that there was also a synagogue at Masada. After leaving Masada, the tour group went to a site near the Dead Sea--the pillar of salt from Sodom. Eileen was impressed with the fact that about a third of the Dead Sea is now dry, and the Kingdom of Jordan and the State of Israel are working together to reclaim it. The group also went to Megido which is a mesa where the Christian Scriptures says that the Battle of Armageddon will take place. This valley was used in ancient times to bury the dead from battles. According to the tradition of Ezekiel, the dry bones in this valley will be resurrected at the end of times. The tour group next went to Cana near the Sea of Galilee; this is a place where it is customary that married couple go to renew their vows. Next the group went to the Mount of the Beatitudes, where the pastor that accompanied the tour group read from The Beatitudes. Next the tour group went to the Golan Heights. As they were going down a road there, they saw big tanks, and they began to take pictures of them. Israeli soldiers quickly stopped the picture taking for security reasons. Eileen noted that Syrian soldiers had invaded the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War, but they were stopped in the Heights. The tour group also went to an Absorption Center which was educating newly arrived Russians to live in the State of Israel. The Center has a school for Hebrew and programs to prepare immigrants to work in their vocations. The Absorption Center had grown to 55,000 people from a Kibbutz of a few hundred people.

Jerry Kotler's Presentation

Jerry and Lorraine went on a Congregation Beth Jacob tour of Israel led by Rabbi Hillel Fox. A total of 48 people went on the tour from Dayton, although in Israel, the tour merged with a much larger group of several hundred people that traveled in many buses. It was a spiritual tour. There were many Bar and Bat Mitzvah children on the tour. Jerry showed many beautiful slides from the tour which took place in June and July of 1996. One place that was visited was the hall in Tel Aviv where Israel's Declaration of Independence was issued to found the State of Israel in 1948. Arthur stated that his uncle was the first signer of that Declaration. The tour also visited the Jesse Cohen Sister City Project in Tel Aviv. Jerry showed a slide of the Sy Burick Building (Sy Burick was a former sports writer in Dayton) which is a part of that project. The Jesse Cohen Project is an urban redevelopment area in Tel Aviv, supported by the Jewish Federation of Dayton. Many of the slides that Jerry showed were taken by Marty Garber who is a professional photographer. One slide was from a scenic spot overlooking Jerusalem. Other slides were of a boarding school for children from broken families. The children were infatuated with Jerry's hat which has a solar-powered cooling fan. Other slides were of a British prison and Bet Shan, an archeological excavation of a Roman city near Jerusalem which included an amphitheater. Jerry tested the acoustics of the amphitheater by singing an Italian aria from the stage. Marty Garber, the photographer, participated in an archeological dig in a cave at Bet Shan. Lorraine also went into the cave, but she had to get a former Green Beret to help pull her out. The tour also went to the Golan Heights where a Crusader fort, an Israeli radar installation, and a Kibbutz with fish ponds were seen. One slide showed river rafting on the Jordan River. Another place visited was Tiberias and Miamonides' Tomb near Tiberias. Jerry noted that a Cincinnati family, the Peerless family, put up money to rebuild the tomb. Rabbi Stanley Peerless, former Rabbi of Shomrei Emunah Synagogue is from that family. There is a saying that from Moses (from the Book of Exodus) to Moses (Maimonides), there has not been anyone to compare with Moses.

The tour also went to Safed, an ancient city where Jewish mystics lived. Led by Rabbi Fox, Jerry's group performed the evening service at a little synagogue in Safed. Throughout the tour, Rabbi Fox carried a little satchel with all the equipment (skull caps, prayer books, etc.) necessary to pray. At the appropriate times each day, Rabbi Fox would call the group to pray, and they would hold a service wherever they were. At one such service which was held right on the street in Safed, an Israeli soldier asked to join in. The tour also went to Masada where there are ancient buildings, many of them storehouses. From Masada, one can see the Dead Sea. Rabbi Hillel also led a prayer service at the synagogue on Masada. Eleanor pointed out that Israeli paratroopers used to take their oaths on Masada. Jerry noted that there is a ritual bath (mikveh) at Masada. Lorraine pointed out that the Zealots who barricaded themselves there were fanatics. Just before the Romans were to attack, the Zealots killed each other. Jerry put up a slide taken from Masada which showed the Roman encampments surrounding the site. There were guardposts every 50 feet. The Dead Sea could be seen in the distance. The tour also visited a beautiful oasis near Ein Gedi where there was a swimming hole. The tour went to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Jerry showed a slide of the statue at the entrance. At the memorial to the death camps inside of Yad Vashem, which is a large floor map showing their location, Rabbi Fox delivered a reading to the tour group. Another place visited was Oscar Schindler's grave. The slide of it showed the grave covered with small stones. Leaving a stone on the grave is a Jewish custom; its only significance is that it indicates someone visited the grave. From the Yad Vashem Museum, Jerry showed a slide of an anti-Semitic book from the 1930's authored by Gerald L. K. Smith and sponsored by Henry Ford. The tour went to the Wailing Wall which is actually a small part of the western wall of the Temple. Jerry showed a slide of a model of the ancient Temple and noted that it was the largest religious building in the world at that time. The tour group also went to the tunnel. Jerry noted that a Dayton family, the Zussman's, donated a lot of money to make the tunnel handicapped accessible. The Schottenstein family of Columbus, Ohio donated money to dig out the collapsed part of the tunnel. Jerry showed a slide of a place in the tunnel which is the closest place one can get to the Holy of Holies. Other slides showed the walls of the old city, the Damascus Gate, the Cardo, and King David's Tomb.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:00 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Ken Rosenzweig, Secretary


1 Elon, Amos, "The Antagonist as Liberator," The New York Times Magazine, January 26, 1997, pp. 40-44.
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