Minutes of Monthly Meeting

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June 8, 1997

Location: Alumni Hall, University of Dayton

Meeting Topic: Rabbi Riemer's article on cloning in the Dayton Jewish Advocate

Hosts: Shirley Flacks, Eleanor Koenigsberg, and Eileen Moorman

PRESENT: Eileen Moorman, Acting Chair; Arthur Auster, Judy Auster, Bert Buby, Corrine Coleman, Steve Coleman, Phyllis Duckwall, Marlese Durr, Shirley Flacks, Agnes Hannahs, Edith Holsinger, Bette Jasko, Robert Jasko, John Kelley, Eleanor Koenigsberg, Harry Koenigsberg, John Magee, Arch McMillan, Ken Rosenzweig.

Eileen called the meeting to order at about 8:00 PM. Father Bert delivered the opening prayer which was taken from the Book of Deuteronomy. It focused on the choice between good and evil given to humankind by God. If we keep God's laws, we will prosper. We will perish if we stray from those laws.

Eileen then expressed the appreciation of those present to Shirley, Eleanor, and Eileen for hosting the evening by providing refreshments. Three new attendees were introduced; these were Bob and Betty Jasko and Marlese Durr. The rest of the attendees then introduced themselves.

At this point, Arthur and Judy announced the Annual Listen to Your Neighbor Dinner and Lecture to be held on June 18 at Beth Abraham Synagogue. This dinner is an important community event in the area of interfaith relations, and all are cordially invited to attend. There is no charge for attendance. The featured speaker is Rev. Richard Venus, the dynamic spiritual leader of the Miami Valley Unitarian Fellowship. If you wish to attend, telephone Beth Abraham at 275-7403 by Monday, June 16.

Father Kelley distributed a paper discussing a recent interfaith conference he attended in Baltimore. After some discussion, it was decided that Father Kelley will make a statement on his experiences at this conference at the July meeting. Eileen then discussed arrangements for the Annual Dialogue Picnic to be held in August. Next, Eileen requested volunteers to host upcoming meetings. Hosts who volunteered are listed in the Schedule which follows these minutes. Anyone who would like to volunteer to host those Dialogue meeting dates which are not yet selected may contact any of the officers listed on page 1.

There was some discussion of the September 14 meeting on Changing Family Structure. Agnes suggested inviting people actually living in non-traditional families to our September meeting. Arthur asked if anyone knows of anyone from a non-traditional family who would be suitable for inviting to the meeting. Marlese emphasized how important the topic is. She noted that single mothers often shy away from churches because of the non-supportive reactions they get from them.

At this point, Ken proposed a speaker and associated topic for a future meeting. Ken has read an article in the University of Dayton Quarterly about research being conducted by Prof. John Heitman of the University of Dayton's Department of History. His research is on the plight of German Americans during World War II. Many German Americans were interned for security reasons and some were deported to Germany. Ken suggested that reflection of Dialogue members on the plight of an unaccustomed group of victims (German Americans) may enable Dialogue members to explore the principles of tolerance and mutual understanding that underly the Dialogue process. Arthur suggested that the program might also include discussion of the negative treatment by the United States of Japanese Americans during World War II. After some discussion, the attendees decided to authorize Ken to contact John Heitman about a presentation in March or May of 1998.

Dialogue Training Day at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Kettering

Eileen called for sharing of impressions by those who attended Dialogue Training Day yesterday. The event was organized by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati under the direction of Lou Vera for education of Diocese educators in ecumeninism. Dialogue members who attended included Eileen Moorman, Lou Ryterband, Edith Holsinger, Jack Kelley, Shirley Flacks, and Ken Rosenzweig. Also, Bette and Robert Jasko who are attending tonight's Dialogue meeting were in attendance at the Dialogue Training Day.

Eileen discussed one session entitled Abrahamic Exchanges. This session involved discussion of ongoing dialogues between various combinations of Protestant Christians, Catholic Christians and Muslims. Another session was entitled Catholics and Evangelicals. Jack also mentioned a session entitled Blessed Be the Ties That Bind in which the presenters were four Black ministers who discussed ecumenism in the Black community. Shirley was very interested in the Catholics and Ecumenicals session. Shirley noted that, relative to the generally open attitude of Catholics to dialogue, there is some fear of dialogue by Lutherans. Edith also had a sense that the Lutherans were a bit uneasy. In response to this, Jack Kelley mentioned the recent Lutheran statement on Martin Luther and the Jews which disavowed Martin Luther's anti-Semitism. Marlese noted that Black Baptists do not believe in the anti-Semitic part of Luther's writings.

Eileen asked if Bob and Bette had any reflections on the Dialogue Training Day. Bob observed that in the plenary session entitled Is the Reformation Completed?, the Protestants and Catholics on the panel seemed to like and respect each other. Eileen stated that the Black ministers in the session, Blessed Be the Ties That Bind, had emphasized the practical aspect of making the world better over differences in belief. Edith stated that the Black ministers were able to work together because they all personally came from mixed religious backgrounds. Overcoming problems of religious diversity in their own families provided a paradigm for solving those problems in the larger Black community. Eileen noted in this respect that Father Fred Washington had emphasized his mixed religious background. Shirley stated that the Muslim speaker, Muhammed Karim, in the Abrahamic Exchanges workshop suggested stirfry as a more appropriate metaphoric description of the American immigrant experience than melting pot. Eileen noted Karim's statement that Muslims who are interested in Dialogue may suffer from the mistaken notion of most non-Muslims that all Muslims are Arabs. In fact only 11% of Muslims are Arabs. Also Karim noted that in this century, dialogue between Muslims and Jews has been hampered by political differences associated with the Israeli-Arab conflict. Therefore, there has been more opportunity for Muslim-Christian dialogue than Muslim-Jewish dialogue. However, in contrast, in prior centuries, relations between Muslims and Jews were closer than those between Muslims and Christians. Karim as well as others in attendance at the session felt that more Muslim dialogue with other religious groups is desirable. Bette and Bob Jasko observed, based on their experiences with other ecumenical groups, that there are so many similarities among people of different religions. Bette and Bob stated they are also in a group called Servant Leadership; in one activity of this group, they shared a meal with homeless men and, in the process, discovered more about themselves spiritually. Jack Kelley praised Lou Vera for the fact that she was able to assemble 50 participants for this important event. Eileen noted that the speakers were very well qualified. She was also impressed with the fact that so many people were interested in dialogue. Several of the attendees at the Dialogue Training Day expressed an interest in the Dayton Christian Jewish Dialogue and have been put on the mailing list for our minutes.

Cloning Discussion

The formal program began at 9 PM. The discussion was based on Rabbi Riemer's article. Eileen stated the English people have determined that cloning of human beings will not be permitted. In the US, President Clinton has called together a commission to consider the matter. The commission recommended that there be no public funding of research on human cloning. The commission suggested, however, that anti-cloning laws should expire after three to five years. The commission seemed to implicitly allow private industry to go ahead with human cloning research as long as government funds were not used. A sportsperson called cloning a fantasy because we cannot replicate ourselves. Although clones might have the same genetic structure (nature), they would not be the same because of different environment (nurture).

The first question which Eileen raised with the group is on page 7 of the May minutes: the point that "each person is a world." Shirley agreed with this point, noting that "he who saves a single person is as if he saved the whole world." Arthur observed that the original cloning was in the Book of Genesis, in which God made Adam's rib into a woman. Bert noted that this is from the Yahwist writing. On another matter, Bert expressed his belief that a cloned person does have a soul. However, he questioned whether humans have the right to create a human clone. Steve raised the question about whether there is a significant difference between cloning and in-vitro fertilization in terms of their ethical ramifications. Shirley observed that a lot of mistakes can be made in the process of cloning, resulting in the creation of defective human beings. Eileen asked why the cloned person would not be human? Also, in reply to Shirley's observation, there must have been a lot of mistakes in developing the process of in-vitro fertilization; yet it is acknowledged to be a valuable technique today. Steve stated that at least with in-vitro there is a mother. Ken stated that like other developments such as nuclear power, the technology cannot be stopped. Rather, it is our job to manage its advance in an ethically acceptable manner. Bert emphasized the potential ethical problems of creating human clones just to harvest their organs. Arch asked whether the purpose of cloning is to attempt to develop more perfect people and then to exterminate the rest. Edith expressed the view that, in assessing whether cloning is ethical, the motives of the cloners are very important. Marlese said that her church has taken a stance against human cloning for many of the ethical reasons which have been discussed tonight. She feels that cloning has very chilling implications. Phyllis emphasized humans' desire to prolong life indefinitely; cloning may be viewed by many as a way to accomplish that end. Phyllis stated however that we cannot stop death. Arthur asked why we would be interested in cloning if our population is growing rapidly; propagation by normal means is quite sufficient to replace the population. Since the attendees seemed generally opposed to human cloning, Ken asked them to address the question whether it is alright to clone animals. Edith mentioned that she read about a person who got a Baboon heart who was thankful for it. Bert stated that any organ that could be obtained from a clone would not make the person perfect. Marlese noted that either Time or Newsweek devoted a full issue to cloning. She will get copies for the group. Bert emphasized Rabbi Riemer's three main claims which are on page 9 of the May minutes: humans have a right to be different from those who gave birth to them, humans should not play God, and death is necessary. Marlese expressed her opinion of the scariness of the idea of cloning. Her mother who is a Pentecostal feels that cloning is a sign of the corruption of the world, indicating that it is close to destruction. Marlese supports Rabbi Riemer's 3 claims. Eileen stated that like the normal method of reproduction, cloning is the process of humans working with God in the act of creation.

Arthur stated that God gave humankind the choice between good and evil, and asked for us to choose good and not evil. The question is whether cloning falls in the good or evil area. Arch stated that Hitler's Nazism had an earlier version of cloning--eugenics. Steve stated in response to Bert's point that without surgery one would be better off than he would otherwise be, although not perfect. Edith compared cloning to experimentation on animals which can develop knowledge that can benefit animals and humans; similarly, cloning research may produce knowledge that benefits human life. Steve stated that the technology cannot be stopped . Bob stated that we run the risk that clones might be wiped out later by previously unknown genetic weaknesses. Ken made the point that people have always been afraid of technological change, but many of the fears of that change have been overblown. John stated that sexual reproduction has overpopulated the country. Shirley stated she was against cloning because the old way was more fun. Ken raised the question of whether two clones would have the need to engage in dialogue.

For the closing prayer Bert read from Proverbs, chapter 10, verses 25 and 28-29.

The meeting was adjourned at about 9:45 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Ken Rosenzweig, Secretary
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