Minutes of Monthly Meeting

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February 8, 1998

Location: Alumni Hall, University of Dayton

Meeting Topic: Relationship of Christian and Jewish Church and Synagogue Architecture

Speaker: Rev. Joseph Goetz, St. Paul's Church, Yellow Springs

Host: Connie Breen

PRESENT: Connie Breen and Ruth Precker, Co-chairs; Donna Bealer, Charlotte Braverman, Shirley Flacks, Erika Garfunkel, Felix Garfunkel, Frances Gross, Bette Jasko, Bob Jasko, John (Jack) Kelley, Jerry Kotler, Barbara Levine, John Magee, Eileen Moorman, Bill Rain, Donald Ramsey, Harry Roberts, Ken Rosenzweig, Lou Ryterband, Robin Smith, William Youngkin.

Connie Breen called the meeting to order at about 8:00 PM. Jerry Kotler delivered the invocation, which was a tribute to Lou Ryterband on the occasion of his birthday. Jerry cited Lou's distinguished medical career and his unique relationship with the Dayton community. Jerry recalled fondly his personal interactions with Lou since the early 80's. Jerry moved to Dayton in 1979. Soon afterward, he became a regular attender of the Temple Israel Brotherhood Brunch Lecture Series. Lou has been a devoted supporter of that lecture series for decades. Jerry noted Lou's wise and gentle hands guiding this wonderful series. After 46 years of existence, it may be the oldest such series in the world. Lou and his wife Dorothy contributed immensely to the series. Lou's wife Dorothy's coffee cake was regularly served at the brunches and was very popular with the attendees. Lou frequently invited the speaker and the brunch attendees to continue the learning at his house at a special party after the brunch. These post-brunch events were phenomenal. Jerry noted how Lou introduced people and made them feel comfortable at his house while learning. If this were Lou's only gift, it would be enough. However, Lou suggested to Jerry that he come to a Dialogue meeting 16 years ago, and Jerry is eternally grateful for his initiating Jerry and Lorraine into their wonderful association with the Dialogue. Jerry noted that Lou helped organize the first National Workshop on Christian-Jewish Relations, held in Dayton in 1973. Lou has been a beacon of light for Christian-Jewish relations in the Dayton area as well as nationally. We all pray that Lou will be with us until he is 120 year old (in 35 years). Happy Birthday, Lou! There was vigorous applause. Lou then blew out the candles on his birthday cake.

Ken proposed two speakers be added to the Dialogue schedule. First, he recommended Dr. David Barr of the Wright State University Department of Religion. Dr. Barr recently gave a wonderful talk to the Temple Israel Brotherhood Brunch Series on the philosophical mode of thinking of the ancient Hebrews and Greeks, and how these different modes influenced early Christianity. Ken recommended Dr. Barr for a similar talk to the Dialogue. A preliminary consultation with Dr. Barr about this possibility indicated that he would be available to speak at the June 14 Dialogue meeting. Ken also recommended as a speaker Dr. Cecelia Moore of the University of Dayton Department of Religious Studies. She has offered to speak to the Dialogue on the subject of Black-Jewish relations and has indicated she would be available to speak at the September 13 meeting. The Dialogue members in attendance approved the two speakers and authorized Ken to add them to the schedule. On another matter, Ken passed around the program of the 1998 Sinclair Holocaust Remembrance Program which is scheduled over the next couple of months (see the program later in these minutes).

Jack introduced a visitor to the meeting, Harry Roberts. He will soon be traveling to Bangalore, India to direct a Marianist education program. He is a lay person and will help develop a Catholic university religious program. Jack also recommended two books and an article as background reading for Christian-Jewish Dialogue.1

Connie then introduced the Rev. Joseph Goetz. Connie has known him since infancy. Joe Goetz grew up in Dayton. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 1960. In 1966, he went to England where he was the first Roman Catholic priest to be resident in King's College, Cambridge, since the Reformation. There he completed his Ph.D. in philosophical theology. In the 1970's, he taught at Antioch College and Mt. St. Mary's Seminary of the West, the Athenaeum of Ohio. From 1979 until 1989, he served as Pastor of the Church of the Holy Angels, located next to the University of Dayton. He has served in numerous positions of leadership in the Dayton area, such as Chair of the Dayton Chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and President of Metropolitan Churches United (now called Greater Dayton Christian Connections). Since 1991, Joe has served as Pastor of St. Paul's Parish in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Rev. Goetz's Presentation

Fr. Goetz began his presentation at 8:25 PM by telling a story from the Christian Scriptures. When Jesus went back to his hometown, he spoke in a synagogue but did not get a very good reception. When Joe returned to his hometown of Dayton in 1979 to become Pastor of Holy Angels, the Lextionary reading in his first Mass was that very reading from the Christian Scriptures. He wondered whether, like Jesus, he was due to receive a poor reception. One of the members of Holy Angels whom Joe met at that first Mass was the Oakwood police chief. Joe grew up in Oakwood and was remembered by the police chief as a "spirited" youngster.

Joe observed that the synagogue and church are both religious structures. He has always been fascinated with architecture and buildings. He has had the privilege of living near some extraordinary buildings, for example the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge. This building was finished in 1525 and is a benchmark of what is beautiful about religious buildings. Joe noted that the first synagogues were very simple buildings. They were places for meeting after the Babylonian Exile and after the destruction of the Temple. All that was needed was a roof and a place where the reader could stand elevated on a pulpit. Synagogues were simply meeting places where people could gather to learn about the Divine word. The earliest Christians were Jews, and they met in the synagogues. As a consequence, the earliest religious buildings for Christians were synagogues. Therefore, functionally, a church resembles a synagogue. Joe provided information from a very interesting article in the Encyclopedia of Biblical Religion about the early synagogue. Women were separated from men by being placed in a gallery. The Ark of the Law occupied the central position in the synagogue and was heavily decorated with hangings. At this point, Joe showed some drawings which he had made to illustrate this layout. When early Christians would travel to preach the Christian message, they would talk in synagogues. When Christianity was legalized by Constantine, the Catacombs no longer needed to be used for secret Christian worship. Law courts, called basilicas, were authorized for Christian worship. This was a great transition.

The speaker showed a drawing of a simple Roman house with one room that was used as a church. There was a platform in the middle. On the platform was a table which would be used for the Agape, celebration of the Eucharist. The elder would stand behind the table and offer the Eucharist. When Christianity was legalized by Constantine, it began to imitate the civil institutions that had formerly been its enemy. This was a disaster for the integrity of the Church, because the Church could then use the institutions of the state for evil as well as good purposes, like the Inquisition. In the 19th century, the great English Rabbi Montefiori went to Rome to protest to the Pope a scandal in which a Jewish child was baptized against his parents' wishes. The Pope told him it was none of his business. At the time of the legalization of Christianity by the Roman Empire, the various titles of imperial etiquette such as Right Reverend became accepted. Joe showed a drawing of a law court that became a church. The apse was where the judge had formerly sat. The altar was placed in front of the seat. Joe showed what the altar would have looked like. It had a canopy above. Joe noted that the synagogue was always oriented to Jerusalem, and the Church was always oriented to the east (rising of the sun). Erica asked about churches that were located east of Jerusalem. Joe replied that such churches would still be oriented to the east, while synagogues in these areas would be oriented to the west (toward Jerusalem). Harry asked about the cross. Joe responded that the cross was not used much until the fifth century. There was no official symbol of Christianity prior to that time. The cross was a symbol of shame and would have constituted bad public relations for these early Christians. By the fifth century, the crosses would have been jeweled but would have been without any corpus (body of Jesus). As the church became more and more the established church, and the synagogue became more hidden, a great division developed. Gradually with the legalization of Christianity, there was an increasing division between the people and the clergy. Progressively, there developed a greater reverence for the clergy. This increased throughout the Middle Ages. Clergy became a caste set apart from ordinary people. When people went to church, they increasingly went as a spectators. Now there was a screen in front of the altar. Ordinary persons could only observe the sacred mysteries that happened behind the screen; they were not regarded as a part of the liturgy. This form of observance represented a deepening transcendence. Liturgy was relegated to people who had specialized knowledge. Jerry pointed out the analogy between this model and that of the Temple in Jerusalem where only the priest could go into the Holy of Holies. Joe noted that this great shift culminated about the 10th century. What had initially been a synagogue was now, increasingly, modeled on the Temple. This shift had occurred earlier in the Byzantine Empire. Joe showed a drawing of a 14th century church with the screen. Joe pointed out that the words of the liturgy were unintelligible to the ordinary person because they were in Latin. Transcendence dominated and distorted this approach to religion. The vestments of priests were simply older style garments (third century unisex streetwear) which did not evolve with the times. Joe noted humorously at this point that the writer, Thoreau, said that he was distrustful of any job which required new clothes. Someone asked about the skullcap worn by priests. Joe speculated it was designed to keep bald heads warm. He noted that seldom is the mystic explanation operative, it is usually the pragmatic.

In the Reformation, Protestant and Catholic churches divided as a consequence of a liturgical transformation. Protestant churches determined to go back to the early synagogue model. Protestants believed that images could confuse people. There was a strain of Protestantism that was profoundly iconoclastic (against the use of sacred religious images). At King's College, the fellows were able to bribe Cromwell's army not to break the stained glass windows, but some statues were mutilated. In the counter Reformation, Catholics thought that church artistry could help missionize for the religion. In the 16th century, there was also a turn toward the model of the early synagogue in the Catholic world as well. By the end of the 18th century, there was a revival of romanticism, and the churches began to be constructed in a nostalgic way (return to Gothic). Especially since the 2nd Vatican Council, the construction model of Catholic churches and other Christian churches is reverting to that of the synagogue. There has been a distinct reduction in the number of images. People are gathered close to the altar rather than being separated from it. The primary iconography is the people themselves.

In summary, there has been a primary evolution of Christian churches away from and then back to the synagogue model. Today, there is no authoritative architecture for churches.

Discussion Period

Felix asked about the Greek Orthodox churches which have a lot of images (icons). Joe said they are very close to the Roman basilica (legal court). Over the history of Christianity, there has developed a division between Eastern liturgy and Western liturgy. Eastern liturgy is more poetic and mystical. Western liturgy has been more legal and precise. By the 10th century, the liturgies were very different.

Eleanor asked about the Sephardic notion of having the bema (pulpit) in the middle of the audience. Jerry said that a lot of synagogues are currently being built that way. Joe replied that there has been a recent tendency to put the church bema nearer the people. Erica asked about the outside architecture of the church. She noted the steeple and the rooster symbol on German churches. Joe said that he thinks the rooster represents the rising sun. The steeple is a truncated bell tower. Bert recently taught a course in Hawaii. He saw an octagonal church in Maui built by the Portuguese. Joe said there have always been circular churches. He noted humorously that in the movie, The African Queen, Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart come to a town in Africa where all the churches look like English churches. Missionaries not only bring their religion but their culture and architectural norms with them.

Jerry talked about his tour of Europe where he saw many cathedrals. He can understand the power of such buildings, because his knees became weak. Ken also talked about his visit to European cathedrals; they made him feel very insignificant. Joe agreed that some cathedrals contribute to that feeling, but said that Chartres Cathedral in France is an exception which makes one feel what a wonderful thing it is to be a human. In Joe's opinion, it is the most beautiful building in the world. Felix talked about a church in Rio De Janeiro which is very impressive. Harry asked whether the fact that Latin is not being used in church services diminishes the religious feeling. Joe said that it diminishes the sense of transcendence. Joe said that 30 years ago he was in Warsaw. He attended Mass at a church where he was the only man in church. He therefore helped the priest with the Communion. After the Mass, he had to speak to the priest in Latin because that was their only common language. The priest asked Joe to break fast with him in the Rectory. Therefore, Joe has some regrets about the adoption of the vernacular for Catholic prayer, partly because of the resulting diminishing of a universal Catholic language.

Jack asked about the church in Strasbough which has images of Ecclesia and Synagoga, with Synagoga shown in a subjugated role. Jack asked whether Joe has observed much anti-Jewish architecture and decoration. Joe admitted that there is all too much of this form of anti-Jewish decoration. He said he is reading a revisionist biography of Philip II of Spain. Philip, who lived after the Jewish expulsion from Spain, was not a simple-minded anti-Semite. He regarded the Conversos (Jewish converts to Christianity) as a valuable part of the Spanish population.

Connie thanked Joe for a very interesting presentation. Eileen discussed Dave Schwarz's talk to the next Dialogue meeting to be held on March 8 at the Kotler's home. Dave has co-authored a book with a Black woman. On another matter, Jack said he was present at the funeral service for Curtis Hicks, affirmative action pioneer at the University of Dayton. The funeral was a marvelous service at Mount Olive Baptist Church. Curtis Hicks worked in the area of affirmative action for 30 years. The meeting adjourned at approximately 9:35 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Ken Rosenzweig, Secretary


1 Jonathan Kirsch, The Harlot by the Side of the Road, Forbidden Tales of the Bible, (New York: Ballantine).

David I. Kertzer, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara. The extraordinary story of how the Vatican's imprisonment of a six-year old Jewish boy in 1858 helped bring about the collapse of the Popes' worldly power in Italy. (New York, Knopf, 1997).

David I Kertzer, "Secrets of the Vatican Archives," New York Times (February 2, 1998).

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