DAYTON CHRISTIAN JEWISH DIALOGUE
Minutes of Meeting
October 10, 1999
Location: Alumni Hall, University of Dayton
Meeting Topic: Exploring the Resurgence of Spirituality
Facilitator: Shirley Flacks
Host: Phyllis Duckwall
PRESENT: Robin Smith, Cochair; Donna Bealer, Joanne Beirise, Connie Breen, Bert Buby, Jim Buby, Corinne Coleman, Steve Coleman, Phyllis Duckwall, Shirley Flacks, Jerome Haley, Agnes Hannahs, Bette Jasko, Bob Jasko, Sophie Kahn, Stephen Kahn, Jack Kelley, Bo Leevy, Eileen Moorman, Bev Price, Bill Rain, Ken Rosenzweig, Juanita Wehrle-Einhorn, Rose Wendel, William Youngkin.
Robin called the meeting to order at about 7:50 PM. Robin thanked Phyllis Duckwall for hosting the meeting. Phyllis delivered the prayer which was from the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship: "Strengthen us; where we have sinned, have mercy on us; protect us through the silent hours of this night." Robin asked visitors to introduce themselves. Beverly Price is Phyllis Duckwall's neighbor from Yellow Springs. She is a retired teacher and is a member of the Presbyterian church. Jim Buby is Father Bert's brother, visiting from Pittsburgh. Bo Levy stated he is Jewish but not currently practicing. Donna Bealer has attended the Dialogue previously but has not come recently because her grandbaby has been sick. Jerome Haley is a Risk Reduction Counselor for the Aids Foundation. He is also the Secretary of the Vineyard, an organization which pairs predominantly white churches with African American churches. Jerome stated that his own church, Zion Baptist, is paired with Beth Abraham Synagogue. Rose Wendel stated that she is a member of the Bahai faith.
Robin announced that Wright State University is establishing a Chair of Judaic studies which will be occupied by Prof. Mark Verman. Bert said that the University of Dayton had been interested in hiring a Judaics professor, but a candidate that the University was interested in took an offer from another university.
At this point Ken introduced Juanita Wehrle-Einhorn who is a representative of the Hate Crimes Task Force of the Dayton area. The Hate Crimes Task Force is developing a Model Protocol which will be discussed and put to a vote at a community meeting on October 20. The Protocol develops an infrastructure to deal with hate crimes and specifies procedures to be followed should hate crimes occur in the Dayton area. For example, a Crisis Intervention Team could provide support to victims of hate crimes. Juanita stated that the Task Force is asking community organizations to endorse the concept of the Hate Crimes Task Force which is incorporated in the Protocol. She noted that such organizations as the Jewish Federation, the Lesbian and Gay Center, and the Holocaust Resource Center have already endorsed the concept of the Hate Crimes Task Force. At this point, it was moved and seconded that the Dayton Christian Jewish Dialogue endorse the concept of the Hate Crimes Task Force and the Secretary be instructed to send a letter stating this to the Chair of the Task Force, Judge Walter Rice. After discussion, the motion passed unanimously.
Ken announced that he had received by e-mail Eugene Fisher's recent article published in the journal America, "Catholics and Jews Confront the Holocaust and Each Other." Eugene Fisher is Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Ken found the article to be very enlightening because it attempts to explain recent misunderstandings in discussions between American Catholics and Jews by referring to their different historical experiences, for example the Holocaust for Jews and the history of Protestant discrimination against Catholics in the United States for Catholics. Ken recommended that members of the Dialogue read the article and that it be considered as a topic for a future Dialogue meeting.
Ken also announced that the Jewish National Fund from the Detroit area had a recent memorial tribute for Dr. James R. Lyons, former Director of The Ecumenical Institute for Jewish-Christian Studies in Southfield, Michigan. Prior to his death, Dr. Lyons was a retreat speaker for the Dayton Christian Jewish Dialogue. Ken also announced that the Dialogue had received Jewish New Year greetings from the Christian Jewish Dialogue of Augsburg, Germany (Gesellschaft fuer Christlich-Juedische Zusammenarbeit, Augsburg und Schwaben).
Ken informed the Dialogue meeting attendees that he had escorted eight German students and a friend of a student visiting from Germany to Saturday (Shabbat) morning services on October 2 at Beth Jacob Synagogue. The eight students are studying for an MBA degree at the University of Dayton in conjunction with an exchange program that the University of Dayton has with the University of Augsburg in Bavaria. All eight students are currently enrolled in Ken's MBA course at the University of Dayton. After the services, the students enjoyed the Kiddush (light lunch) with the Beth Jacob congregants, and then Rabbi Hillel Fox talked with them for an extended period of time, explaining Jewish religious practices and answering their questions. On October 29, Ken will accompany the German students to the Holocaust Exhibit at the Air Force Museum. Renate Frydman, Curator of the Holocaust Exhibit, will guide the students through the Exhibit and talk with them.
Father Jack Kelley made a number of announcements, including one involving Rabbi Klinecki's recent comments on changes that have been made in the Oberamergau Passion Play to remove its anti-Semitic aspects. Shirley delivered a message to Jack from Peter Wells of the Jewish Federation of Dayton that Carl Day (Dayton weatherman) is leading a tour to the Oberamergau Passion Play. Perhaps Jack may want to attempt to inform the tour participants of the controversial aspects of the Passion Play.
Presentation on Spirituality and Discussion
Shirley began her presentation at about 8:25 PM by noting that spirituality is a hot topic. There has been a tremendous resurgence of spirituality in Judaism as well as Christianity. In preparation for this evening's discussion, Shirley consulted her "rebbe," Rabbi Jack Riemer (former rabbi of Beth Abraham Synagogue, now residing in Florida) about the causes of this trend. Rabbi Riemer observed that much of the resurgence is narcissistic, and there is much foolishness involved in it. One example he cited is people skinny dipping in the mikvah (Jewish ritual purification bath) and calling this a cabalistic experience. However, along with all the hype, people are searching for more than what is measurable. However, many are not willing to do the work necessary to learn how to achieve truly spiritual experiences. After her initial contact with Rabbi Riemer, Shirley received from him a copy of a beautiful sermon for the New Year. The sermon contained Rabbi Riemer's votes for the three most spiritual things that happened in the world over the past year. The first was the fact that on Tuesday, August 31, the distinguished conductor Zeuben Meta brought together musicians from the Bavarian State Opera and the Israel Philharmonic to play the music of the Jewish composer, Gustav Mahler. Who would have believed that this concert took place in Germany, a mile from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. These musicians validated the words of Ezekial that the sons shall not be punished for the sins of the fathers. The second spiritual thing is that the Catholic Church finally issued an imperfect document acknowledging Christian responsibility for anti-Semitism and the Holocaust (We Remember). Jewish interest groups uniformly criticized the document. Rabbi Riemer thinks this was an inappropriate response. We Remember is a significant statement and should be recognized as such. The third spiritual thing is that on Slichos night (services held at midnight between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the "days of awe" during which Jews ask for forgiveness of their sins), the difficult negotiations between Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat resulted in an agreement. Rabbi Riemer felt that it was a good sign that both sides felt the agreement was not good enough.
The common thread in all three of Rabbi Riemer's most spiritual things is that people bent and stretched out to positions they would not formerly hold. Shirley added that all three things involved teshuvah (turning-giving up old prejudices). Ken admitted that the events are wonderful examples of human beings overcoming past hatreds, but he asked how the events are spiritual. Shirley replied that the hand of God was at work. Robin noted the irony that a Polish Pope would be the main instrument for reconciliation between Jews and Christians, given the long history of Polish anti-Semitism. Eileen observed that in these three events, people transformed their way of being human. She cited the Catholic belief that "grace builds with nature." Steve Coleman asked whether anti-Semitism is getting less. Bo said that we must view anti-Semitism as anti-Jewish. We must learn to honor each others rights as persons. Bert listed five elements of his charism: spirituality, faith, community, vision, inclusivity, and the person of Mary. He also referred to a quotation from Plato that is on a plaque on the University of Dayton's Humanities Center, "the unexamined life is no life at all." Steve Kahn expressed the view that people overcome their antagonism because of God or some higher purpose. What the Pope did was overcome centuries and centuries of antagonism. Bill asked about Rabbi Riemer's view that many people's spirituality is narcissistic.
Ken noted that misdirected spirituality can sometimes lead to bad things. Eileen replied that people must question their spiritual feelings with reason. Steve said that we should define spirituality as only the good influences. Bo asked what are we going to do to show compassion and understanding for other people. Eileen said that she is willing to subject herself to being hurt; in other words, people need to take risks in order to transform themselves. That is what we have done as a Dialogue. Bo asked why the Presbyterian prayer that began the meeting did not mention Jesus explicitly. In response, Eileen noted we go through Jesus to the Father. Steve observed that both Christians and Jews accept the fatherhood of God. We are not here (in Dialogue) just for nice words. We must engage by making a sacrifice.
The spiritual topic drew Jerome to come to the meeting. Jerome fears God but respects others rights to worship in their own way. He feels he is on a spiritual journey. Shirley observed with respect to aging that one day you put your hand in your coat and your mother's hand comes out. Eileen said that spirituality is the dimension that people do the best they can, and believe that someday, someway it is going to come out all right. Steve Coleman asked whether Eileen thinks of reward in connection with spirituality. In this regard, Shirley said that Eileen has six wonderful children, with whom she shared Eileen and Earl Moorman's 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration yesterday (October 9) at Benham's Grove. That is a wonderful "reward" for Eileen's spirituality. Steve Kahn said that we are all trying to become better persons. Connie asked whether spirituality is finding the truth. Shirley said that it is not just finding the truth, it is finding meaning. Steve Kahn said that as a survivor of the Holocaust, he frequently asks himself, why me? Why did I survive? Joanne shared with the attendees the old expression, "churches are for those who are afraid of Hell; spirituality is for those who have been there."
Shirley talked about the Dalai Lama's upcoming visit to Indiana and his visit to the monastery of the famous Trappist monk and poet Thomas Merton in Kentucky. One remarkable event was a concert of Catholic and Buddhist monks which was held in Mammoth Cave. The concert was arranged by a man who lives in Lexington, Kentucky, who is half Jewish and half Irish. The Dalai Lama feels that the next century may be more peaceful. Eileen asked for others to share their feelings about where they are in spirituality. Phyllis said that it is a part of growing and it is a journey. Someone said that he wondered whether spirituality is a true spirituality or a false one. When he sees what is happening with the poor in this country, he feels that we may be engaging in a false spirituality. He prays for this country. Steve Coleman noted that the world population is now 6 billion, and it has doubled in the last 15 years. Rose noted that the Bahai faith has a spirituality book; it has seven "valleys."
Shirley said that her children gave her a refrigerator magnet with the expression that "you are not old until you have lost all your 'marvels'." Bert thanked Bo and Jerome for sharing their experiences with spirituality. Eileen said that Juanita also helped us by reminding us that hate is still around and we need to be vigilant with respect to it. Jack also said that it is important to learn to listen. Bill Youngkin reported that Martin Luther said that faith is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. It takes a great deal of effort to come to the point of confession. The proof of the pudding is in the deed.
Bert quoted another saying that is on a plaque on the Humanities Building. The saying of Moses Maimonides is: "listen to the truth from whomsoever speaks it." Juanita shared that someone e-mailed her a Shawnee expression, "listen to the whisper before you have to deal with the shouts." Bo said that Oriental people bow to acknowledge the other person, but do not look into the other person's eyes because they do not want to observe the other person's soul. Thus we should concentrate on our own souls. Agnes told the attendees that a local spiritual event is that the Dayton Philharmonic and the Sarajevo Philharmonic will play together. She said that if you think America is going to the dogs, you should remember the bicycle trails in Ohio. On those trails, everyone is happy and kind. Bert said he heard one interesting story of a woman who, when she died, wanted to be buried carrying a rosary in her left hand and a fork for eating in her right hand. That image is a symbol that the best is yet to come.
The meeting adjourned at about 9:40 PM.
Ken Rosenzweig, Secretary
For release Oct. 20, 1999
Several Dayton-area members of the Dayton Christian-Jewish Dialogue organization will attend the National Workshop on Christian-Jewish Relations in Houston Oct. 24-27.
Among them will be Father Jack Kelley, S.M., an original member of the Dayton organization, who will present 15 years of research in a caucus session on the reform of Passion plays.
At the caucus, called "The Dilemma of the Passion Play," Kelley will initiate what he expects to be a spirited exchange on two controversial aspects of the Passion play -_the portrayal of Jews in the play as demons and the use of what's called "the blood curse" of Matthew 27:25, in which the crowds calling for Christ's crucifixion accept responsibility for Christ's execution. "I am innocent of this man's blood," Pontius Pilate said to them. "Look to it yourselves." To this, the crowd shouted, "His blood be on us and upon our children!"
The Dayton Christian-Jewish Dialogue organization was the first to host the national workshop, which started at the Bergamo complex in Beavercreek in 1973 as the National Workshop on Catholic-Jewish Relations.
Eileen Moorman and Shirley Flacks, both original members of the dialogue group with Kelley, also will attend the workshop, along with Robin Smith, a current chair of the Dayton group.
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