Date: July 15, 2001
Location: University of Dayton, Alumni Hall
Meeting Topic: Dual Covenants; Paul Van Buren Audiotape and Discussion
Facilitator: Jerry Kotler
Hosts: Donna Bealer and Carmen Appel
PRESENT: Felix Garfunkel, Chair, presiding; Nan Adams, Carmen Appel, Donna Bealer, Bert Buby, Shirley Flacks, Erika Garfunkel, Lillian Gillespie, Bradley Gray, Brian Gray, Sophie Kahn, Stephen Kahn, Suhas Kakde, Jack Kelley, Eleanor Koenigsberg, Harry Koenigsberg, Jerry Kotler, Caroll Latimore, Eileen Moorman, Don Ramsey, Ken Rosenzweig, Sophie Rubenstein, Cameron Smith, Robin Smith, Lou Vera.
Felix called the meeting to order at about 8 PM. Father Kelley told the attendees about an organization called the Root & Branch Association. That organization represents Jews and non-Jews who work together on behalf of the Jewish People and the State of Israel and who promote the study and practice of universal Jewish teachings. The organization may be contacted by e-mail at "email@example.com" and information about it can be obtained on the web at "www.rb.org.il". Eileen discussed arrangements for the Dialogue retreat on October 14. Information about registering to attend the retreat will be included in Dialogue minutes of the next couple of months. Lou discussed the Christian-Jewish Chautauqua which will be held August 19-24 in Lakeside, Ohio. A number of Dialogue members are planning to attend. Lou also contributed to a discussion about the possibility of bringing Prof. Amy-Jill Levine to be a Dialogue open meeting speaker, probably in early November of this year. Prof. Levine, who is Jewish, is a Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University. There was some discussion of the format of the September meeting which has been changed.
Felix discussed the educational program which he and Erika attended in Chautauqua, New York from June 14 until July 7. The Chautauqua program was founded in the late nineteenth century and is a famous summer educational program which often attracts very distinguished speakers. One speaker that Felix and Erika heard was Karen Armstrong who has written many influential books about the history of religion. A central point of her talk was that the major religions at their core are quite similar.
Robin discussed the tour of the Hindu temple scheduled for August 5 and took a straw poll of those planning to attend.
Donna Bealer delivered the devotional. She noted that she is a nurse at Kettering Hospital. Donna stated that she was very affected by the Bonhoeffer presentation last month; Bonhoeffer was a person who had confessed solidarity with the Jews. Similarly, Donna considers herself in the image of Ruth, who bound herself to the Jewish People. Donna read a selection from the Book of Ruth which included, "Wither thou goest, I will go. . ." Donna noted that in the story, Naomi has nothing to fear from Ruth. When Naomi allows Ruth to travel on her journey, there is amazing unity.
Statement by Don Ramsey about ICCJ Conference in Uruguay
This past week I attended the International Conference of the ICCJ--the International Council of Christians and Jews hosted in Montevideo, Uruguay, by the Confraternidad Judeo-Cristina del Uruguay. The ICCJ is an international umbrella organization comprised of national councils and organizations from more than thirty countries. The United States member organization is the NCCJ, although the NCCJ has been essentially inactive for some time due to their movement away from an emphasis on Christian-Jewish dialogue. A new effort has begun to form a new or additional American member organization.
The theme of the conference was "Spirituality and Ethical Commitment." The first keynote speaker was H.E. Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and President of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. The Second keynote speaker was Rabbi Rene Sirat, the Chief Rabbi of France. The opening session was held at the Palacio Legislativo (Salon del los Pasos Perdidos.) In addition to four plenary sessions on the Conference theme, there were more than a dozen workshops on a variety of interfaith issues concerning Jewish-Christian dialogue. In addition to the presentation of Cardinal Kasper, the Conference also heard from Cardinal Jorge Meija (Argentina), presently Vatican Archivist.
Several areas of concern to the dialogue were prominent during the conference. Principal among these were the statements issued last fall: Dabru Emet and Dominus Iesus. The Rev. Prof. Dr. John Pawlikowski presented a paper entitled: "Human Responsibility at the Beginning of the 21st Century: Reflections in the Face of the Holocaust."
I was asked by the Conference Committee to substitute as workshop moderator for the session on "Family--Teaching of Values" I was most happy to do so despite the fact it was a Spanish session, and I do not speak Spanish. A translator was secured, and the session went well. As moderator, I was also called upon to give a workshop summary before the final session, and drew a verbal comment of agreement from Cardinal Meija to my concluding statement.
Two items of note relative to the Dayton Christian Jewish Dialogue. First, I had the opportunity to speak privately with H.E. Cardinal Kasper and to inform him of the work of the Dayton Christian Jewish Dialogue. He asked me to convey to you his personal greetings and best regards. Second, during the final session, in response to a question from me, Fr. Pawlikowski informed the delegates to the ICCJ Annual General Meeting of the work of this dialogue group in Dayton, referring to it as "essentially the cradle of Catholic-Jewish dialogue in the United States."
Fr. Pawlikowski, who is one of the vice-presidents of the ICCJ, asked me to also convey to all of you his greetings and to assure you that he always reads the minutes that are so faithfully sent to him. Additionally, I was asked to convey greetings to you from Rabbi David Rosen, the President of the ICCJ, who is also the International Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee.
A final personal note: I had the opportunity to spend considerable time in discussion with Conference participants, among them, in addition to those already mentioned, two Roman Catholic bishops, the Anglican bishop of Peru, rabbis from Israel, Great Britain and Uruguay. I was greatly astonished by three separate yet similar invitations from three of these. First, a rabbi in Uruguay, Rabbi Daniel Kripper, suggested that I should return to Montevideo, and he would organize for me a visit to Pentecostal churches in the area. Secondly, Mons. William Godfrey, the Anglican bishop of Peru, made the same invitation in regard to Peru; and Mons. Luis del Castillo, the Roman Catholic bishop Melo in Uruguay, invited me to his diocese so that he could take me to visit the Pentecostal churches there.
It was a most successful conference in spite of the security cocoon we were in all week due to the volatility of international politics.
Jerry Kotlerís Presentation
Jerry began his presentation at about 8:30 PM.
After joining the Dayton Christian Jewish Dialogue (DCJD) about 20 years ago, two personal problems developed for me regarding my defense for joining this organization. The first issue arose whenever I brought up my Dialogue membership, and active participation in it, to other Jews, primarily older Jews and Orthodox Jews who were either old or young. After all, many of these people said, how can you deal with the religion of people who for the past two millennia have denigrated Judaism and caused its adherents enormous pain and destruction? After learning about Nostra Aetate and the incredible attempt within the Catholic Church and other Protestant Churches to reverse the elements of supersessionism in their theologies, I became comfortable, and even enjoyed defending my membership in this organization.
The second and more difficult problem that emerged for me was a Jewish theological issue; viz. many Orthodox and religious Jews pointed to verses in the Hebrew Bible that relate to Covenant(s) and "a treasured nation" (am segula). These verses, they said, indicated that any relationship with G-d had to be within a Jewish framework for it to be legitimate. When I heard Paul Van Burenís audiotape in 1985, which you are about to hear, I was shown a way to successfully deal with this problem. Ironically, the purpose of Van Burenís talk was to offer Christians a way to solve the reverse problem; i.e., how to make space for the legitimacy of Judaism after Jesus and the Gospels.
Structure of Van Burenís Talk
There is an introduction by Bishop Theodore Eastman of the Episcopal Archdiocese of Maryland.
The talk is clearly aimed at an audience that is made up primarily of Christian Clergy and scholars as well as Christian laity. Van Burenís approach is to first give a short course to his audience on the subjects of Jewish history, religion and Zionism. Based on this short but excellent survey, and a brief excursion into early Church history, he suggests a way for Christians to enjoy a covenental relationship with G-d through Jesus without feeling threatened by Jews.
Van Burenís thesis employs the following major ideas:
Can man know the mind of G-d? (stated elsewhere by Van Buren)
Is G-dís love dictated by the Principle of Scarcity?
Use of parent (father) as a metaphor for G-d to support the absurdity of the love-scarcity principle.
It was a revelation for me to see how a world-class Christian theologian sees Judaism. It actually made me feel very good. I would imagine other Jews would feel similarly. It would be interesting to hear such a description of Christians from a Jewish heavyweight.
Points Made by Van Buren on the Audiotape
Jerry commented that he obtained the audiotape at a Dialogue meeting at the Koenigsbergís house in the mid-1980s. Van Buren taught at the Episcopal Seminary in Austin, Texas, prior to moving to Princeton. He had numerous publications. His goal was to develop a Christian theology of the people of Israel. The title of the talk on the audiotape is, "When Christians Meet Jews." For Christians seeking to develop a theology concerning the role of the Jewish people, the greatest challenge is dealing with such passages from the Christian Scriptures as Jesusís statement, "I am the way." The Second Vatican Council took a step toward a new theology with respect to Jews when it stated, "When Christians meet Jews, they meet the most concrete evidence yet of the faithfulness of G-d."
Van Buren continued on the audiotape: being Jewish is truly different than being Christian. For one thing, Jews are quite diverse, ranging from highly observant to secular Jews. Christians need to stop treating Jews as "old roots." Christians need to accept that actual Jews are the visible manifestation of G-dís gracious covenant. G-d is not like a human being who can only love in a limited way; for G-d, there is no Principle of Scarcity. G-d is larger than we had thought, and the Church is smaller than we had thought. Christians need a more realistic ecclesiology. A part of this ecclesiology might be that Christians are gentiles called to serve the G-d of Israel alongside the Jewish people.
Van Buren discussed Jewish tribalism, noting that Jews often ask each other anxiously about world events, "Is it good for the Jews?" Jews are concerned with helping other Jews who are threatened all over the world.
A major part of Van Burenís talk was on Zionism and the State of Israel. He noted that Godís promise of the land of Israel to Jews goes all the way back to Abraham. Therefore, when modern Christians accepted the validity of the Jewish covenant, they had to also accept the validity of Zionism. Unfortunately, many Christians do not see anything particularly important in the state of Israel. For them, it is just a state. But that state is a critical part of the stormy but old love affair between G-d and the Jewish people.
When the Church reads the Old testament writings, it is overhearing a conversation between G-d and the Jewish people. The Church believes itself to be an authorized eavesdropper on this conversation. The Church also sees Jesus as the authorized spokesman of the G-d of Israel to the gentiles.
Van Buren discussed the influence of Marcianism and Gnosticism on Christianity in its early centuries. Marcianism was eventually rejected because it called for the discarding of the Hebrew Scriptures from the Christian canon.
The existence of the State of Israel raises the question of ambiguity. Israelís whole story from the beginning has been ambiguous. Christians who are critics of Israeli actions may have not earned the right to speak.
The covenant is Godís gracious gift to the Jewish People. The covenant is two-sided: things must be done; there is shared responsibility. The gentile Church is the fruit of one of the many renewals of the original covenant. Persecution of Jews may have partially arisen from Christian insecurity about their own legitimacy.
Jerry noted that in a later talk given by Van Buren, which Jerry attended, Van Buren stated that man cannot know the mind of G-d. Coupling that notion with the idea that G-dís love for mankind is boundless (no Principle of Scarcity), the argument follows that there may be many covenental relationships between different peoples and G-d. G-d is not like a human; G-d can have many religions and people under him. Jerry also discussed how religions use metaphors for G-d; e.g., parent or king. Jerry commented that if G-d is like a parent, what is the most difficult problem for a parent? It is apportioning equal love to different children. Lillien said that the problem of G-d metaphors is that all descriptions of G-d are limiting. Earthly images can never define G-d. Jerry replied that we do have scriptural references to G-d. Steve and Felix emphasized the indescribability of G-d. Eileen said she does not like the idea of G-d as King, but rather she prefers the concept of the reign of G-d. The other concept that she thinks is important is love.
Erika pointed out that the metaphor of king or father does not come from the five books. It comes mostly from the prophets and later writings. Eileen noted that the Van Buren talk on the audiotape was actually delivered at the Ninth National Workshop on Christian-Jewish Relations. Eileen discussed the interesting question of whether there are two covenants or only one covering both Jews and Christians. Lillien noted that the French government has recently attempted to ban cults which it has defined to include Hassidic Jews, Baptists, and others. Lou Vera talked about Neusnerís recent book. In response to Van Burenís call for a special status among Christians for Zionism and the State of Israel, Erika stated her belief that the State of Israel is a political entity, not one reestablished by G-d.
The meeting adjourned at about 10:00 PM.
Ken Rosenzweig, Secretary