Flowing from the Catholic and Ignatian identity of Saint Joseph’s University (Philadelphia), the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations seeks to increase knowledge and deepen understanding between the Jewish and Catholic communities.
Established shortly after the Second Vatican Council, the Institute is inspired by the spirit of reconciliation and friendship expressed by Pope Saint John XXIII to a Jewish delegation at the Vatican: “I am Joseph, your brother!” (Genesis 45:4). The Institute is motivated by the spirit of Pope Saint John Paul II who not only declared “that the path along which we [Catholics] should proceed with the Jewish religious community is one of fraternal dialogue and fruitful collaboration,” but who during the Great Jubilee of 2000 formally offered to God the following prayer of penitence and commitment at St. Peter’s Basilica and at Jerusalem’s Western Wall:
Educational Programs in Jewish-Catholic Relations
The Institute sponsors or cosponsors numerous educational and dialogical opportunities throughout the academic year that are open to the SJU and wider community. These programs feature leading scholars in fields related to Christian-Jewish relations. Among the diverse topics that have been presented are:
- The Passover Seder at SJU: Experiencing Exodus Together
- The Popes and the Jewish People
- When Racism and Theology Mix
- Toward a Jewish Theology of Other Religions
- Why Christians Must Remember the Shoah
- Questions about Covenant and Conversion
- Christian-Jewish Relations in Germany Today
- Religion, Politics, and Moral Decision Making
- A History of the Jewish Prayer against Heretics
- The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus
- Relations between the State of Israel and the Holy See
- Medieval Jewish Illuminated Manuscripts: A Meeting Place of Cultures
- The Lessons of Kristallnacht for Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations Today
- How the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Obstructs Jewish-Christian Understanding
- Doing Theology in the Context of the Gift and the Promise of Nostra Aetate
Courses Offered Through the Department of Theology and Religious Studies
The Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations is dedicated to providing opportunities for Jews and Christians to be "study partners." For this reason, and in cooperation with the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and the SJU Honors Program, many courses are team-taught by a Christian and a Jewish professor (asterisked below), who collaborate in exploring the relationship between Judaism and Christianity together with students. In the words of Pope Francis, "The witness of Jewish and Catholic instructors who teach together is worth more than many speeches" (Feb. 28, 2019).
- Contemporary Issues in Christian-Jewish Relations: Theory and Practice*
- Jerusalem: History and Holiness
- Jewish and Christian Interpretations of the Bible*
- Jewish and Christian Responses to the Holocaust
- Jewish and Christian Theologies: A Comparative Approach*
- Jews and Christians: Entwined Histories*
- The New Testament and Christian Attitudes toward Jews and Judaism*
- New Ways of Thinking about the Jewish Jesus as Savior
The Institute has long-standing collaborative relationships with many organizations devoted to interfaith relations, including the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Consortium of Holocaust Educators of Greater Philadelphia, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies of the University of Pennsylvania, the Jewish Christian Studies Program at Gratz College, and VAAD, the Board of Rabbis. It also enjoys strong ties with several synagogue congregations near the SJU campus. In the photo above, the Institute hosts a dialogue called "Friends in Faith" between high schools students from the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy and Pope John Paul II High School.
The Institute directors publish regularly in the field of Christian-Jewish relations, including in popular, ecclesiastical or Jewish, or scholarly books and articles. These include periodicals or journals such as America, The Christian Century, Commonweal, Crosscurrents, Horizons, The Jewish Daily Forward, The Jewish Exponent, The Journal of Ecumenical Studies, and Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations, in addition to contributing frequently to books of collected essays. Their individual writing and research is regularly enriched by their joint study sessions.
Research and Collaboration Nationally and Internationally
The Institute has been a cosponsor of a number of international research studies. One of them produced the important collection, Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: New Explorations of Theological Interrelationships (Eerdmans, 2011)
More recently, it is among the university supporters of a multi-year project funded principally by the International Council of Christians and Jews. Its purpose is to prepare materials for use by congregational dialogue groups to engage in constructive conversation about Israeli-Palestinian issues. The resulting volume, entitled Enabling Dialogue about the Land: A Resource Book for Jews and Christians, will be published by Paulist Press / Stimulus Books.
In addition, Institute directors Philip Cunningham and Adam Gregerman both serve on the Board of Directors of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations, with Cunningham managing its documentary website, Dialogika and Gregerman serving as reviews editor for its online journal, Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations. Both are also involved in different ongoing national Christian-Jewish dialogues.