Director’s Greeting - September, 2013 - Abraham J. Peck

Dear Friends,

In previous newsletters, I indicated that major changes were coming to the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies.

I can now tell you what they are. After fifteen years, the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies (CCJS) has ceased to be an independent organization following the decision of the CCJS Board to dissolve and to donate the center’s assets to Saint Leo University (SLU). This carefully considered decision was made in order for CCJS to continue to grow and to take advantage more fully of Saint Leo’s resources and global reach. The center will now be a fully functioning part of Saint Leo University’s academic and administrative structure. The AJC will continue as an advisor to the center.

I can assure you that the mission and the strategic initiatives that mark the center’s respected place in the area of interreligious dialogue, academic programming, and community outreach will not change. Indeed, they will only go from strength to strength with the committed involvement of SLU president Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, Jr. and the guiding core values and mission of Saint Leo University.


A Focus on Fasting and Repentance

At the beginning of this September we enter the Jewish festival of Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah,The Days of Awe [Yamim HaNora’im], Sukkot and Simchat Torah), as we leave the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan.

Ramadan and the festival of Tishrei have much in common. Both mark the passage of another year (the beginning of 5744 AD in the Jewish calendar, and the end of 1434 AH in the Muslim calendar), both are the holiest time of the year in the religious calendar, both involve individual introspection, abstinence, and both allow for reconnection with one’s family and friends.

We will not be entering the longest period of Christian fasting and abstinence for some months, the time of Lent, but here, too, both were a standard part of the early Church’s life as a time of purification and preparation for celebrating Easter with more intensive spiritual practices.

The major fast for Jews on Yom Kippur (the Day of Repentance) involves a full 24 hour fast and for Muslims a month long sun up to sun down fast which can become extremely difficult during warm summer months.

But the result of this fasting—repentance- thauba in Arabic and teshuvah in Hebrew—are similar for both religions. The words even share a similar linguistic root. Both derive from the verb for “the return” or “to answer.” Both ask the individual believer to return to the source of their belief and actions and to answer the call of a higher power.

Christianity, with its roots deeply planted within Judaism, assumes many of the same outward characteristics with regard to fasting and abstinence but with a focus on Jesus Christ.It shares with Islam a focus on almsgiving during the periods of Lent and Ramadan.

We hope you enjoy these personal reflections on fasting and repentance by three members of the Center’s International Interreligious Advisory Board. When each religious community can approach God with a purity of mind and heart it is the result of our understanding that God’s presence within every human being is the source of that purification. In this time of violence between communities and with an increased need to aid the poor and oppressed of our world, reconciliation must be the goal of each and every one of us as another form of repentance, another way of coming closer to the Creator of the Heavens and Earth and with it the blessings of shalom, salaam, and peace.

CLICK HERE to read Rabbi A. James Rudin's reflection

CLICK HERE to read Mehnaz M. Afridi's reflection

CLICK HERE to read Eugene J. Fisher's reflection

Milestones in Modern Catholic-Jewish Relations

Dr. Murray Watson, a member of the CCJS International Interreligious Advisory Board and one of the great compilers of Catholic-Jewish relations, in cooperation with Sister Lucy Thorson (of the Sisters of Sion), has created Milestones in Modern Catholic-Jewish Relations which highlights more than two dozen major events over the last 70 years “which illustrate the striking change that has taken place in the interaction between the Catholic and Jewish communities since the Second World War.” Information about the compilation can be obtained by clicking below

CLICK HERE for Milestones in Modern Catholic-Jewish Relations Media Release

CLICK HERE for Milestones in Modern Catholic-Jewish Relations website

CLICK HERE for a pdf file of Milestones

Muslims and Jews in the Holy Land: In Search of Interreligious Dialogue and Peace-Building

There is often an air of cynicism when people ask: can interreligious dialogue and action really bring peace to the Middle East conflict? When, they must be thinking, has religion ever been able to stop a war, a genocide, or indeed world hunger and disease?

What they do not understand is that the process of peace is part of what has been called “Track Two Diplomacy.” It is not up to religion to make peace—that is the job of the diplomats and the politicians. Peace-building, the other side of peace-making is the job of the rabbis, priests, imams and a whole range of teachers, social workers and psychologists who create the basis for peace making through dialogue and education.

This process of peace-building is not an overnight phenomenon. It is a long-term process that is years in the making and focuses on the spiritual, psychological, and educational transformation of enemies into peoples who can live in peace with each other.

The Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies is honored to present two of the most important peace-builders involved in the long-standing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Rabbi Ron Kronish, as one journalist wrote, “has been making peace longer than most diplomats -- and arguably with greater success.” He is the Executive Director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), and has been living in Israel for 34 years. Kronish's identity and vocation have been shaped by the idea that there are just two options in the current conflict: You can "be ensconced in despair and stop watching the news" or "avoid 100 years of war and don't let them [Israelis and Palestinians] be enemies" -- at least person-to-person.

His dialogue partner, Iyad Zahalka, is the presiding judge (Qadi) at the Sharia Court of the State of Israel in Jerusalem. To the surprise of many, not only is sharia law officially recognised by the justice system in Israel in everything regarding the personal status of Muslims, but the judges of the sharia courts are officially appointed by a joint ministerial-parliamentary committee and their salaries paid for by the state.

Qadi Zahalka obtained his L.L.B. from Tel Aviv University, and his M.A. (summa cum laude) from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he is now completing his PhD thesis on the Muslim Minority Jurisprudence Doctrine (Fiqh al Aqalliyyat).

Rabbi Kronish and Qadi Zahalka will speak at Saint Leo University and Congregation Beth Am on Monday, September 30.

CLICK HERE to register for the 3:00 - 4:30 PM event at Saint Leo University

CLICK HERE to register for the 7:00 - 9:00 PM event at Congregation Beth Am

CLICK HERE to view the event flyer