This organizational meeting to consider the steps of establish a network of centers and institutes in the United States devtoed to Christian-Jewish relations was kindly hosted by the American Jewish Committee at its New York City offices. Franklin Sherman opened up the discussion with a prepared handout entitled, "Elements of a Model for the Proposed Council of Centers and Institutes on Christian-Jewish Relations."
Front row (l to r): Barry Cytron, John Pawlikowski, Franklin Sherman, Judith Banki, Gemma del Duca, Elena Procario-Foley; Second row: Donald Clifford, Michael Kerper, David Rosen, Sanford Cloud, Eugene Fisher, Audrey Doetzel, Peter Zaas, Racelle Weiman, Michael Signer, Margaret Obrecht; Back row: Charles Arian, Friedhelm Pieper, Philip Cunningham, unknown AJC officer, Lawrence Frizzell (hidden), Peter Pettit, Hanspeter Heinz.
A wide-ranging conversation ensued on the following topics:
- It was clear that a number of different types of membership are needed. The precise language and definitions will be worked out by the Planning Team, but terms that were mentioned included associate members, affiliate members, corresponding members, supporting members, and liaison representatives. The latter seemed especially apt for ecclesial and Jewish entities, e.g., NCCJ, USCCB, NCC, NCS, etc.
- It also made sense to offer an "associate" or less-than-full memberships to interested centers and institutes in other countries.
- Should membership be open to institutes with a broader focus, such as museums or centers for multilateral interreligious relations? It seemed best to restrict "full" membership to those organizations with a primary or substantial focus on Christian-Jewish relations, but to invite other groups who might be interested to join in an alternative membership status (to be developed).
- Could individuals be members? This idea did not meet with much enthusiasm from the group.
- It was urged, and well received, that the Council should encourage research and publication in Christian-Jewish relations, and promote graduate studies in the field. It was suggested that the following might be added as a third purpose to the proposed model: "to promote research and publication on the history, theology, and contemporary realities of J-C relations."
- the Council should promote local dialogues and interactions between Christians and Jews, especially in those parts of the country where no centers exist.
- the previous item gave raise to a conversation about the relationship of the Council to the National Workshop on Jewish-Christian Relations. Collaboration in organizing future Workshops was welcomed, but no decisions were made.
- The Council needs to be sensitive to the growing Hispanic population in American Christianity.
- A lengthy discussion about the Council's relationship to the International Council of Christians and Jews occurred. The general feeling seemed to be that it was a very worthwhile goal for the Council to become a second USA member to the ICCJ. This was supported by Sanford Cloud, president of the current USA member of the ICCJ, the NCCJ. The mutual benefits for centers in the USA to interact with international groups were appealing. It also seemed necessary, though, to spend a few years in developing the infrastructure and national identity of the new Council.
- There was also an exchange about the relationship of the proposed Council to the JCRELATIONS.NET website sponsored by the ICCJ. No decisions were made, but cautions were voiced about establishing the Council's own national identity before deciding whether it should operate the English-language section of the ICCJ website. Should the Council have its own website? The relationship with other English-speaking countries who are ICCJ members was also mentioned. There were also questions about the relationships among the ICCJ website and websites operated by individual centers. In addition, it was noted that websites tend to demand increasing time and personnel resources and such demands would need careful consideration.
There was unanimous acclamation that the proposed Council was an excellent and much-needed proposal. There was general agreement about the proposed model as described above. It was agreed that a Planning Team composed of Barry Cytron, John Pawlikowski, Frank Sherman, and Phil Cunningham would meet soon to compose a formal charter and bylaws. The team will meet in Chicago on Dec. 19, 2001. The document they compose will then be forwarded to the centers and institutes with a formal invitation to commence the council's activities.