Report on the Thirteenth Annual Meeting

Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue and Spring Hill College

Mobile, Alabama

Friday, October 24 - Monday, October 27, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014  

This was a special CCJR meeting because participants shared Shabbat together, thanks to the kindness of Rabbi Steven Silberman and the Ahavas Chesed Congregation (Conservative) of Mobile. The conference honored the 40th anniversary of the Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue, with special tributes to paid to the late Paul and Mary Filben, who led the Dialogue for over thirty years. 

Shabbat began at the synagogue at Friday evening services, led by Rabbi Silberman with cantorial assistance from Bethany Slater (Boston College). A joint D'var Torah entitled, "Prayers about the Other in Our Worship," was offered by CCJR Chair Ruth Langer (Boston College) and CCJR Secretary-Treasurer and ICCJ President Philip A. Cunningham (Saint Joseph's University). Ahavas Chesed Congregation members offered home hospitality to CCJR participants who walk on Shabbat.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

All events today occurred at Ahavas Chesed Congregation.

The Shabbat morning services were led by Rabbi Silberman. During the services prayers were led or reflections offered by Noam Marans (American Jewish Committee), Ruth Langer, and Ronald Simkins (Creighton University).

The afternoon was devoted to text study and interreligious dialogue. Three conversations about the Torah portion for the day (Parshat Noah) were facilitated by Adam Gregerman (Saint Joseph's University), Peter Zaas (Siena College), and Steven Silberman (Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue).

During the evening dinner, which included the singing of Jewish and Christian settings of Psalm 23, Andrew Massena and Bethany Slater (both of Boston College) offered a joint D'var Torah. The Shabbat concluded with the Havdalah service.

Marking the end of Shabbat

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Christian Sunday morning services were held at the Mobile Marriott Hotel. James Bernauer, SJ (Boston College) celebrated a Catholic Mass. This was followed by an ecumenical and interreligious Christian Bible Service centered on that Sunday's lectionary readings. It was prepared and presided over by Susan Auchincloss (Faith Not Fault), Joy Blaylock (Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue), and Elena Procario-Foley (Iona College).

Following a luncheon on the Mobile waterfront and short sightseeing tour, the meeting moved to the campus of Spring Hill College.
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A CCJR panel on "Pope Francis and the Future of Dialogue" was held in the Byrne Memorial Library with speakers Noam Marans (American Jewish Committee) and Dennis McManus (Georgetown University and USCCB) with Larry Voit (Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue) moderating (see photo to left). Rabbi Marans mentioned moments of controversy over the past decades, including the opening of the Vatican archives during the World War II period, the role of Pope Pius XII, the 2008 Good Friday prayer, the crises in the Middle East, and education about Nostra Aetate especially in the Global South. Fr. McManus reviewed the pontificates of the "pre-dialogical popes" (Pius XI and Pius XII), of the "dialogical popes" (John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI), and suggested that with Francis we are entering a moment beyond dialogue in which relationality is the defining quality. Both speakers praised Pope Francis for the relational and interpersonal emphasis that he has brought to the new relationship between Jews and Christians.
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This was followed by a public program entitled, "Beyond Intolerance and Hate: Interreligious Relations in the South," which was moderated by CCJR Chair Ruth Langer (Boston College). The panelists were Scott Douglas III, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries; Roy Hoffman, novelist and journalist, and Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Mr. Potok described the research on hate groups conducted by the SPLC and current trends in relation to the election of the nation's first African-American president. Mr. Douglas spoke of the evolution of Greater Birmingham Ministries from its beginnings as a purely Christian ministry, changing its self-understanding to include Jews on an equal basis, and most recently reaching out to Muslims. Mr. Hoffman narrated moving stories of growing up Jewish in Mobile and a number of cases in which borders between religious groups were powerfully transcended.
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At the dinner following the public program, Gerald Darring, (Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue) offered a moving testimonial to the late Paul and Mary Filben. Then the Council presented its 2014 Shevet Achim Award for Outstanding Contributions to Christian-Jewish Understanding to Mary C. Boys, SNJM, Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology and Dean of Academic Affairs at Union Theological Seminary in New York. The author of numerous important books and articles on Christian-Jewish Relations, she had just delivered the prestigious Krister Stendahl Lecture in Sweden. Tributes were given by Judy Banki (Tanenbaum Center), John T. Pawlikowski (Catholic Theological Union), and Philip A. Cunningham (Saint Joseph's University).



Monday, October 27, 2013

The annual business meeting was convened by the chair, Ruth Langer (Boston College) at 9:05 a.m.  A quorum was achieved through the presence of representatives of these institutional regular members: Boston College, Catholic Theological Union, Creighton University, Iona College, Muhlenberg College, Saint Joseph's University, Saint Leo University, Seton Hill University, Siena College, Sisters of Sion Relation & Encounter, Spring Hill College, Stonehill College, and the Tanenbaum Center.
The chair began by thanking George Gilmore (Spring Hill College) and Larry and Rickie Voit (Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue) for their outstanding hospitality and for all their work in preparing for the extended meeting. A survey was distributed among those present about the special schedule this year. There was uniform praise of the planning and conference events, with some suggestions about the timing of the Shabbat observances and travel for non-Jewish members. The results will guide the planning for future annual meetings.

  1. Board Nominations and Election. Past Chair Elena Procario-Foley (Iona College) put forth the slate of nominees for the CCJR Board of Directors. They were Ruth Langer (Boston College) for a second three-year term as Chair, ending in 2017; Philip Cunningham (Saint Joseph's University) for a two-year term as Secretary-Treasurer ending in 2016 (in order to stagger the election of officers); and Adam Gregerman (Saint Joseph's University) as an At-Large Member ending in 2017 to succeed the outgoing Alan Brill (Seton Hill University). There being no nominations from the floor, this slate was unanimously elected.

  2. 2015 Annual Meeting. The 2015 meeting will be hosted by the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The exact dates will be determined as soon as possible. 

    Future meetings may occur as follows:  2016 may occur in conjunction with the June 2016 annual meeting of the International Council of Christians and Jews to be held at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. 2017 may occur at the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College. 2018 may occur at the Kripke Center for the Study of Religion and Society at Crieghton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

  3. New Member Applications.  The Board presented three applications for regular membership from the American Interfaith Institute in Philadelphia, the Certificate Program in Jewish-Christian Studies at Gratz College in Philadelphia, and Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut. The Board recommended the approval of all three applications.  After discussion, the voting members unanimously approved all three.

  4. International Council of Christians and Jews Report. ICCJ President Philip Cunningham (Saint Joseph's University) reported on a very succcessful 2014 ICCJ meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina on August 18-22, 2014. The Executive Board will convene a special meeting in Vienna, Austria in January 2015 to study the antisemitic outbursts that have occurred in Europe in recent months during the violence between Israel and Hamas this past summer. The 2015 ICCJ meeting will occur in Rome, Italy from June 28 - July 2, 2015 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council declaration, Nostra Aetate.  In addition, the ICCJ research project "Promise, Land, and Hope: Jews and Christians Seeking Understanding to Enable Constructive Dialogue about Israeli-Palestinian Issues" conducted its third of a projected five-year series of consultations at the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien in Heidelberg in June 2014. Several CCJR members are participants in the research team.

  5. Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations Report. Co-editor Kevin Spicer (Stonehill College) reported on the articles, proceedings, and book reviews that have been published in the last year. Three blind peer-reviewed articles have been published (with five more in various stages of review and revision), as well as ten book reviews. Over 325 peer-reviewed articles have been downloaded to date in 2014, in comparison to 153 in 2013. There is a 60% acceptance rate for peer-reviewed articles. Speaking for the Board, Philip Cunningham expressed thanks to Managing Editor Camille Markey and Co-Editor Ruth Langer (both of Boston College), Co-editor Kevin Spicer, and Reviews Editor Adam Gregerman (Saint Joseph's University) for all the work they have devoted to making SCJR such a quality publication.

  6. Secretary/Treasurer's Report.  Philip Cunningham presented the Treasurer's Report for 2013-2014 and the Proposed Budget for 2014-2015. Both are available to members not present upon request.  The report was received and the budget approved unanimously.

  7. Upgrade to the CCJR Website. Webmaster Philip Cunningham announced that the first software upgrade since its inception in 2007 has been completed, though minor glitches are still being worked out. He asked that all members check their online membership information for accuracy and that all the relevant hyperlinks are functional.

  8. Chair's Report.  Ruth Langer reported that no special Board action was required since the last annual meeting. She thanked everyone for the efficient operations of the Council.

  9. Old Business:  none.

  10. New Business:  Because the relatively smaller numbers of Jews and Protestants among the Council's regular member organizations makes it difficult to fill board positions appropriately, the Board suggested that By-law 6 should be revised as follows: "The Directors shall be elected from among any categories of membership by majority vote of the regular members of the Council for renewable three-year terms." This was judged advisable in order to maintain a balance among Jews, Protestants, and Catholics on the Board. There was general agreement with the idea, though the membership was evenly divided on the recommendation that candidates for the Chair must come only from the regular member organizations. The Board will consider the wording of the revised By-law and arrange a vote by e-mail before the 2015 business meeting.

  11. Adjournment. The business meeting adjourned at 10:10 a.m.


The annual meeting continued with a panel discussion of "American Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant Interactions over Middle East Issues," which was moderated by George Gilmore (Spring Hill College).  The panelists were Adam Gregerman (Saint Joseph's University), Peter A. Pettit (Muhlenberg College), and Emily Soloff (American Jewish Committee). Adam Gregerman briefly considered two Christian church statements about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and concluded that "despite their best efforts ... the authors demonstrate an inability to avoid a thoroughly theologized view of the modern State of Israel, something that simply never happens with any other state." Similarly, Peter Pettit spoke of the way in which many Christians view the State of Israel as a sort of custos (custodian) of divine virtues that they expect to be manifest in the Land. He proposed that in order to move beyond the present polarization that humility, a recognition that two peoples are competing to establish a national identity on the same land, and compassion for the fears for survival on all sides are imperative. Emily Soloff asked whether it was possible "to become an insider in the family conversation of the other [faith] community?" She noted that American Jews are not Israelis and that real friends "do not blindside one another." She urged Christians in the United States to understand their Jewish neighbors and to help by serving as bridges for American Jews to the rest of the world.

After this panel the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Council of Centers concluded with repeated thanks offered to the local hosts and planning team of George Gilmore and Rickie and Larry Voit.

[Photos courtesy of Peter Pettit.]