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In Memory of Donald J. Dietrich Print E-mail
November 17, 2013

Dietrich Donald-web

In Memory of Ruth Weyl Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Deborah Weissman, ICCJ President   
May 12, 2013

weyl ruthI am sorry to have to share bad news with the global family of the International Council of Christians and Jews that our beloved friend and colleague, Ruth Weyl, has died at the age of 89. She passed away on Sunday, May 12th (the 3rd of Sivan in the Jewish calendar.) In the words of her daughter, Celia:

The past month did not correspond to her wishes and she fought valiantly to regain her health, but declined gradually over the past ten days, despite the doctors' efforts.  Her daughters and grand-daughters were round her the last week though I'm not sure that even the five of us together could have the same energy as this lady generally showed.

This will be a great personal loss to me. I have known Ruth for just under seven years, and she was old enough to be my mother, yet we became good friends and confidantes. She often called me and she e-mailed me frequently, sharing articles or other items of mutual interest.

But generally, the ICCJ has lost its organizational memory and our living link to Seelisberg. [The Seelisberg meeting was a 1947 "Emergency Conference on Anti-Semitism" held in Switzerland that produced the famous "Ten Points of Seelisberg," a pioneering statement on Christian-Jewish relations. The conference also led to the formation of the ICCJ. In the photo of participants below, Ruth Weyl is seated to the far right in row 2. ]

Seelisberg web

Over the years, Ruth held many positions within the CCJ of the United Kingdom, the Three Faiths Forum, and the ICCJ and, most recently, served as Consultant to our International Executive Board. Despite her illness, she even participated in our February Board meeting in London which led to the publication of our document, “As long as you believe…” With Ruth’s fluency in English, French and German (as well as Hebrew), she helped link up people from many of our different member organizations. It is hard to believe that she will not be joining us in our annual meeting this June in Aix-en-Provence. Despite her age, she was one of the youngest and most energetic participants in our activities, by far the most successful of us when it came to communicating with youth and young adults.

Ruth was born in Berlin. Writing about her parents, she said:”… it is due to the wonderful family life I had that I learnt to deal with the less agreeable things in life with a sense of humour and trust. In that sense they also taught me to be firmly grounded in what and who I was, and at the same time open to no matter what life, encounters with others, etc. may have in store.“ From 1938 to 1958 she lived in Jerusalem and then moved to London, where she lived out the rest of her life. Her family is spread out in several different countries, and she took great pride in her children, grand-children and great-grandchildren.

A life-long Liberal Jew, Ruth was active in Jewish causes as well as inter-religious dialogue and the struggle for justice and peace. She was honored on a number of occasions for her work, including by the ICCJ, with its Interfaith Gold Medallion, and the German government. I will conclude with some lines she wrote to me after our meeting in London:

For me, personally, Israel is not so much a culmination of religious longing, as an affirmation of independent freedom and the founding declaration to which we listened on a battered old radio in the then endangered Jerusalem, a promise of the best human endeavor to create a just society. My reference to looking beyond our present confines really meant looking beyond Israel, looking at the issue increasingly relevant in numerous countries to which we care to spread our model of dialogue and encounter.

We extend our deepest condolences to Ruth’s family and to all who were fortunate enough to have known her. May her memory be blessed and may we all live up to her hopes and aspirations for us as the ICCJ and as her friends.

In Memory of the Rev. Clemens Thoma, SVD Print E-mail
Written by Lawrence E. Frizzell   
December 08, 2011

Thoma ClemensThe Reverend Clemens Thoma (1932-2011) was a priest in the Society of the Divine Word (S.V.D.); one of eleven children in a farming family in the Saint Gall area of Switzerland, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1961.  He was a student and later a collaborator with Dr. Kurt Schubert, who had founded the Institutum Judaicum in Vienna in 1948.  Father Thoma’s doctoral dissertation on “The Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in AD 70” laid the foundation for a lifetime of scholarly and pastoral commitment to Christian-Jewish dialogue.  In 1971 he became Professor of Biblical and Jewish Studies in the Theological Faculty of Luzern and in 1981 he founded the Institute for Jewish-Christian Research, which he directed until 2000.  He succeeded Dr. Gertrud Luckner as editor of the Freiburger Rundbrief and traveled frequently to Freiburg to bring a new format and fresh perspectives to this esteemed journal.  He was a founding member of the team that produced the monumental Theologische Realenzyklopädie.

Father Thoma was honored for his many contributions to Christian-Jewish relations: The Buber-Rosenzweig Medal (1994), the Honorary Medal of the City of Luzern (2001), honorary membership in the International Rosenzweig Society in Jerusalem (2006).

He was a quiet and positive presence in many international conferences and meetings, both in the interchanges with Jewish and Christian scholars and in intra-ecclesial sessions in Rome (April 1969, February 1975 and many other occasions, including the conference on “Antijudaism in the Christian Environment” held in the Vatican in late October 1997).  He hosted an international conference on the theme “People of God” in Luzern in 1972, the first of many events that he organized within his Institute there.  He was a consultor for the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

In October 2004 Father Thoma gave the Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher Memorial Lecture at Seton Hall University on “European Pioneers in Jewish-Christian Dialogue” and participated in the annual meeting of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y.

One of Father Thoma’s books, A Christian Theology of Judaism (Ramsey, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980) was translated into English by Helga Croner, with a Foreword by Professor David Flusser of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

May the solid scholarly work and the memory of the irenic presence of Father Clemens Thoma continue to bear fruit for a deeper understanding and greater amity between Christians and Jews!  May his soul rest in peace!

Lawrence E. Frizzell
Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies
Seton Hall University

In Memory of Br. John G. Driscoll, C.F.C, Ph.D. Print E-mail
Written by Gary Stern   
September 23, 2010

Driscoll_John_webFrom LoHud.com

NEW ROCHELLE — Brother John G. Driscoll, who re-created Iona College as a high-profile Catholic college during a 24-year tenure as president before becoming an international leader in Christian-Jewish relations, died Tuesday evening after a long illness. He was 77.

"For over 20 years, through the '70s and '80s, he was Iona," said Brother James A. Liguori, Iona's current president, who replaced Driscoll in 1995.

A wake will be held at Iona's Spellman Hall from 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Driscoll, a New York City native and mathematician by training, became president of Iona in 1971.

During his tenure, he expanded and modernized Iona's campus, grew the student body, and lobbied in Albany for education aid for private colleges and students.

He built new athletic facilities, expanded women's athletics and made Iona's sports teams more competitive.

"He took Iona when it was a small commuter college and began a residential program, created opportunities for faculty, built facilities," Liguori said. "He was a dynamo and a pastoral leader."

During a difficult financial period for Catholic colleges in the early 1990s, Driscoll closed Iona's Yonkers campus.

"It will always be a pain in my heart," he said then.

Driscoll was a member of the Congregation for Christian Brothers, the Roman Catholic religious community that founded Iona in 1940.

He was beloved by many in and around New Rochelle for the pastoral interest he showed for anyone in need, said William O'Shaughnessy, president of New Rochelle-based Whitney Radio. Driscoll would leave notes and messages of hope for people going through tough times, he said.

"He was a magnificent soul, a monumental person," O'Shaughnessy said. "All the townies loved him. I don't use the word often, but I think he was saintly."

After his retirement from Iona, Driscoll turned an interest in Jewish history and theology into a second career. He moved to Jerusalem and studied the Hebrew language and Jewish understanding of what Christians call the Old Testament.

Driscoll became a faculty member at the Bat Kol Institute in Jerusalem, where Christian scholars study Jewish traditions, and a scholar-in-residence at Hebrew University. He traveled the world — South Africa, India, Australia, Ireland — to teach Christians what he had learned about the Torah from a Jewish point of view.

In 1997, Jack Rudin, a Jewish philanthropist from New York City who had become friends with Driscoll, endowed the Brother John G. Driscoll Professorship in Jewish-Catholic Studies at Iona.

"Brother Driscoll believed that it is essential for Christians to understand their roots in Judaism," said Elena Procario-Foley, who has held the Driscoll professorship since 1999, leading numerous programs about Christian-Jewish relations at Iona.

"He traveled the world to teach Christians what he learned, and became a major figure in Jewish-Christian studies," she said.

Driscoll visited her classes several times in recent years after his health prevented him from traveling.

"I would introduce him to students and say that our mission statement for the college talks about preparing students who will be lifelong learners," Procario-Foley said. "Here was a man who was a lifelong learner."

Deborah Weissman, president of the International Council of Christians and Jews, described Driscoll on Wednesday as a "beacon to us all" in a letter from Jerusalem to Procario-Foley.

Weissman wrote it was fitting to be thinking of Driscoll on the eve of the Jewish holiday Sukkot, during which Jews gather in a sukkah — or temporary dwelling — to remember the 40 years of wandering in the desert.

"The Sukkah is a multilayered symbol, of the fragility and transience of human life, but also of God's providence and the need for human beings to make the most of our lives on Earth," Weissman wrote. "Jack certainly did that."

A funeral Mass will be held at 9:30 a.m. Monday at Holy Family Church, 83 Clove Road, New Rochelle.

Donations in Driscoll's memory may be sent to The Br. John G. Driscoll Fund, Iona College, 715 North Ave., New Rochelle, NY 10801, or to St. Joseph's Care Center, 30 Montgomery Circle, New Rochelle, NY 10805.

In Memory of Rev. Dr. Lawrence Boadt, CSP Print E-mail
Written by Eugene J. Fisher   
July 27, 2010

Boadt_LawrenceFr. Lawrence Boadt’s untimely death is a loss for so many of us across the spectrum of not only Catholics but Jews as well.  I have known him as a colleague and as a friend for many years, as an editor for Paulist Press, eager to publish books furthering the cause of Catholic-Jewish relations, my own included, and as a neighbor when he was at the Paulist College across the road from where I worked at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.   One normally notes the wit and wisdom of a friend and colleague when they pass, but in this case that would be an understatement. 

Larry Boadt excelled.  There is no other word for it. His book on Sacred Scripture, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, became a classic in the field and was used in countless seminaries and theology programs at universities. It incorporated the best not only of biblical scholarship but of the critical scholarship of the Jewish-Catholic dialogue, thus putting into reality the great vision of the Second Vatican Council on the renewal of dialogue between the Church, as the People of God, and the Jewish People, as the original and still present People of God. 

I spent much time with my good friend, Larry, while he was in Washington: meals shared, dialogues attended together, phone conversations in which we learned from each other.  When he moved to New York, well, Mahwah, New Jersey, a part of me moved with him.  And he continued as editor of Paulist Press to ensure that high quality books in the field that did not exist when he and I went to college, would be published.  For this reason alone, all Catholics and all Jews involved in or interested in this most historic of dialogues, must enter a note of praise and thanksgiving into the book of life.

May Larry rest in Peace,

And may his name be for a blessing.

Dr. Eugene J. Fisher
Retired, Associate Director,
Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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