Catholic-Jewish Commission & JCRC honor Cardinal Keeler & Rabbi Korn
Two giants in the field of interfaith relations, William Cardinal Keeler and Rabbi Eugene Korn, were honored by the Catholic- Jewish Commission of Southern New Jersey and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) with the "Nostra Aetate Award." The May 14 presentation was hosted by Cong. Beth El in the synagogue's new sanctuary in Voorhees.
"We stand today at an historical and critical moment in Catholic-Jewish relations," said Korn, director of the North American Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding and Cooperation, during his keynote address. He said that Catholic-Jewish relations today are in a state of "uneasy alliance." Korn said that the two communities must move into a full-fledged partnership. "We are not yet there."
"Jews and Christians today face common threats and have common interests," said Korn, a former national director of interfaith affairs for the Anti-Defamation League. He said that Jews and Christians must teach and promote common values.
Korn said that Judaism and Christianity are under threat from secular materialism and irrational religious extremism. "What we do here tonight and what the Catholic-Jewish Commission is doing is not just about Jews and Christians. It will affect the whole world."
If Jews and Christians can go from being enemies for 2,000 years to being partners in creating peace, said Korn, then the same could become true for Israelis and Arabs, Indians and Pakistanis, and other peoples in conflict. Korn added that the day would come when there is a recognition that all people are created in God's image.
Keeler echoed Korn's hopes for increased interfaith understanding during his own keynote comments. He spoke about how the current pope, Benedict XVI, and the previous pope, John Paul II, have reached out to Jews.
The archbishop emeritus of Baltimore, Keeler was a special advisor to the Second Vatican Council in Rome. During decades as a Catholic leader, he worked to strengthen Catholic-Jewish relations. He serves as moderator of Catholic-Jewish relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Benedict XVI, who visited Israel last week, condemned antisemitism during his trip. Keeler also noted that John Paul II was the first pope "since St. Peter" to visit a synagogue.
Keeler concluded his remarks by saying that the Catholic Church is committed to teaching about the Holocaust in its schools. Referring to the Holocaust repeatedly by its Hebrew name, "Shoah," Keeler repeated the refrain, "Never Again! Never Again!"
The program celebrating 50 years of Catholic-Jewish dialogue also featured remarks by Rabbi Aaron Krupnick of host Cong. Beth El; prayers by Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz, president of the Tri-County Board of Rabbis, and Fr. Joseph Wallace, co-director of the Catholic-Jewish Commission; an historical overview of Catholic-Jewish relations in Southern New Jersey by Alan Respler, co-director of the Catholic-Jewish Commission and executive director emeritus of the JCRC; and a musical selection by Hazzan Alisa Pomerantz-Boro of Cong. Beth El. The Nostra Aetate Awards were presented by Dr. Michael Partnow and Patricia Sandrow, co-presidents of the Catholic- Jewish Commission. Also participating in the evening were Rabbi Lewis Eron, Jewish community chaplain, and Charlene Fenster, program cochair, Catholic-Jewish Commission. .