Local Group Builds Bridges Between Catholics, Jews

Local Group Builds Bridges Between Catholics, Jews

Krystle Marcellus, The Bulletin

Philadelphia - On Wednesday night, the Philadelphia/South Jersey chapter of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Jewish-Catholic Institute of Saint Joseph's University.

In order to celebrate the four-decade milestone reached by the Jewish-Catholic Institute, an organization dedicated to building bridges between the Catholic and Jewish worlds, the AJC honored some of the key players that have led to the success of the Institute. The three honorees were: Father Donald G/. Clifford, S.J., director of the Institute; Charles Kahn, Jr., and St. Joseph's University.

"This certainly affirmed our efforts over the 40 years and further facilitated a deeper understanding between the Jewish and Catholic communities," said Fr. Clifford. This pioneer priest in the field of Jewish/Catholic relations was quick to point out that the bridge building between the two communities has come a long way in four decades.

When asked of one of the high points reached in his many years opening dialogue between the two faiths, Fr. Clifford pointed to a trip he organized in 1993 where 30 Jews and Catholics embarked upon a trip to the Holy Land and Rome.

"For years, Christians had taken pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Jews took missions, but very rarely, if ever, did their paths cross," stated Fr. Clifford.
To Fr. Clifford, this trip was instrumental in opening dialogues, for it permitted both groups to walk a mile in the religious shoes of someone of another faith. It also permitted the two groups to obtain first hand knowledge of life in Israel.

"We visited not only religious sites, but some of the Israeli military installations," explained Fr. Clifford. Specifically, Fr. Clifford remembered how a trip to a military installation in Golan Heights was instrumental in helping the Catholics on the trip "understand the problems Israel has with Syria and how strategic the Golan Heights is."

Further, Fr. Clifford noted that after the group would visit a site and board the bus, he was pleased to see "Jews and Catholics interacting; discussing what they had seen and how it had changed them."

And while the past 40 years have seen some great advancements in closing the gap between the Catholic and Jewish world, Fr. Clifford told The Bulletin that much more work needs to be done.

"We have a great foundation to build on and we are clearly far ahead of the rest of the world in regards to relations between Catholics and Jews, but a great deal of this success has not yet reached the people in the pews," opined Fr. Clifford.

Fr. Clifford believes that increased involvement by local priests and rabbis can greatly assist his crusade to educate both Jews and Catholics alike.

Joe Murray can be reached at jmurray@thebulletin.us

Date: 4/20/2007