An Interfaith Website for Christian-Jewish Relations

Past Events in 2017

INTERFAITH BREAKFAST with REV. KAYKO DRIEDGER-HESSLEIN, PhD
Multifaith, Not Interfaith Families, Co-Sponsored by Calgary Interfaith Council
February 2, 2017, Beth Tzedec Synagogue, Calgary

CCCJ

DOWNLOAD KAYCO'S ONLINE MANUSCRIPT


Past Events in 2016

LUNCH AND LEARN, with JOHN EGGER, PhD
Ishmaelites, Allegorists and Fools
March 3, 2016, Temple B'Nai Tikvah, Calgary

Past Events in 2015

CALGARY CELEBRATES 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF NOSTRA AETATE
by Warren and Mary Anna Harbeck, November 30, 2015

As delegates from around the world were gathering in France the last week of November for the Paris Climate Change Conference, others gathered in Calgary to address a necessary change in a different kind of climate: the climate of the human heart as reflected in the history of Jewish-Christian relations.

Wednesday evening, Nov. 25, Jewish, Catholic and Protestant representatives from southern Alberta came together at St. Gerard’s Catholic Church to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate. The evening, attended by about 200, culminated in the signing of a letter of respect and cooperation between the Jewish community and the Catholic Diocese of Calgary.

The event was jointly supported by The Calgary Council of Christians and Jews, St. Mary’s University, The Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Calgary, and the Beth Tzedec Congregation.

Nostra Aetate: a Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions was proclaimed by Pope Paul VI on Oct. 28, 1965. In particular, it addressed Jewish-Christian relations, stating that the Church “remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham’s stock,” and that “we cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God.”

FEATURED PANELISTS for the evening were Bishop Frederick Henry, representing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary; Rabbi Shaul Osadchey, Beth Tzedec Congregation, representing Judaism; and Dr. Doug Shantz, the University of Calgary, representing Protestantism.

Bishop Henry retraced the history of Nostra Aetate. During the process leading up to the document, Pope John XXIII “challenged the theological myth that the scattering of the Jews was the result of the crucifixion,” he said. “Demeaning references to Jewish people” and “the flood of anti-Semitism” had to be cleaned up. Thus, the Church “broke new ground” based on the principle from Genesis, “I am Joseph your brother.” The Jewish religion “is the root of our religion.”

In spite of initial opposition to Nostra Aetate in some Church quarters and “fears that there would be persecution as a result of this document,” Bishop Henry said emphatically, “Yes, it was the right thing to do!”

Rabbi Osadchey recalled the anguish caused by accusations of deicide against Jews in times past. “Subsequent soul-searching following the Holocaust may have been a result of Catholics seeing what happened from their blame of Jews for the crucifixion,” he said. He applauded the document’s statement that “in order for Jews to be saved they do not need to convert to Christianity.”

But the dialogue must continue, the Past-President of CCCJ concluded. There remains a need to produce more educational materials and better scriptural interpretation, to combat anti-Semitism, and to pursue peace in the Middle East that includes better relations with Muslims. “At the level of ordinary folks, there is much yet to be done.”

Dr. Shantz addressed the wider impact of Nostra Aetate beyond Judaism and how the Second Vatican Council “encouraged Catholics to build friendly relations with Orthodox and Protestant Christians.” Many Protestants were included as observers, he noted. The once-wary observers were stunned at the feeling of welcome and involvement they experienced as Pope John XXIII’s invitees. This reflected “an attitude not of confrontation or competition, but of dialogue and collaboration” – an attitude particularly evident recently in Pope Francis who said that “interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world.”

The religious studies scholar spoke for all the panelists when he concluded: “Nostra Aetate continues to point us in the way forward as together, as Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, we seek reconciliation among the world’s faiths.”

THE HIGH POINT of the evening was reached when the three panelists, together with Adrian Martens, Chancellor of the Diocese of Calgary, and Larry Spackman, President of CCCJ, signed “A Letter of Mutual Respect and a Pledge of Cooperation between the Jewish Community and the Catholic Diocese of Calgary. In part, the document states:

“To celebrate, dialogue, pray and join in working for the benefit of Creation through the recognition in our respective traditions of the Divine Image implanted within every human being and of the unity that reveals the loving and redemptive presence of the One God….

“We together deplore the moral actions of any person or group who hurtfully discriminates any person or group because of religion or creed according to the rights of all persons ‘made in the image’ of God (Gen. 1:27)….

“We do apologize, as far as it is in our power, for all the actions of our communities, leading to, or against the freedom and dignity of the human person. We promise to journey, with God as our guide, toward greater understanding and collaboration in enhancing the quality of life for all who live in Southern Alberta, and urge all followers of/in Christ, and the Jewish People around the world to do this as well. We affirm our current friendship as Christians and Jews, and implore and trust God to be with us, and to lift up to God the prayer of the righteous Job: ‘As for me, I would seek God, and to God I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.’ (Job 5:8-9)”

THE EVENING HAD OPENED with Beth Tzedec Congregation cantor Russell Jayne’s singing of the Yigdal, which begins: “Magnified and praised be the living God: he is, and there is no limit in time unto his being. / He is One, and there is no unity like unto his unity; inconceivable is he, and unending is his unity.”

He closed the evening by singing from Psalm 150: “Let everything that hath breath, praise the Lord!”

View Pictures from this Event

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A WEEKEND WITH AMY-JILL LEVINE
January 30 to February 1, 2015

Amy-Jill Levine, Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee), Affiliated Professor, Cambridge University (UK), friend and mentor of many in Calgary, and self-identified ‘Yankee Jewish feminist,’ graced us with her third annual week-end this winter.  The interfaith event was jointly sponsored by the Calgary Council of Christians and Jews, St. Mary’s University, Beth Tzedec and the Wisdom Centre.  From January 30 to a snowy February 1, we were introduced to the myriad questions that Scripture raises on the subject of ‘gender and sexuality’ Synagogueby the stories of Adam and Eve (‘Returning to Eden’), David and Bathsheba (‘Refusing to Comply’) and finally of Dinah and Shechem (‘Responding to Abuse’).

We began with the rubric that the Bible is not a “one size fits all” book.  Rather, it is a book that prompts us to ask the right questions, and to think carefully about our answers.  A.-J. demonstrated admirably how these three stories help us ask the right questions and how our answers tell us about our values. At the same time, she showed us how the texts open up to multiple and sometimes mutually exclusive interpretations. For example, Adam and Eve can be viewed not only as far-off ancestors who can be seen as wrecking havoc on our world and our posterity by disobeying God, but also as epitomizing our own human condition.  We are born as innocents, develop, discover good and evil and, many times during our lifetimes, fall and rise.  Questions about this first story can overturn deeply held beliefs: Did Eve tempt Adam? Was only the woman to blame for events in Eden (thus for all time relegating women to the role of sinners and subordinates)?  What was that organ from which Eve was shaped? What actually is the ‘curse of Eve?’ Was there a ‘Fall’? A.-.J. reminded us that we are created in the image of God.  I will never forget her remark on this point: when we stand in front of a mirror naked, we should recognize that that is our divine image, no matter what we look like, and so have respect for our bodies!

The seduction of Bathsheba by David (or was it the other way round? Bathsheba’s motives are never  given) opens up numerous questions about political power and the meaning of unfaithfulness. The story forces us to ask: What moral expectations do we hold of our political leaders, and how much of what they do is our business? What is the power of sexuality? When Bathsheba tells David that she is pregnant, what does she want him to do? Did Uriah’s responsibility to his comrades prevent him from going home to Bathsheba, as David suggested? What did Uriah know more about the relationship between his wife and David, and when did he know if? Do we want David and Bathsheba to be punished, or to escape punishment? How does the initial adultery – and was it also rape? – lead to tragedy impacting not only the couple, but their families, and ultimately their community? What consequences flow from our actions?  And what do our answers to these questions tell us about ourselves?  

According to Genesis 34, Shechem either raped her or seduced Jacob’s daughter Dinah, then fell in love with her and sought to marry her. Already we have questions: Can a seducer or a rapist be recognized also as capable of love and commitment? What is best for Dinah: to marry him, or to return to her home? Shechem’s father finds the marriage proposal a golden opportunity: his goal is having his people intermarry with Jacob’s family and thereby obtaining Jacob’s wealth. Jacob agrees to the marriage, but his sons, Dinah’s brothers, do not. The brothers dissemble by insisting that all the Shechemite men first be circumcised and then, while the men are recovering, slaughter them and bring Dinah home. The destruction puts Jacob’s family in danger, and they are forced to move. Jacob condemns his sons for their attack. The story ends with their response:  “Should our sister be treated like a whore?” What is the response to abuse? Do we kill the perpetrator, and his family? Do we remember that the perpetrator is also someone’s child? That he is also capable of love? What does the victim want? What would we want for her? Dinah, whose name means ‘judgment,’ is silent throughout the story. How do we give her voice?

The week-end session ended with a Q&A period at St. David’s United Church.

The dynamic teaching of Amy-Jill is amazing.  So many new, refreshing ideas emerge about stories we have heard from childhood.  Working with us, and encouraging us to provide our own opinions about these stories, helped us learn not only more about the Bible, but also more about our values and the values of our neighbors.

The stories and some interpretations that A-.J. spoke about during this week-end can be found in: The Meaning of the Bible: What the Jewish Scriptures and the Christian Old Testament Can Teach Us (Harper One, 2011).  A.-J. wrote this volume in collaboration with her Vanderbilt colleague, Douglas A. Knight. Other books worth reading by Amy-Jill Levine:

  • The Jewish Annotated New Testament, edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler.  Oxford University Press. 2011
  • Short Stories by Jesus, the Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi.  Harper One. 2014.
  • The Misunderstood Jew, the church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus.   Harper One. 2006

- Joan Poulin

CCCJ Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service
April 16, 2015

The annual Calgary Council of Christians and Jews (CCCJ) Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service took place this year at Hope Lutheran Church.  The solemn atmosphere of remembrance was greatly enhanced by the beautiful harp melodies of Tiffany Hansen.  Pastor Kristian Wold welcomed the guest speaker, Holocaust survivor, Leslie Meisels.  The moving story of this Hungarian Jewish family, told by Leslie with starkness and simplicity, left an indelible impression on the audience.  Leslie Meisels was a teenager when WWII broke out.  After an idyllic childhood, his world suddenly collapsed when the Nazis enacted anti-Jewish laws which were applied in Hungary from 1941 when many Jews were deported and massacred, but especially after the German occupation of that country in 1944. Humiliation, degradation, starvation all became regular experiences in their lives.  Since Leslie’s father was working in a forced labor camp during this time, Leslie became the head of the household which included his mother, grandmother and two younger brothers.  Leslie believes that his and his family’s lives were saved by many small miracles that happened after they were confined to the ghetto and along the routes they were forced to take from one work or detention camp to another.  They were part of the approximately 20,000 “Jews on ice” used a pawns in secret negotiations between Hungarian Jewish Lawyer Rudolf Kasztner and SS Leader Adolph Eichman for gold, diamonds, cash and military equipment  in exchange for Jewish lives.   In 1945 just before liberation, his grandmother died from starvation.  On Friday, April 13, 1945 the train on which they had been travelling in crowded boxcars from Bergen-Belsen to points unknown suddenly stopped and the prisoners realised with great joy that they were in the hands of the 9th American Army division!

After liberation, the remaining family members returned to their village and found that the father had also survived.  They all immigrated to Canada including Leslie’s wife, Eva, also a survivor (saved by Raoul Wallenberg), whom he met at a wedding in Canada.

A moving sequel to the story was a historic reunion in the U.S.A.  in 2007 with the soldiers of the 9th Army who had liberated the family sixty-five year earlier.

Now Leslie and his wife, Eva, spend much of their time giving talks on their experiences during the Holocaust emphasizing the important of education, which no one can take away from a person no matter what suffering they undergo.  It is also imperative to teach the dangers of hatred and prejudice.

Leslie and Eva’s story is recounted in a book published by the Azrieli Foundation entitled Suddenly the Shadow Fell. These memoirs along with others were available in the vestibule of the Church after the ceremony.

The Azrieli Foundation’s Holocaust Survivors Memoirs program was established to preserve and share the written memoirs of Jews who survived the twentieth-century Nazi genocide in Europe and later made their way to Canada.  The Foundation provides free copies of these memoirs (in French and English) to schools, universities, libraries.  For further information please consult their website www.azrielifoundation.org.

- Joan Poulin

Leslie Meisels also spoke to students at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy on April 14 and his talk was reported in the Rocky Mountain Outlook newspaper.

Past Events in 2014

Holocaust Remembrance with Father Patrick Desbois

Holocaust by Bullets
The Calgary Council of Christians and Jews had the privilege of sharing in the activities of the Fanny Wedro Holocaust Education Fund when they invited Fr. Patrick Desbois to the city in May.  The Annual Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church was organised by the CCCJ with Fr. Desbois as Guest speaker

Terrible stories of the Holocaust have been on our radar for a great many years:  the Nazi death camps, the infamous train transports are familiar to most of us; but one aspect of this tragedy has, so far, not been adequately explored.  Nearly one-quarter of Jewish (around 1.5 million) and Roma victims in WWII were massacred in Eastern Europe by Nazi mobile killing units or Einsatzgruppen.  These shocking events would not be uncovered, until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 made access to the towns and villages in this region more accessible and research into Soviet archives of WWII a possibility.  After almost 70 years, memories of such unforgettable events still haunt the villagers who witnessed them.  Unfortunately many of these people have died or are nearing the end of their lives; time is running out to recover the precious recollections stored within the memories of this aging population.

Fr. Patrick Desbois has undertaken this gigantic and urgent task.  Born in the Burgundy region of France, he learned about the Holocaust from his grandfather who was interned for a time during WWII at the Rawa Ruska labor camp in the Ukraine.  He was reluctant to talk about his painful experiences there, but his one cryptic remark, “If you think we had it bad in the prison camp, those outside had it much worse”, stirred the imagination of the young Patrick and aroused his curiosity.  After a visit to Rawa Ruska and the discovery that 18,000 Jews had been murdered there, his quest began with the question, “How could 18,000 people disappear without a trace?” Since then, sensitivity to the plight of the Jews in Eastern Europe and massacres elsewhere has been the main motivation of his actions.  In order to undertake the research necessary to uncover mass graves across Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia and Ukraine, where innocent men, women and children were shot point blank, Fr. Debois created an organisation in 2001 which he calls ‘Yahad In Unum’, from the Hebrew yahad(together) and Latin in unum(in unity).  A team of 25 specialists in languages and research travels throughout the regions of the ‘killing fields’, talking to witnesses and examining archives to find out as much as possible about each person who perished.  When he travels with his team, his Roman collar and gentle manner opens many doors that might otherwise remain closed in these traditional cultures.  Despite difficulties resulting from political upheavals or bureaucratic obstruction, 1,250 of an estimated 2,000 Einsatzgruppen killing sites have been discovered so far, in addition to 65 extermination sites of Roma people:  the result of heartbreaking interviews with 3,400 witnesses.

The person who initiated F. Desbois’ visit to Calgary was herself a survivor of the ‘killing fields’.  Fanny (Fania) Wedro was born in Korzec, Poland (now Ukraine).  She was only 14 years old when the Nazis invaded. Her father disappeared and later her mother, but Fanny miraculously survived on her own in the forests until liberated by the Russian Army in 1944.  She managed to make her way to a displaced persons’ camp in Austria where she met her husband, Leo.  They immigrated to Canada in 1948.

Fanny, like others who lost their entire family, felt that the Holocaust experiences in the ‘killing fields’ was not being told, but was a crucial part of the destruction of European Jewry, until she happened to read Fr. Desbois’ book “The Holocaust by Bullets”.  Suddenly she felt that here was a person who understood her tragic experience and could do something about it.  She dreamt of inviting Fr. Desbois to Calgary so that more people would be aware of the events in Eastern Europe.  With the help of a group of dedicated friends and survivors, the dream became a reality in May, 2014. 

Invited by the Fanny Wedro Holocaust Education Fund a branch of the Jewish Community Foundation of Calgary, Fr. Desbois was the guest of a series of moving events revolving around his experiences during research into this tragic history.  The first event was a talk by Fr, Desbois, with remarks added by Fanny Wedro, at Beth Tzedec Synagogue in Calgary on May 14, 2014.  The visit of Fr. Desbois was accompanied by an exhibition at Beth Tzedec of photos of the tragic events he recounted and of some of the witnesses interviewed, as well as from recently opened Russian archives, witnessing to 10 years of intense research.  The panels illuminate the five stages of the Nazis’ massacre of Jews and Roma in Eastern Europe:  Arrests, the death road, the stripping of clothes and possessions, shooting and looting.  The exhibit includes educational backgrounds as well as eyewitness testimony.  The next evening, May 15th, the Annual Interfaith Prayer Service was held at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church with, again, Fr. Desbois as the keynote speaker.

Fr. Desbois believes that assassins everywhere do not realize that sooner or later, the past will catch up with them.  “To all those who commit genocide, to all those who are responsible for the mass murder of human beings”, we say, “Someone will return.”

Main offices of ‘Yahad In Unum’ are located in New York and Paris.  To order copies of Fr. Desbois’ book “The Holocaust by Bullets”, for more information and to make a donation, go to their website: www.yahadinunum.org

-Joan Poulin    View Pictures from this Event

Sibling Rivalry: Cultivating Shalom in Judaism and Christianity

A weekend with Amy-Jill Levine
The wonderful weekend of May 22-25, 2014 was dedicated to the study of the relationship between Biblical siblings under the lively direction of Amy-Jill Levine, Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and affiliated Professor at Cambridge University in the U.K.  She is also the co-editor with Marc Zvi Brettler of “The Jewish Annotated New Testament” (Oxford University Press) and with Douglas A. Knight, the author of “The Meaning of the Bible” (Harper One) as well as author of “The Misunderstood Jew” (Harper One).  Her book on parables, “Short Stories by Jesus” (Harper One) will be published on September 9.

The weekend began at St. Mary’s University College with a discussion of the well known Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), which Dr. Levine prefers to call ‘the parable of the absent mother’ or ‘the parable of family chaos’!  A.J. as her friends call her (and we are among her friends), noted that ‘religion is sometimes described as comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.  Parables, she explained, are designed to do the afflicting. 

Luke tells us that the parable usually called ‘the Prodigal Son’ is about repenting and forgiving.  While there is nothing wrong with this interpretation, A.J. suggests that if we heard the parable in its 1st century Jewish context -- which is how Jesus’ audience would have heard it – we would find other and even more profound ideas.  The younger son is not clearly repentant; he may be more interested in returning to his father, who has money.  His continual use of “father” language suggests that he expects to be warmly welcomed.  So if we don’t focus on repenting or forgiving, what might Jesus’ first audience have heard?  For example, first century Jews, hearing a story that begins, “there was a man who had two sons...” would automatically think of Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, and they would identify with the younger son.  But in the parable, the focus is actually on the older brother.  The parable forces us to ask why no one went to tell the older son what was happening. Who is the lost son? Who is overlooked? Who is taken for granted? 

In Christian interpretation, the younger, ‘good’ son, is often a symbol of the Church, while the older ‘bad’ son was a symbol of Judaism.  Why is that interpretation so prevalent among preachers and teachers? The parable resists this reading.  The father assures his elder son, ‘you are with me always, everything I have is yours’.

The story could be about recognising who is neglected or lost.  The sheep owner searched for his lost sheep, and the woman searched for her lost coin.  Did anyone notice the older son was missing?  Children are not like sheep or coins, so if they are ‘lost’, how do we bring them home?

“Learning Jesus is Learning Judaism” was the title of the seminar especially for teachers of religion or anyone involved in education; we met at St. Mary’s on Friday afternoon, May 23.  A.J. noted that Christian many Christian exegetes are not familiar with the Jewish context of the New Testament.  They are also not aware of excellent documents published by the Catholic, United and Lutheran churches on learning about this background.

A.J. then noted ten major misconceptions many Christians have of Jesus’ Jewish context and indeed of Judaism, in general.  The contrast between ‘law’ and ‘grace’ is a prime example.  Some Christians think that Jewish Law is a heavy burden, impossible to follow, but that they live by grace, an easy yoke.  Jesus, however, made the Law more stringent when he forbade not only murder but even anger, not only adultery but lust and remarriage.  Jesus was a faithful Jew and obeyed the Law, for example, wearing phylacteries; he preached about one of the basic mizvot (commandments) of Judaism: Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).  It is useful to know that to save life is one of the major tenets of Judaism and overrides the Sabbath.  Another mistake often made about Torah is that Jews observe it to earn God’s love.  However, God offered the Torah to Israel because of love and not for any merits the people had gained.  Purity laws are also a source of misunderstanding about Judaism.  Church sermons often explain that in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite are following Jewish law by walking by the man in the ditch, because they were trying to avoid becoming ritually impure.  In fact, the parable says nothing about ritual impurity, there is no commandment about Levites avoiding corpses; Jewish law insists, that even a high priest or a Nazirite must bury an unattended corpse; the priest is ‘going down’ from Jerusalem, where purity may have been an issue regarding his service at the Temple; and attending corpses is one of the highest commandments in Judaism, since it requires a service performed on behalf of another, where there is no possibility of reciprocation. A.J. cited Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who suggested that the question the priest and Levite asked themselves was, “If I stop, what will happen to me?”  The Samaritan, on the other hand, asked himself, “What will happen to him?”  The parable is not about ritual purity, it is about recognizing that the one we think to be our enemy might actually be the one who can save us.

Another misconception about Judaism among Christians is that women were treated like chattels in Judaism and that Jesus liberated them.  The Scriptures (both Old and New Testament), rabbinic tradition and the evidence of archaeology give many examples of women who were independent, emancipated, owned property and served as leaders in their communities. For example, Martha owned her house in Luke 10.  Neither were women enslaved by marriage.  Divorce was permitted, but the Jewish couple had written a marriage contract (as they still do) so, in the case of divorce, the woman was not left destitute.

Interpreting New Testament passages which speak about Judaism in a negative light has been a tradition among many teachers and preachers.   Studying “The Jewish Annotated New Testament”, especially the chapter which begins on page 501 ‘Bearing False Witness: Common Errors made About Early Judaism’ will help redress this imbalance and provide a fresh perspective on the roots of Christianity.

The relationship between Cain and Abel (Genesis 4: 1-16) was the topic for Friday evening, May 23, following services at Beth Tzedec synagogue.  After Adam and Eve leave Eden God goes with them.  Eve gives birth to two sons, Cain, first and then Abel.  Cain became a farmer and Abel a shepherd, already traditional areas of conflict. Both offered a sacrifice to the Lord; the Lord accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s.  Why?  Genesis 4 recounts “Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground”, but Abel “brought of the firstlings of his flock and their fat portions”: was Cain’s sacrifice not from his best produce?  Could it be that the Divine prefers meat and blood more than fruit and grain?  Or was there no reason for what was approved, because the Divine is free to choose and we should not think that sacrifice works on automatic?  In his anger Cain committed the first murder and was exiled.  But God was merciful to him, “the Lord put a mark on Cain” so that everyone would know that he was also precious to the Lord and not kill him.  In Hebrews 11 we are told that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted because of his faith.  Was that the reason?  What is this passage basically about?  Is it about Justice?  Was Cain treated fairly in that the same One who exiled him and could have stopped the crime, served  both as prosecuting attorney and judge, and may have caused Cain’s anger initially? Once again there are so many layers of meaning here when we really think about it.

Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27:33) was the next story discussed at the synagogue on Sabbath, May 24.  Once again the younger son prevails, this time with the help of his mother.  Was it fair that Jacob should take Esau’s birthright for a bowl of soup?  Or do we favor Jacob because he is thoughtful while Esau seems to think with his stomach?  Then Jacob and his mother, Rebecca, deceived Isaac and Jacob receives the blessing as the eldest instead of Esau.  Esau is furious, but Isaac confers a lesser blessing on him that says that while he will serve Jacob, he will not serve him forever.  Jacob flees because Esau threatened to kill him.  But when he returned, Esau welcomes him and his family.  Once again there are many questions we can ask.  Does the story teach that deception is acceptable?    How does God’s will fit into all this?  Was Jacob transformed when he wrestled with – who? – at the Jabbok?  Did Jacob learn how he had cheated his bother when Laban gives him Leah instead of his beloved Rachel?  Church tradition has identified itself with the younger ‘good’ son, as in the other stories.  Is that the only interpretation possible?  Can we broaden our horizons to other possibilities?

The last session, at Grace Presbyterian Church on Sunday, May 25, dealt with relationships within the family of Martha and Mary and Lazarus (Luke 10 and John 11).  Luke says that Martha was burdened with much ‘deaconing’ (the word used in Greek). Why do we think of her as busy ‘in the kitchen’ rather than as busy with the work of ministry?   Was her home used as a gathering place?  Was she the ‘deacon’ or ‘minister’ of a community?  Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is not helping.  What are her priorities?  What are Mary’s priorities?  Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the ‘good’ part.  But what is this part?  Is it listening to Jesus before engaging in ministry?  Is it being present to the guest, or the stranger, because that is the best form of service?  Does Jesus criticize Martha because he does not want women to be deacons, or because she is the householder, and he typically criticizes householders for misplaced priorities and inappropriate hospitality?

According to John’s Gospel, the raising of Lazarus leads directly to Jesus’ crucifixion.   Martha, the practical one, leads the discussion with Jesus and when Jesus says he will raise her brother, is concerned about the stink.  She gets the right confession, however.  In the next chapter, when Mary washes Jesus’ feet, a beautiful odor pervades the room.  Lazarus comes forth in his shroud whereas Jesus rises and leaves the shrouds behind.   Contrasts such as these can be used to find rich meanings in many Scripture passages.

The insights, learning about Scripture in an atmosphere of familiarity, humor and of course high academics are the gifts that A.J. brought to this unforgettable weekend.

-Joan Poulin
Many thanks to A.J. for having reworked this article and to Clint Mooney for his notes.


End of Year Get-Together at Heritage Park - Sharing Bread and Stories

June 19, 2014
On a cool and rainy Thursday, the Board and General Members of the CCCJ met for a picnic lunch and visit of Heritage Park in Calgary.  On the agenda was a wonderful visit of the ‘Little Synagogue on the Prairie’.  Built in 1916 by a Jewish community who settled near Sibbald in south-eastern Alberta, it was abandoned when the community dispersed around 1920.  In 1937, the building was moved to Hanna, where it served a family residence, until it was recovered and moved to Heritage Park in 2008.  The 2009 inauguration was attended by some 2000 people.

Irena Karshenbaum,  who initiated the project to recover something of Jewish Heritage in western Canada, presented a fascinating personal account of the discovery and installation of the synagogue in Heritage Park, as well as an explanation of the various artifacts in the building, including the Holy Ark, a donation from another old synagogue in the region. Rabbi Shaul Osadchey, President of the CCCJ, completed the experience by displaying the Torah Scroll from the Holy Ark, donated by Beth Tzedec  Synagogue, and explaining the creation of a Torah Scroll and its place in Jewish worship.

The lunch spot, in the rain, but sheltered by a roof, gave everyone a much appreciated opportunity to chat.

The final experience was a visit to the newly built log replica of a Catholic Chapel.  The original, Notre Dame de la Paix, destroyed and rebuilt several times in the late 19th and beginning of the 20 centuries, was a reminder of the interesting history of the Catholic community in the Mission district of Calgary.  Carol Hollywood, archivist and librarian for the Calgary Roman Catholic diocese regaled us with stories of early missionaries such as Bishop Vital Grandin, Father Constantine Scollen and Father Albert Lacombe and their connection with former incarnations of the chapel.

The day was expertly organised by Board member Robin Slater.
- Joan Poulin, Secretary of the CCCJ   View Pictures from this Event

Past Events in 2013

Holocaust Remembrance Service - Children of the Holocaust
An evening of learning through inspirational music, stories and testimonies of hope. Co-sponsored with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Sunday, April 21, 7:00 pm.

Jews & Christians Studying Sacred Texts Together A Weekend with Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, March 15 - 17

Amy-Jill Levine is a Jewish Scholar, Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN and Affiliated Professor, Cambridge University, UK.  With Marc Brettler she edited The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford).
Hearing the Parables as Jesus' Earliest Disciples Did
Friday, March 15, 7:30 - 9:00 pm, St. Mary's University College, McGivney Hall,
14500 Bannister Road SE, Calgary, AB
Why Jews Should Be Interested in the Christian Scriptures
Saturday, March 16, 9:30 - 11:30 am, during the Sabbath service followed by a complimentary lunch, Beth Tzedec Synagogue, 1325 Glenmore Trail SW, Calgary, AB

Misunderstanding Early Judaism Means Misunderstanding Jesus and the Gospels:  What Christian & Jewish Clergy, Religious Educators and Laity Need to Know, Saturday, March 16, 1:00 - 4:00 pm, Beth Tzedec Synagogue
Same Scriptures Different Readings:  Jews & Christians in Conversation about the Bible, Brunch included, Sunday, March 17, 10 am - 12 pm,
Beth Tzedec Synagogue
Co-Sponsored by: Calgary Council of Christians & Jews,
Beth Tzedec Congregation, St Mary's University College

Past Events in 2012

Holocaust Remembrance Service
Choirs & Soloists.  The stories of Corrie Ten Boom & Maximilian Kolbe. 
Memories from a Holocaust Survivor and a Memorial slideshow.
Sponsored by: Calgary Council of Christians and Jews, First Alliance, a christian & missionary alliance church, Calgary Evangelical Ministerial Association.
Sunday, April 15, 2012, 6:30 p.m. First Alliance Church, Calgary.

In Support of Freedom to Read 2012: Are There Any Limits?
Presentations by Janet Keeping, Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership and Dr. Kori Street, Director of Programs, USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education and Canadian Delegate, Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Research and Remembrance. A dialogue with questions and answers followed the presentations.
St. Gerards Church, Calgary. March 4, 2012, 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Report: Winter Workshop
Land of Israel - Jewish and Christian Perspectives January 29, 2012

We had a good turnout, at the Calgary Jewish Centre, together with excellent presentations. We thank the Center very much for again hosting the event.

Our organizing Committee, together with Council members who were in attendance, will no doubt give a summary of the afternoon at our next meeting, February 9th, but I just wanted to say thank-you especially to Deanna Sykes and Rochelle Rabinovitz, for their hard work in pulling this together. After the usual initial worries about attendance, we ended up with close to 80 people attending! Special thanks to Marcia Century and Lil Faider for staffing the registration table.

Thank-you to each member who sent out the poster and reminders to their denominational and personal contacts. Your work in spreading the news about this workshop obviously helped ensure its success.

We had arranged that four speakers might present their denomination's theological view of "The Land of Israel" – in about 15 minutes each.

Rabbi Miller was first to speak, from the Orthodox perspective,  and he began with the statement "You can't understand [the Jewish attachment to the Land] unless you've been in love, for love cannot be explained, but only described."
He went on to say that the Jewish people see this "Promised Land" as a gift from God, a holy object, where every act (building a house, planting a tree) is seen as sacred. And the connection to the Land as a familial sort of relationship, for all Jews are Abraham's children, and thus the land is "in the family" as it were. (These are not Rabbi Miller's exact words, but you catch the imagery). So the Land is holy and there is deep theological and emotional connection to it.

Rev. Clint Mooney then spoke and reminded the audience that the world community is concerned about the Palestinian problem, and the United Church is concerned with question of justice (and that lasting peace comes not through military victory, but through justice. Clint also reminded us how difficult it is for people of various religions to understand each other -- for instance, whereas there is so much Jewish attachment to the Land, in Christianity there is a theology of "going out into the world," and any location in the world being a place where the Holy can be encountered. Finally, Clint suggested that while the Jews were promised the Land, they were not promised it exclusively to themselves, but might have to share it with others.

After a short coffee break, Dr.Taylor provided us with a Latter Day Saints Perspective, starting with quotes from Mark Twain, Blaise Pascal, and others, and then reminding us of the miracle of Jewish survival (due to the fact that they are "God's chosen people.") Dr. Taylor also reflected on the fact that for almost 2,000 years the Jewish people were without their own homeland, and that we are therefore in a very remarkable period of history. Drawing from the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew scriptures, he then articulated an LDS theology that affirms the importance of Israel, and he also spoke about the very important work being done in Israel by their "Children of Israel Foundation." This was the first time we had a speaker from the LDS tradition at a CCCJ event.

Finally, Dr. Clyde Glass spoke from an Evangelical Protestant perspective, giving all sorts of reasons why Christians value the Land of Israel, for instance, it being the land of our spiritual ancestors, the place where our scriptures were written, a place for teaching us about our faith, it being the land of Jesus, and it being "the land of future hope."

During the question and answer period there were a number of interesting issues raised, the first comment or question being about Britain (at the time of the Balfour Declaration) trying to promise Land to both the Jewish and the Palestinian people, the implication being that the source of current conflict and confusion in the Middle East can be traced back to colonial meddling in the early 20th century. (At least that's what I got out of the question.) There were also a few Jewish members of the audience who took umbrage at the United Church position that showed sympathy for Palestinian efforts to secure their own homeland, and the implied critique of Jewish policies vis a vis the Palestinian question. (Again, this is only a rough summary.) Emotions were running high at this part of the Q & A period, until Rabbi Miller urged that everyone enter into dialogue giving the benefit of the doubt to their interlocutor.

By this time in the afternoon, we had reached 5:30 (plus a bit), and so Rev. Ray Matheson expressed our gratitude to the four speakers and we ended a very worthwhile "Winter Workshop."

We look forward to hearing other CCCJ members share their perspectives on the proceedings, when next we meet. Again, we give special thanks to two of our Council members, Rabbi Miller and Rev. Mooney, for agreeing to be part of the panel.

Klaus Ohlhoff

The Speaker Panel:

Rabbi Yisroel Miller, Spiritual Leader, House of Jacob-Mikveh Israel, an Orthodox Rabbi for over 30 years in Pittsburgh and Calgary, the author of five books of essays on Jewish thought, including controversies over religious Zionism.

Reverend Clint Mooney, Spiritual Leader, St. Matthews United Church,
has been actively involved in United Church's policy papers with respect to Judaism,
Islam and Ecumenical issues and the pursuit of Social Justice.

Dr. Kimball Taylor, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Founder and President of The Children of Israel Foundation. 
He was appointed by the Israeli Knesset to work with the Christian Allies Caucus to the Knesset.

Dr. Clyde Glass, Spiritual Leader, Southview Alliance Church
has served as the senior pastor of Southview Alliance Church since 1998.  He received a
Ph.D. in Theology from Marquette University.

Past Events in 2011

Annual Spring Breakfast Dialogue

A Pedagogy of the Spirit:  Talking About God and Religion in a Secular Age

Dr. Ron Glasberg, University of Calgary, Faculty of Communication and Culture

Calgary Jewish Centre, 1607 - 90 Ave. SW, Calgary
Thursday, June 2, 2011, 8:30 - 10:30 a.m.

Dr. Glasberg’s presentation on June 2nd focused on the challenge of conveying the reality of the spirit to those who are hostile to the very idea, or simply lacking the tools to experience or make sense of spirit, faith and religion. Dr. Glasberg is one of Canada's most popular professors and he shared what he has learned about conveying ideas of the spirit during his distinguished teaching career.

Holocaust Remembrance Service

Keynote Speaker:  Sid Cyngiser & the story of his wife, Bronia, Holocaust survivors
Seven candles were lit for each of: those who lost parents; those who lost children; those who lost Aunts and Uncles; those who lost nieces and nephews; those who lost cousins and other relatives; those who lost friends and for all those righteous who died.
The service included music, a psalm, song, poem and the story of Maxamillian Kolbe.

St. Anthony Catholic Parish, 5340 - 4 Street SW, Calgary, AB
Wednesday, 25 May, 2011, 7:00 p.m.


Past Events in 2010

2010 Annual Fall Dialogue

Indifference to Prejuduce: Can one be an "innocent bystander"?
A viewing of the film WRONG SIDE OF THE BUS

Commentary and discussion led by Rabbi Shaul Osadchey, Beth Tzedec Synagogue
Sunday, November 7, 2010, 3:30 - 6:00 p.m., Beth Tzedec Synagogue, 1325 Glenmore Tr. SW, Calgary, AB

Annual Spring Breakfast
May 26, 2010. "When What Divides Us Is Greater Than What Unites":
Negotiating the Jewish-Christian Divide
Presenters: Rabbi Yisroel Miller, House of Jacob-Mikveh Israel
Dr. Michael Duggan, St. Mary's University College

Holocaust Remembrance Service
April 12, 2010, 7:30 p.m. Co sponsored with Scarboro United Church.
Guest speaker: Elly Gotz, Holocaust Survivor and Historian

Past Events in 2009

The “Calgary says NO to hate” event
Thursday, November 26, 2009 Boyce Theatre, 1410 Olympic Way SE, Calgary, AB

 

The 2009 Annual Fall Dialogue
 "Mothers and Daughters in the Holocaust." Presented by Professor Doris Bergen, Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor of Holocaust Studies, Department of History, University of Toronto. Sunday, November 1, 2009, 2:30 to 5:00 p.m. at St. Cecilia’s Parish, 321 - 90 Avenue S.E., Calgary, AB.

Annual Spring Breakfast Dialogue 2009
"A Jewish Perspective on Isaiah 53," presented by Rabbi Jordan Ofseyer, lecturer, author and regular panelist on American Religious Town Hall, a nationally televised weekly program on religious and social issues. "A Christian Perspective on Isaiah 53," presented by Professor Paul Spilsbury, Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins. Ambrose University College.

Holocaust Remembrance Service
April 29, 2009, 7:30 p.m. Lutheran Church of Our Saviour, Calgary