Toronto’s interfaith director to be honoured by Christian Jewish Dialogue

  • November 9, 2012

TORONTO - For Christian Jewish Dialogue of Toronto, talk is precious and deserves to be honoured. With those values front and centre, the 50-year-old organization will honour two people who have fostered conversations about faith, trust and our future together.

Franciscan Friar of the Atonement Father Damian MacPherson and Holocaust Education Centre operations manager Mary Siklos will be feted by Christian Jewish Dialogue at a Nov. 26 dinner in Toronto. Cardinal Thomas Collins will be the keynote speaker for the dinner at the Adath Israel Congregation.

For MacPherson dialogue with Jews is precisely how we are called to be Catholic.

“It (dialogue) is not a choice we can arbitrarily make. It has become a responsibility we must assume,” he said. “The Church can only fully be the Church if it’s faithful to its Jewish roots. Knowing the texts is not sufficient. Knowing the people who believe and have preserved the texts, knowing the covenant, is what we’re called to.”

It’s just the second time Christian Jewish Dialogue has honoured an individual with a dinner. Two years ago Rabbi Erwin Schild was recognized for more than half a century of work on building understanding between Toronto’s Christians and Jews. The organization now hopes to make the dinners in honour of champions of dialogue an annual event.

“A lot of people start to question the need for dialogue at all,” said CJDT director Barbara Boraks. “We’ve got diversity in education, but we’re forgetting that everything comes down to personal relationships and knowing our neighbours.”
The behind-the-scenes people who make dialogue possible aren’t often honoured, but should be, she said.

“The event honours those relentless, grassroots workers who never get properly acknowledged or recognized,” said Boraks. “Damian fits that with bells on.”

“He has devoted his professional life to building bridges and working together and building understanding for each other,” said Siklos of MacPherson.

For more than a decade, MacPherson has been director of ecumenical and interfaith affairs for the archdiocese of Toronto. He was also the founding president of the Toronto and Area Interfaith Council. MacPherson’s job is a perfect fit for a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement — a religious order founded more than a century ago in the hope of ecumenical dialogue and Church unity.

“It’s terribly important that the public knows that these initiatives are happening — that the churches are working with synagogues and synagogues are working with churches and there are Jewish organizations reaching out to Christian organizations,” said Siklos.

Siklos runs the largest Holocaust education event in the world from her base at the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre of the United Jewish Appeal Federation. Toronto’s annual Holocaust Education Week has been imitated in cities across North America.

The 32nd annual Holocaust Education Week program ran to 44 pages of events — speakers, art exhibits, films and plays — from Nov. 1 to 8.

“She manages it in such a way that it stays human,” said Boraks. “She never lost touch with the grassroots people — the survivors — and they all love her.”

Tickets for the CJDT dinner are $40 and available by calling (416) 598-4242 or e-mailing info@cjdt. org.

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