Teaching resource examines Christian-Jewish relations

  • September 22, 2017

With people marching through downtown Charlottesville, Va., in crash helmets, carrying shields and truncheons and giving Nazi salutes, there can’t be much question of the need for everybody to review the history of Christian- Jewish relations since the world learned the horrors of Auschwitz in the Second World War, says the director of the Institute for Jewish- Catholic Relations at Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s University.

“Absolutely, it should be happening on all levels,” said Philip Cunningham, a professor of theology at the university.

One opportunity for Catholic students to get a handle on the transformation in Christian-Jewish relations over the past 70 years is now available to teachers for free at the Sisters of Sion website, notredamedesion.org.

Cunningham recommends that high school teachers pick up the ball and run with it.

“From where I sit, it is simply to make people aware of the changes that have gone on, particularly in Catholic-Jewish relations and in the teaching of the Catholic Church vis-à-vis the Jews, because it’s a story that many people don’t know, or simply take for granted the goodwill and benign stance that the Church takes today as if that’s the way it’s always been.”

Voices Together: Pioneers in Jewish-Christian Dialogue is the product of 10 years work by Sr. Lucy Thorson and Western University lecturer Murray Watson with the backing of the Scarboro Missions. It includes a timeline of progress in Christian-Jewish understanding, short biographies of major contributors to dialogue and a plain language summation of the significance and content of Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.”

For an additional $12.99, there’s a DVD of short interviews with Christian-Jewish dialogue pioneers and classroom conversation starters available from Salt and Light Media Foundation.

The resource is tailored for use in Catholic high school classrooms, said Thorson.

“It’s not your usual strong academic approach, but it’s an approach anyone can get a handle on,” she said. “You have a fourminute video on someone who has been a pioneer in Jewish-Christian relations and it gives them an opportunity to go into it.”

The Second World War, the rise of fascism and the racial and religious hatred that fed into that history may seem a bit remote to today’s generation of teenagers, but the online and video resources make the material as accessible as it can be, said Watson.

“Textbooks are less and less the way of the future for this generation. Video is the way to go.”

Thorson said it makes no sense to pretend to teach the basics of Catholic theology if students don’t learn about the religion Jesus practised. Nor can a Catholic education ignore its development over the past two millennia and the deep divisions between Judaism and Christianity.

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