Assumption dialogue tightens interfaith bond

  • October 19, 2023

Assumption University is continuing its tradition under Dr. John Cappucci of fostering Christian-Jewish ecumenical bonds.

The latest initiative to nurture Jewish-Christian dialogue is a free-wheeling informal fireside chat event hosted in partnership by the Assumption University’s Stephen Jarislowsky Chair in Religion and Conflict and the Congregation Beth El reform temple. The event is called A Catholic, A Jew and A Convert: Controversies and Connections and takes place Nov. 7 at the Congregation Beth El.

This follows the Catholic university federated with the University of Windsor recently gaining membership into The Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations (CCJR), joining King’s University College in London, Ont., as the only two Canadian universities to have attained this honour. The school has also launched a new course called Jerusalem and Rome: Jewish-Catholic Relations.

These efforts caught the attention and admiration of Canadian philanthropist and academic Dr. Dan Andreae, who donated $30,000 in June to help Assumption University further this work in Jewish-Christian relations.

At this latest event, instead of a Catholic, a Rabbi and a convert entering a bar, as the old joke would have it, it will be a Catholic, Rabbi and convert sitting down to discuss the aspects of the New Testament that are hurdles for dialogue between two religions, while also conversing on the ties that bind Christianity and Judaism.

“We are (all) trying to convey that yes there are differences, we’re not saying there are not, but the similarities far outweigh the differences,” said Cappucci, Assumption’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor.

“I want to talk in my portion about how Jesus was a practising Jew. A lot of Christians forget that. They think he was a Catholic. For years, in the Catholic Church up until the Second Vatican Council, Jan. 1 was the Feast of the Circumcision, because it was eight days after Christmas and that is the day when a Jewish boy would have his circumcision. And on Holy Thursday, Jesus was likely celebrating a Passover seder with His disciples.”

Joining Cappucci are Hazzan Devorah Fick, the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth El, and Rabbi Aaron Starr, spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, Michigan.

Like Cappucci, Starr also seeks to relay “the extent to which religious people share similar values and similar hopes and dreams.”

“The Hebrew Bible and the Christian Foundational Writings concur in their messages of God’s nearness; in the importance of honouring the image of God in every individual; and the yearning for a time of universal justice, compassion and humility. Jews and Christians have so much more common than those things which divide us,” wrote Starr. “As humans, however, our shortcomings sometimes cause us to err in our interpretation of Scripture, causing friction, strife and, tragically, even oppression and persecution. Through honest dialogue as faithful students, we can work together to overcome our imperfections to strengthen fellowship, build community and raise up the fallen.”

Fick, a former Christian and the daughter of a Baptist minister, is anticipating a dynamic chat and that participants will be comfortable broaching topics many interfaith activists choose not to touch. She said the trusting rapport she has developed with Cappucci and Starr makes this possible.

“We have built relationships with each other,” said Fick. “If he says or does something that is not the right direction, I can say, ‘Dr. Cappucci, I don’t think that this is the right angle. I think you should look at this because it will be more effective,’ and I think he feels the same with me. By building this relationship, we have opportunities to do educational programming. We have opportunities as Jewish clergy to teach and reach a lot more people.”

Cappucci said he, Fick and Starr will speak directly about the Jewish people being accused as collectively responsible for Christ’s Crucifixion and the concept of supersessionism.

“That (charge) has been something formally dismissed by the Church,” said Cappucci. “A lot of Catholics do not know that, and I think a lot of Jewish people do not know that. This belief has historically existed, but it is no longer acceptable by the Church.

“Another thing I believe my colleagues will mention is the concept of supersessionism, the belief that Jews have now been replaced by Christians as God’s new chosen people. That is not what we believe in Catholicism. If you look back at (the papal encyclical) Nostra Aetate, it says very clearly that God does not take away His promises and gifts. God has chosen the Jewish people to be a chosen people. This has been lost in translation over the centuries.”

Fick confirmed that she will “explore a couple places in New Testament text that are perceived as anti-Semitic by the Jewish community and the reasons behind them historically.” She will explain what was happening at the time of Second Temple Judaism to provide context.

This discussion will also be available via Zoom. Register at

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