Report on the Seventh Annual Meeting

Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations

Report on the Seventh Annual Meeting

Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut

Sunday, December 7 - Monday, December 8, 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The annual meeting began with a public event: presentations on the subject of "Conversion and Proselytism in a Pluralistic Society" delivered by Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Prof of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, NY and Gershon Greenberg, American University, Washington, D.C., with a response from John Pawlikowski, Prof of Ethics, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.

The Council was pleased to award its first Shevet Achim Award for Outstanding Contributions to Jewish-Christian Understanding to Eugene J. Fisher, who for thirty years was the specialist in Catholic-Jewish relations at Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, USCCB. The name of the award comes from the Hebrew text of Psalm 133:1 —"How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity/harmony" (Hinei ma tov u’manayim, shevet akhim gam ya-chad ). The citation was composed by Michael Signer, longtime colleague of Dr. Fisher, who could not be present due to illness.

This was followed by the annual "View from Here" panel in which representatives from different member organizations offer observations on how a current topic impacts their particular situation. This year's topic was "Recent Developments concerning Conversion and Dialogue." The panelists were:
  • James Buchanan, Edward B. Brueggeman Center for Dialogue, Xavier University, Cincinnati
  • Hanspeter Heinz, Discussion Group: Jews & Christians, Central Committee of German Catholics
  • Christopher Leighton, Institute for Jewish & Catholic Studies, Baltimore
  • Peter Zaas, Hayyim Kieval Institute for Jewish-Christian Studies, Siena College, New York

Monday, December 8, 2008

The morning began with a panel discussion on "Three Topics of the Past Year: Reciprocity, Soteriology, Evangelism." The panelists were:
  • Ruth Langer, Center for Christian-Jewish Learning, Boston College
  • Philip A. Cunningham, Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations, Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia
  • Michael Cook, Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati

CCJR Business Meeting (Regular Members, Affiliate Members, and Liaison Representatives)

As per Council by-laws a quorum was present.
  1. The annual Business Meeting began with a report from Peter Pettit of the Nominations Committee. The following slate of officers and the Board of Directors (with staggered terms) was approved unanimously: Chair: Elena Procario-Foley (2008-2010); Vice-Chair, Peter Zaas (2008-2010); Secretary-Treasurer, Philip Cunningham (2008-2011); At-large members: Alan Brill (2008-2011) and Kevin Spicer (2008-2009).

  2. The chair announced that the next annual meetings will be held in 2009 at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida and in 2010 at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. It was suggested that annual meeting themes be coordinated with the Council's official journal, Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations.
  3. A regular member application from the Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama and a liaison representative application from the Simon Weisenthal Center were presented for approval. After discussion, the application of the Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue was approved. The application of the Simon Wiesenthal Center was tabled pending the receipt of further information about their work in interreligious dialogue.

  4. Elena Procario-Foley and Philip Cunningham presented the new Council website at, explaining the membership registration procedure. All members were urged to register online as soon as possible. This will be necessary to subscribe to the new listserv housed on the new website which will become active in a few months. They also presented the library-resource portion of the website, named Dialogika.
  5. Deborah Weissman and Dick Pruiskma, respectively the president and general secretary of the International Council of Christians and Jews, updated the Council on the ICCJ's activities and future plans. These include a major new statement to be issued this summer at the ICCJ's annual meeting in Berlin.

  6. Audrey Doetzel, managing editor of the Council's peer-reviewed journal, Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations, reported on the journal's successful past year in an e-mail distributed through the listserv after the meeting due to the short time remaining. For convenience, the report is reprinted here:

    • In the course of the past year we were happy to welcome to our Editorial Board our new Book Review editor, Leonard Greenspoon from Creighton University. We have also expanded the number of our Advisory Board members to 19 to more adequately represent the various academic disciplines and to allow for greater international representation. We are attempting to more adequately benefit from their advice by meeting with Advisory Board members at the CCJR Annual Meeting and through listserv communications.

    • Volume Three (2008) - will be completed and closed in early January, 2009. The Volume Four (2009) Call for Papers has been circulated highlighting the two 2009 Feature Topics: Educating Jews and Christians in an Age of Dialogue, and The Jubilee Year Dedicated to St. Paul. The 2009 Call for Papers has been made available via listserv to all CCJR members, and we urge our membership to circulate this Call for Papers as widely as possible.

    • For the past three volumes of the journal there has been an enthusiastic and appreciative response to the various Feature Topics which have included: The Fortieth Anniversary of Nostra Aetate; The Centenary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer; The Centenary of Abraham Joshua Heschel; The 60th Anniversary of the Seelisberg Conference; The Land and State of Israel; and Paul and Christian-Jewish Relations. The statistics available to us through BEPRESS regarding the number of full-text downloads indicate that, on average, Feature Topic articles are the most widely read - although, to date, the largest number of full downloads (1747) is an article from the Liturgy category, with a Book Review drawing the second largest number of downloads (1037). [Congratulations to E. Byron Anderson and Edward Kessler, respectively, for Christian Prayer and Song in a Post-Holocaust Church and The Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 in Jewish and Christian Sources!] Though initially Conference Proceeding articles were not accessed, the Conference Proceedings readership has steadily increased to the point where the average Conference Proceeding readership is now approaching that of the Feature Topics. We therefore wish to encourage everyone to actively contribute to this journal category.

    • From time to time we receive inquiries regarding the number of subscribers to SCJR. Since the ejournal is an open access journal (readers are not required to subscribe), it is impossible for us to determine this. The reader statistics currently available to us are those indicating the number to date of full-text downloads of each publication, and the number of readers who have requested personalized email notifications regarding new or specific publications. From 2005 to 2008 the number requesting personalized email notifications has increased from 64 to 194.

    • This morning (December 8, 2008) our Editorial Board (John Merkle sent his regrets) had a most beneficial breakfast meeting with six Advisory Board members - two of them representing Israel and Germany. Included in the recommendations and suggestions from the Advisory Board were: 1. Suggestions for increasing the profile of and familiarity with the journal by: placing ads in journals (e.g., academic journals, Commonweal, America, Christian Century, ...); having flyers available at conferences (e.g., Center-sponsored events, AAR, SBL, ...); making a journal pdf ad available to the Centers for their newsletters and websites; having the various Centers display the journal logo on their websites with a link to the journal homepage; 2. Recommendations for future Feature Topics - which included suggestions such as: The relevance/meaning of idol worship today; The variety of models - historically and geographically - of the separation of church and state, and the impact of the different models; Do we have an interest in and do we celebrate the continuing viability of each others' faith communities?; Explicating a biblical book at different levels in parallel (e.g., teaching, preaching, scholarship, ...); Focus on significant figures (e.g, Augustine, Buber, ..); Revisit Dead Sea Scrolls literature and explore the major schools of thought regarding its impact on understanding the background/birth of Christianity; Current scholarly discussions on the Parting of the Ways; Latino-Latina/Jewish Relations; Bible translation (2011 is 400th anniversary of King James translation); The understanding of Mission from a variety of Christian perspectives; The Messianic Jewish community; A broad cross-section of authors addressing a variety of readings of pop culture expressions (film, painting, ...). We will give serious attention to these suggestions and recommendations, while also inviting the entire CCJR membership to respond and/or add to them through ongoing communication with the Editorial Board.

      - Audrey Doetzel, for the Editorial Board: John Merkle, Ruth Langer, Leonard Greenspoon, Audrey Doetzel.

  7. Philip Cunningham offered the Treasurer's Report and proposed budget for 2008-2009. The report is available separately from Phil, but the balance of the Council's account as of 12/3/08 was $23,727.32. The proposed budget was approved unanimously.

  8. In the interests of time, Elena Procario-Foley offered an abbreviated Chair's Report, commenting on the achievements of the Council during the previous year and reporting on the semi-annual Board meeting that occurred on March 31, 2008.
  9. Old Business: The "Procedures for the Composition and Approval of Official Statements," discussed at the sixth annual meeting, developed by the Board, and sent to all regular members for their review, was uniamously ratified on May 15, 2008. It is available on the Council's website.

  10. New Business:

    1. A resolution extending good wishes to vice-chair Michael Signer was unanimously approved. Its conclusion read: "the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations applauds Rabbi Dr. Michael A. Signer's substantial contributions to healing the relationship between Jews and Christians and pledges the prayers and support of its members during this time of his own personal healing."

    2. Two proposals were tabled due to insufficient time for discussion were tabled for later consideration by the Board. They were: (A) A proposed statement that in reporting on controversies in Christian-Jewish relations care be taken not to characterize the debate as "Jewish vs. Christian." Typically both Jews and Christians are critical of whatever incident has occurred. (B) A suggested General Intercession for use during the Easter season that affirms Jewish covenantal life.

  11. The meeting adjourned (late) at 12:25 p.m. The Council extended its unanimous thanks to Ann Heekin and Guillaine Dale of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Sacred Heart University for all their work in hosting the meeting so successfully.