Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations

Report on the Eighteeth Annual Meeting


Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding of Muhlenberg College

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Sunday, October 27 - Monday, October 28, 2019


The Eighteenth Annual Meeting of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations was hosted by the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding of Muhlenberg College on Sunday, October 27 and Monday, October 28, 2019. It dovetailed with a conference at Muhlenberg College titled, “Passing the Word,” which marked the 25th anniversary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s 1994 “Declaration to the Jewish Community.” The IJCU’s annual Wallenberg Tribute and Dinner was also part of the festivities. In addition, in collaboration with the CCJR, the Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations was also hosted by the IJCU for its fall 2019 meeting on Friday, October 25 - Sunday, October 26, 2019. 


Sunday, October 27

1:30-3:00 pm

Dr. Kevin Spicer, C.S.C., CCJR Chair, called the meeting to order and welcomed everyone to Muhlenberg College, thanking the IJCU for the college's hospitality. 


CCJR Panel I: “Comparative Theology and Christian-Jewish Relations”

Comparative theology has been described as both comparative and theological from start to finish. One of its leading figures, Francis Clooney, writes that, “It marks acts of faith seeking understanding which are rooted in a particular faith tradition but which, from that foundation, venture into learning from one or more other faith traditions. This learning is sought for the sake of fresh theological insights that are indebted to the newly encountered tradition/s as well as the home tradition.” In this panel, Dr. Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski drew on his work as a comparative theologian to reflect on its potential contributions to Jewish-Christian relations. 

  • Dr. Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski (Seminary of the Southwest)


  • Andrew Massena, Ph.D. Cand. (Boston College)
  • Rabbi Dr. Ruth Sandberg (Gratz College)
  • Moderator: Julia McStravog (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)


3:30 – 4:30 

Public Keynote: Wallenberg Tribute Lecture

“On Different Grounds: Jewish and Christian Understandings of the Middle East”

  • Amy-Jill Levine (Vanderbilt University]
  • Presider: Dr. William Gruen (Chair Department of Religion Studies; Interim Director, Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding, Muhlenberg College)

  • 2019 CCJR Shevet Achim Award: Dr. Amy Jill Levine, University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, Mary Jane Werthan Professor of Jewish Studies, and Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School and College of Arts and Science. Tributes given by: Dr. Adam Gregerman (Saint Joseph's University) and Ruth Langer (Boston College) 
  2019 Shevet Achim award Amy Jill Levine detail
  Adam Gregerman, Vice-Chair; Ruth Langer, past Chair; Kevin Spicer, CCJR Chair; and honoree Amy-Jill Levine    



Wallenberg Tribute and Dinner

Wallenberg Honoree: Rev. Dr. Jesper Svartvik 


Monday, October 28

(CCJR Board of Directors Meeting at 7:30 over breakfast)


CCJR Annual Business Meeting

  1. Welcome and Call to Order  (Kevin Spicer, chair)

  2. Roll Call of Member Organizations 

Regular members represented: Boston College, Gratz College, Hartford Seminary, Iona College, Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue, Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, Saint Joseph's University, Saint Leo University, Siena College, Sisters of Sion, Stonehill College, Tanenbaum Center, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Quorum achieved. 

  1. Nominations Report (Ruth Langer, nominations committee)

The nominations committee nominated Bonnie Shafrin (Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology) to serve as Secretary-Treasurer until 2022 (succeeding Philip Cunningham).

  1. Election of open Board of Directors seats

There being no additional nominations from the floor, the proposed nominee was elected unanimously.

  1. 2020 meeting: Location and date.

Several member centers or institutes had requested to host the next Council meeting, but some were not in attendance. The Board will contact various member organizations and decide this matter as soon as possible.  

  1. New Member Applications: none

  2. ICCJ Report (Phil Cunningham, ICCJ Immediate Past President)

The International Council of Christians and Jews held a very successful annual conference in Lund, Sweden from June 30-July 3, 2019. The theme was "Transformations Within and Between: How Does Our New Relationship Affect Christian and Jewish Self-Understandings?" Several CCJR members participated and some gave presentations. The ICCJ was grateful to the CCJR for offering Michael Signer Memorial Scholarships to two doctoral students (Nick Scott Blakely and Rachel Slutsky) to assist them in participating in the conference. 

The ICCJ Executive Board issued two statements in 2019: "On the Global Ecological Crisis" (August 31, 2019)  and "The Demands of Our Time: A Statement on Antisemitism" (February 28, 2019).  Both are resources for ICCJ national member organizations and local dialogue groups. 

The ICCJ's research project, "Promise, Land, and Hope" will be published by Paulist Press in September 2020 under the title: Enabling Dialogue about the Land: A Resource Book for Jews and Christians. It is edited by Ruth Langer, Jesper Svartvik, and Phil Cunningham who also have contributed articles to the book, with several CCJR members also making contributions to it: Mehnaz Afridi, Adam Gregerman, John Pawlikowski, and Peter Pettit. 

The 2020 ICCJ conference will be held in Bratislava, Slovakia, June 28 – July 1, 2020 with theme of "Stories We Live By: Relating to the Self and Other." Further details to follow. 

  1. SCJR Report (Camille Markey, SCJR Managing Editor)

Co-editor Ruth Langer distributed a report on the publication of the Council's journal, Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations. It was prepared by herself, co-editor Kevin Spicer, managing editor Camille Markey, and reviews editor Adam Gregerman.

Contents of the Current Volume, Vol. 14 (2019) to date are four peer-reviewed articles and fourteen book reviews, and one conference proceeding from the 2018 CCJR meeting, with four peer-reviewed articles in various stages of revision, two were returned to their authors with revision requests, and two are currently being peer reviewed. 

The final contents of Vol. 13 (2018) were four peer-reviewed articles and thirteen reviews. 

The journal's publication rate over the past twelve months for peer-reviewed submissions is 40% published, 60% were rejected by the editors.

The Editorial and Advisory Board discussed the issue of SCJR editors submitting and publishing peer-reviewed articles in the journal, a practice prohibited in some academic journals and allowed in others (especially specialty) academic journals. The decision was made to allow SCJR editors to submit and publish in the journal, and the website’s submission page was edited to note that all submissions receive double-blind review by at least two readers before publication, and that these standards apply to all article submissions, including those by members of the journal’s editorial and advisory boards.

Lastly, the SCJR website (www.bc.edu/scjr) received a new look in April 2019. BC Libraries changed the publishing platform for online journals housed at BC. The new platform has increased website security, updated the site’s look, and streamlined user functions.

The managing editor's report was received unanimously and the membership thanked all the editors for their hard work. 

  1. Treasurer's Report (Phil Cunningham) 

The report for October 31, 2018 to October 24, 2019 was distributed and discussed, together with the proposed budget for 2019-2020. (Both are available to voting members upon request.)  The treasurer noted that Council income and expenses were in balance thanks to the raising of the minimum annual dues for regular and liaison members from $250 to $300. Even so, there is little savings, which might suggest a further dues increase in the future. Both the report and the proposed budget were unanimously approved. 

  1. Chair’s Report (Kevin Spicer)

Kevin Spicer thanked everyone for all their work in organizing the 2019 meeting, especially with regard to coordinating with the various Muhlenberg College events. He also thanks Muhlenberg College for hosting the CCJR. He indicated that he enjoyed the ICCJ annual conference in Lund and encouraged CCJR to participate in the future. He also noted that he had worked with legal counsel and a professor of accounting at Stonehill College and had succeeded in obtaining charitable organization status for the CCJR as a 401(c)3 organization in Massachusetts.  

  1. Old Business:

    Katharina von Kellenbach gave a report on Christian Scholars Group meeting that preceded the CCJR conference. This occurred as an experiment in the wake of the discussion at last year's CCJR business meeting. The CSG's invitation for CCJR members to participate was accepted by several members, in particular by student members. The CSG felt that their involvement was especially valuable. Phil Cunningham recommended that the CCJR and CSG continue discussions about whether to make a pre-CCJR conference "think tank" a regular feature of CCJR meetings. 

  2. New Business:

    Board member Vicki Barnett had raised in email correspondence that Amazon.com recommends without disclaimer antisemitic texts based on customers’ previous orders. She asked if the CCJR should issue a statement. After discussion it was decided that the Board would confer with David Sandmel of the ADL, which has been working on this kind of question.&nbsp;</p>

  1. Adjournment: The Chair adjourned the meeting at 10:35 a.m.


CCJR Panel II: “Lutheran Liturgy and Christian-Jewish Relations”

The renewed relationships between Christians and Jews challenges many of our communities' long-held liturgical traditions. The panelists discussed these challenges, their roots, solutions that have been implemented, and issues that still require attention.

  • Rev. Dr. Scott S. Ickert (United Lutheran Seminary; ELCA Pastor, retired)
  • Rabbi Dr. Ruth Langer (Boston College) 
  • Moderator: Frank Sherman (director emeritus, IJCU of Muhlenberg College)



Lunch (The SCJR advisory board met over lunch.) 



CCJR Panel III: “Doing Our Respective Theologies Together”

In recent decades, Jewish and Christian scholars have been collaborating more and more. Two CCJR members whose academic duties include regular team-teaching, ongoing study together, and joint research examined such questions as: What role does my own religious affiliation play? What are the boundaries between my Jewish or Christian identity and my commenting on or critiquing the traditions or actions of the other community? How is my self-understanding impacted by a deeper understanding of the related other tradition?

  • Philip A. Cunningham (Saint Joseph’s University)
  • Adam Gregerman (Saint Joseph's University)
  • Moderator: Elena Procario-Foley (Iona College)



CCJR Panel IV: “The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Interreligious Relations in 2019”

2019 was the 25th anniversary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Declaration to the Jewish Community repudiating Martin Luther’s anti-Jewish invective and expressing the church’s desire to “live our faith with love and respect for the Jewish people.” In August of 2019, the Church-wide Assembly of the ELCA will vote on an additional policy statement A Declaration of Inter-Religious Commitment. This session gave an overview of the broader interfaith life of the ELCA, and how the particular Jewish-Lutheran relationship informs the church’s engagement with other religious communities.

  • Rev. Dr. Darrell Jodock (ELCA Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations)
  • Kathryn Mary Lohre (Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, ELCA)



Closing Keynote: “Challenges and Opportunities that Lie Ahead” 

  • Wallenberg Honoree Rev. Dr. Jesper Svartvik (Karlstad Diocese, Church of Sweden)