Author Archives: Inbal Freund

Jews and the Vatican: Epilogue: The Portable Altar of Ludwig the Priest

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Inbal Freund-Novick is an organizational consultant and co-founder of The Unmasked Comics Project, a social change comics venture with comics artist Chari Pere. After spending a year as a visiting fellow at JPPPI (The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute), she currently serves in the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps of the World Jewish Congress.

Freund-Novick is a participant in Discovering Common Values: The Catholic-Jewish Leadership Conference, hosted by the Vatican and held at the Pope’s summer palace of Castel Gandolfo. She’ll be blogging about it all week, only at MJL.

On the last night before we were all going away, Ludwig, a priest from Bavaria, was showing around his new purchase — a priest’s traveling kit, with everything a priest might need to visit the sick or lead mass away from home.

catholic priest's traveling kit

The kit had some very interesting small version things for the priest like in this kit, which I found online, but it also had some unique artifacts that are typical to Italy such as electric candles on top of the regular ones. One thing which I found cool was a portable altar — I mean, this is so retro to the Mishkan days!

We spoke really late on that night. I showed him this blog, to have him understand what trouble I was intending to get him into — an exposure to some crazy Jewish minds — and he was very surprised to read about how I saw this whole encounter. catholic priest travel kitWhen I woke up the following morning, I jokingly asked him what forms one needs to submit to the Pope to add a few more hours to the night for sleep. I mean, do you fill in the pink one before the blue and yellow ones or the other way around?

Ludwig explained that a request for the pope is done with gold and silver forms. (I’m still unsure as to which part of that was a joke.) In any case, my request moved upwards on that morning as Cardinal Casper — the Cardinal in charge of relationships with the Jews — came over to speak to us. As we were in discussion with the Cardinal, Ludwig told him of my request (Cardinals, apparently, can also laugh!) so I hope it’s gone higher now. More hours of sleep my way please!

Ludwig, next time when you are in Jerusalem, you are invited to a Shabbat meal with us and you can have a look at our altar — a table full of good kosher food in a Jewish family’s home.

Read the previous entries about the Jews and the Vatican Conference.

Posted on June 29, 2009

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Jews and the Vatican: Process into Action

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Inbal Freund-Novick is an organizational consultant and co-founder of The Unmasked Comics Project, a social change comics venture with comics artist Chari Pere. After spending a year as a visiting fellow at JPPPI (The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute), she currently serves in the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps of the World Jewish Congress.

inbal freund-novickFreund-Novick is a participant in Discovering Common Values: The Catholic-Jewish Leadership Conference, hosted by the Vatican and held at the Pope’s summer palace of Castel Gandolfo. She’ll be blogging about it all week, only at MJL.

This morning was our first attempt to convert our process into action. It turned out to be very simple and very complicated at the same time. We started doing what we should have done from the beginning –- sit in small groups and get to talk in depth about things that matter. I was leading a discussion group about justice and charity with Elena, a Focolarina from Argentina, and we spoke mostly of social change. Preparing this was not easy, as we speak different languages, sleep in very different time zones, and neither of us had too much time to prepare prior to the conference.

We started by trying to understand both concepts with texts about justice, charity and mostly social change. I brought Maimonides’ 8-stage model of charity to the table and we did some text study together. Then we tried comparing our views of those concepts to see in what ways we are different and what’s similar.

I think there was magic in the air. The group was blessed with very good people who were eager to share thoughts and feelings. For an hour and a half, while working with our group I felt so many strong feelings about this process. I felt curiosity about the others, I felt that the possibility to grow from learning together was enormous; I think I even felt that history was knocking at this building’s doors and we had the keys to let it in.

Later we met in the main hall again to discuss the work done in the small groups and see where are we were planning to take all of this, naively thinking that what we were planning matters. I was so not surprised to discover that the opportunity for us to actually create something together was very limited. With some remarks of the “older leaders” I started understanding that, yet again, this process was in danger of becoming a theater performance in which we were playing roles so that the older leadership could tick off the requisite “doing something with the younger generation.“

I am very appreciative of the place and organization. Our hosts are wonderful people and organizing such things is hard, and takes time and effort, but in so many times the old leadership who hold the means for these processes, talk about us, but not with us. It’s a matter of setting priorities for the process and not wasting time with long top-down lectures instead of letting us do what we do so well as young people –- create. Let us suggest new conferencing methods that were recently developed like open–space for example to help us create together. You gave us good education trust us to keep things going in the right direction. We are eager to take responsibility and very able to do so.

In Lurianic Kabbalah there is a term called Tzimtzum -– reduction. According to this idea, the world was created when G-d reduced himself and left space for the world to be created. Maybe our leaders need to create a frame for us but then reduce themselves so that the younger generations would be able to enter a process of creating new worlds for the future in ways which are relevant to younger crowds.

Will we be able to actually keep this discourse going? Will this amazing group of people with very big hearts and brains — Christians like the Focolare movement members who I met here and representatives of Jewish organizations who came here in order to create a beautiful tapestry of opinions together, will have a chance of meeting again to learn even more about each other despite the massive mentality and language differences?

Read the previous entries about the Jews and the Vatican Conference.

Posted on June 25, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jews and the Vatican: Thoughts about Spirituality and Love

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Inbal Freund-Novick is an organizational consultant and co-founder of The Unmasked Comics Project, a social change comics venture with comics artist Chari Pere. After spending a year as a visiting fellow at JPPPI (The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute), she currently serves in the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps of the World Jewish Congress.

inbal freund-novickFreund-Novick is a participant in Discovering Common Values: The Catholic-Jewish Leadership Conference, hosted by the Vatican and held at the Pope’s summer palace of Castel Gandolfo. She’ll be blogging about it all week, only at MJL.

Today, we were going through the streets of Rome trying to learn together about Jews and Christians who lived and still live in this city (and yes, the Christians’ museum is bigger than ours…). Did you know that the tiny Jewish quarter of Rome was surrounded by about 15 churches from all sides serving as a very sophisticated way of trying to convert Jews? If Jews wanted to go out of that tiny crowded ghetto that was situated at the worst part of town back then -– the first thing people saw upon entering was a church with inscriptions in Hebrew calling them to repent and convert. An ongoing reminder to their status as the others in Rome — and the Christian plan to wait patiently or not (depending on who ruled) until they convert, which they hardly did.

During today we got some massive “corridor time” to just talk and try understanding together what we are doing here. At the end of the day a group of us went to eat some authentic (and kosher) pasta, pizza and, most importantly, fried artichoke -– the culinary symbol of Jews in this city. The origin of this fried dish contains the same reason for the creation of many Jewish foods — poverty, probably. Apparently, fried artichoke became popular when artichokes were lying loose in the fields, unwanted, and therefore free. Poor Jews fried them — a technique that can also make a shoe taste well (according to our tour guide, at least). Well, this was far from a fried shoe — and that nice restaurant and Italian scenery we sat in provided the best background to talk about love.

The concept of love as a key term in Christian theology and especially in relation to dialogue was explained in one of these informative frontal lectures we had yesterday on the topic of dialogue. The concepts are: Love is the golden key for dialogue because the relationship between the father (G-d) and his children are those of love. The awareness of having one father for everybody makes us have to love each other like brothers and sisters and this is the secret to interfaith dialogue.

We are obviously talking about love very differently. When Christians say “love,” they mean a Jesus kind of love — a way to relate to the other that they learn from the actions of Jesus. As G-d is love (St. John, the gospel) each definition of love comes from G-d. The way G-d interacts with humanity highlighted by Jesus Christ himself is the way they understand love -– it’s basically a methodology, not a description of a romantic feeling.

So we had all those thoughts and discussions at the restaurant and the end result was missing the last train to Castel Gandolfo by apparently 10 seconds. We actually saw it leave early, and with not being on it, we were mostly sharing the mutual feeling for both Jews and Christians of frustration -– a term we all agreed on. So again, we got some serious corridor time by climbing the dark alleyways towards the Pope’s summer residence and our hostel next to it in hope that the big ancient doors might still be opened despite the nightly curfew of this place.

I had a late late night conversation with Rori Picker Neiss, who has a tremendous head start in this whole interfaith dialogue thing. We came to a realization that Christians have a strength at understanding concepts through feelings, and Jews mostly understand by talking. We analyze everything as if everybody were uttering Talmudic texts each time we speak, and they just try and feel what is going on a in very different method. In fact, Christians were not as reactive as us in the discussions held formally — possibly because of language barriers (most of the Focolarinos come from non English speaking countries) but maybe also because their method is to experience a feeling of what was going on before putting their opinions out there.

I guess that’s our next challenge here — to understand how we talk about love and other things in such different ways to be able to create a meaningful encounter amongst us.

Read the previous entries about the Jews and the Vatican Conference.

Posted on June 24, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jews and the Vatican: Our Christians, Ourselves

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Inbal Freund-Novick is an organizational consultant and co-founder of The Unmasked Comics Project, a social change comics venture with comics artist Chari Pere. After spending a year as a visiting fellow at JPPPI (The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute), she currently serves in the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps of the World Jewish Congress.

inbal freund-novickFreund-Novick is a participant in Discovering Common Values: The Catholic-Jewish Leadership Conference, hosted by the Vatican and held at the Pope’s summer palace of Castel Gandolfo. She’ll be blogging about it all week, only at MJL.

My almighty editor and good friend Matthue Roth told me that I write too much about us Jews and not enough about my encounters with the Christians. But there is a fundamental point to be understood here: at first the Jews were more interesting to me, as things were very dramatic on our end. On the other hand the Christians who are here come with almost one voice. They come mostly from the Focolare movement. They have one authority up there which helps them get to one voice when talking to us Jews. They are dealing with this issue internally — and, considering the power balance of them having a pope who leads millions, we are fundamentally positioned as the reactionaries.

So what about us Jews so far? How do we start looking at our partners for this process? Throughout today, people from the Jewish group keep asserting the point that we speak in different voices. We are a collection of individuals here and G-d forbid we should be seen as one. We are constantly emphasizing that we are individuals and have very clear voices about what we want to do about tfila, about the topics we discuss, about us being vegetarian or not, or what we want the outcome of this to be. In most sessions the Jews speak a lot and the Christians — well, they talk less.

When they do talk, they speak in one voice that basically says, “we are still in process.” For them this dialoging thing is new. It’s actually quite revolutionary considering the past: It has only been about 45 years since Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”) was written, opening a door towards creating relationships with the Jewish people, and 45 years are a tiny fraction of time compared to 2000 years of conquering vast parts of the world and making it be in touch with Christianity in a very different way then what the people of our era could even consider as reasonable. I still find it surprising every time I meet Christians* that they are not trying to convert me or make me bow down at a church alter or force me to eat pork and eventually pour holy water all over me until I acknowledge my salvation by Jesus. Things are a little different then that, and that’s our basis for dialogue.

So they are still in a slow process of creating a new theological understanding of how to deal with the Jews. Nostra Aetate described the desired relationship with the other religions, but mostly with Jews. It came out and said that actually we didn’t kill Jesus — which is nice to hear after all those years — but it also goes one step forward in saying that they want to find a way to be in dialogue with us. The thing is, as this is a such a new process for Catholics, they are not yet sure of how to create a relationship with us and are still having an internal debate but are already reaching out to us, to learn more of how to do this. This is important to us for creating this future relationship as partners and not let it be created in other ways which might be less constructive for us.

I had a conversation with a Focolarina (a member of the Focolare movement) over dinner as she was trying to explain to me the meaning of the word “love” -– understood very differently in the Christian world. Her story was, her search for G-d took a wild turn when the Pope came to Mexico. She was so influenced by his personality that she became a devote Christian and went to study theology for many years in a certain Christian sect.

What an influence of one person over the other! Just hearing about it and seeing the sparkles in her eyes talking about him made me think of how much meaning this figure- one leader of a movement has over millions of people, how different it is from our world. So, back to our dinner: Things changed for her after realizing that the Christians she was learning and practicing the faith with were only focusing inwards she switch to the Focolare movement which based itself on teaching to look out and create relationships with others.

This means — as far as I understand things so far — the Focolare movement, the ones who are conducting this dialogue with us, are a special group in the Christian world, willing and wanting to talk to us (probably amongst others which I am just not aware of).

It doesn’t mean that in the Tridentine Mass on Good Friday they have removed the ancient prayer for the Jews to be able to look in the right way. The Catholic Church is not all there yet, and the road is still very bumpy and long, and until the notion of Nostra Aetate reaches all the Christian sects, a lot of water will flow in the river of Jordan and we need mostly patience.

And what about the prayer drama? Today we invited the Christians to mincha, the afternoon prayers. A beautiful Torah scroll was brought to Castel Gandolfo and the turn of the nice Syrian guy to lead the prayers came, so we put the mehitzah up and made a very long and explanatory prayer with the Christians.

I think we built a few more little bridges, and I hope we looked less weird. When I asked my new acquired Focolarina friend from dinner what was the most significant thing for her that she has taken from two days of talking about profound topics she said that just the encounter with us, seeing Jews in real life was fascinating to her.

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* — And I have some very close friends who are Christians, amongst them a very dear friend who came to my wedding from Slovenia, getting a bouquet that was useless to all my Jewish friends but apparently was very helpful to her meeting her future husband as there were no other candidates for it -– mazal tov, Mojca!

Posted on June 24, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jews and the Vatican: What Prayers to Pray?

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Israel, Practices on by .

Inbal Freund-Novick is an organizational consultant and co-founder of The Unmasked Comics Project, a social change comics venture with comics artist Chari Pere. After spending a year as a visiting fellow at JPPPI (The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute), she currently serves in the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps of the World Jewish Congress.

inbal freund-novickFreund-Novick is a participant in Discovering Common Values: The Catholic-Jewish Leadership Conference, hosted by the Vatican and held at the Pope’s summer palace of Castel Gandolfo. She’ll be blogging about it all week, only at MJL.

Tonight we had our introductions. First, in the main hall, we met the Jewish and Christian participants who came from many countries around the globe to the conference. Then the Jewish delegates had an internal discussion about how we would conduct prayer throughout this week. Most of the Jewish delegates held leadership roles of some sort, either as students or ordained rabbis of various denominations–which led to the question of what opening prayer the 28 of us should recite. We received two advance emails from the Jewish organizers, urging everybody to state in advance how they would like to pray — which were mostly ignored, leaving the hot potato to the conference evening itself.

Most of the people are very tired from flying out here from all over, but as our newly acquainted Christian counterparts departed for their Sunday evening mass, almost everybody–the ones who weren’t Skyping their homes, at least — discussed what form of prayer we should hold as a group of Jewish people. What would this week of joint prayer look like.

It started by saying we have a time limit. The discussion wad limited to half an hour, closing at 22:00. By 21:55, the discussion was heated we were announced by the initiator of discussion, Ari Gordon of the AJC (who earlier read the formal voice of the impressive call to the group by Richard Marker the replacement for Rabbi David Rosen who encouraged us to be ourselves and not just follow old footsteps) that we had 5 minutes left, meaning 15 in Jewish time.

The discussion was fascinating. Eleven men took part (why didn’t I even bother to count the women?). Of those, four would not pray in an egalitarian minyan, and one, on principle, wouldn’t pray on a separate minyan. A few very practical people were trying to move to a practical solution, as others tried to understand a deeper level of how we get to some kind of a consensus — all of which should be completed in half an hour.

And some were just very excited of this kind of discussion taking place and were gently hushed by the practical voices trying to get to a solution and not draw this throughout the night.

The discussion started by asking if anybody needs to say kaddish. No hands were raised. It went on asking if a minyan should be held once or three times a day. The third question was weather we should allow the Catholic participants, if they wished, to watch us or even to take part. There is also the question of nusah of the prayer, of course.

The largest group was comprised of traditional egalitarians –- people who accept women as part of a minyan. Three men refused to pray with women in egalitarian minyan — and, of course, not a minyan led by women or woman counted as part of it. One of those men said his community’s customs were Orthodox, but that he was not as observant and would not show up anyhow — and, still, he was opposing. Then one man who said he is not comfortable with a minyan which won’t count women. Most people felt that we need to get to a point of having everybody feel comfortable…but, even so, that reaching a consensus was not easy. Questions and remarks were made to make sure women who didn’t want to count for a minyan, wouldn’t be counted.

Some were willing to give up their comfort level to accommodate the whole community, but it wasn’t enough to others who are just not able to pray this way. Some would not bend their comfort levels if the other side was not making a few steps in their way. A very worthy group with many strong voices it is.

The solution was appointing different leaders to each prayer. The Orthodox Syrian by tradition guy took upon himself to lead a few short tfilot (his nusah was the longest; we were trying to keep things practical and short) and most tfilot are going to be traditional egalitarian. Jessica Sacks, an Orthodox participant and a member of the Yakar congregation in Israel, suggested leading a prayer in silence. Amirit Rosen, another Orthodox participant, suggested that a woman lead prayer up to the part of Pesukei D’Zimra, where a man would take over in an Orthodox egalitarian, Shira Chadasha style. One prayer would be lead by a man and a woman together.

It’s not clear to me how many people are going to show up to every one of those prayer services. I see something very natural that is happening to the group.

Prayer is a spiritual individual act, but it’s also a communal (and political) act — especially here, as we are representing the Jewish community in this conference. The external group — the Christians who represent the original voice of the ILC (the International Inter-Religious Liaison Committee) the body which gave IJCIC the first push to bring a unified Jewish voice in order to create a dialogue with the Vatican.

The same process was happening here, only with younger people who experience the Jewish current reality in a different way. We have to find our way within the next few days into a form of communal prayer or just scatter away as a group of individuals, each very different from the other leaving the communal act to the Christians who have a head start by coming from the same Christian sect.

It’s a real laboratory for what our community can look like. We have to get to a solution that will satisfy as many people – to be able to be here now and also in future conferences together.

After the meeting was over (at 22:15 if you are still wondering about keeping Jewish time) we said ma’ariv. Six men and 7 women stayed in the hall. Meanwhile, ten people stood behind a (male) hazzan. One of those 10 men said kaddish. In the back, two Orthodox women stood and prayed silently. At the other side in the back of the room stood an Israeli man of Syrian origin, following the prayer, but also praying alone.

Posted on June 22, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Lines of Communication: Jews and the Vatican

This entry was posted in Beliefs, History, Israel on by .

Inbal Freund-Novick is an organizational consultant and co-founder of The Unmasked Comics Project, a social change comics venture with comics artist Chari Pere. After spending a year as a visiting fellow at JPPPI (The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute), she currently serves in the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps of the World Jewish Congress.

inbal freund-novickFreund-Novick is a participant in Discovering Common Values: The Catholic-Jewish Leadership Conference, hosted by the Vatican and held at the Pope’s summer palace of Castel Gandolfo. She leaves Israel Saturday night, and all next week, she’ll be blogging about it here. This is her introduction.

Let me tell you what I like most about conferences: The Corridor.

I love the corridor. Everything else that goes on at a conference is important. It all has to be organized properly so that people can present the content they’ve prepared. But mostly, in conferences, being a participant is like watching a theater production that was already prepared beforehand. Or, as I was told once by Professor Yehezkel Dror, “You learn the most from reading.” This means that conferences are out there for something else: standing in the corridor, getting to know others.

A few months ago I was invited to an interfaith dialogue conference in Kazan, a city in the republic of Tatarstan, Russia, run by the Council of Europe. It was called for the stated purpose of getting to know each other and to create an action plan, which would aim to “develop proposals and identify concrete actions for promoting and sustaining intercultural and inter-religious dialogue with and by young people.”

Following that conference, I started leading an interfaith dialogue task force. As a result, I was invited to the conference in Castel Gandolfo, the summer palace of the Pope, which begins this Sunday.

The conference in Castel Gandolfo is an attempt to create a discourse between the younger leadership of Jews and Catholics. The Catholics who will be our hosts come from the Focolare movement, a more egalitarian sect of Catholics (or, as explained to us by Rabbi David Rosen, the neo-Chasidic movement in Catholicism).

Our delegation comes from all over the Jewish world. I will be one of 28 Jewish representatives.

Group theories discuss the way people with the same interests gather in the same groups. I guess this is what happens in such conferences- we meet others with whom we share the possibility of creating a more productive discourse than what currently exists, or with whom we are interested in being in touch.

So I try and meet the people who are gathered to watch the show – in the corridor.

In Kazan, I met Sami. A French businessman, head of an Islamic youth organization, an impressive leader. Sami and I got to talking a little bit only as the conference was wrapping up. You see, conferences have their own rhythm. At first you try to get a feel for the people. Then you slowly get to know them via joint participation in the conference. Toward the end, when the conference organizers are ready to start relaxing, there is a sense of closure–you have to talk with the people with whom you share an interest, or you risk missing out on the opportunity to communicate with them altogether. You need to make the necessary communications to ensure you can keep in touch with those with whom you created something or with whom you see potential to do something or, simply, with those you just liked–these are the best.

I spoke with Sami on the last day. A few things were said about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and I decided to tell him a little bit of my family story. He was warm and attentive, and this made me want to explore more ways of understanding his world.

A few weeks after I came back, Operation Cast Lead began. A day after I came back from Ashkelon to play with Israeli children in bomb shelters, Sami sends me a “hi” on Facebook chat. His status says: “Sami says that, finally, Olmert’s objective is to murder 0.10 % of the population of Gaza.”

I know he’s a nice guy, so I replied, and we started talking about the operation. I sent him a YouTube video showing how missiles are fired at Israel from schools and hospitals–for me, the usual stuff–and I found out that I made him think.

That’s all. Not convinced, not becoming a pro- Israeli, but at least, on the surface, he made me realize something was happening to his viewpoint. It was changing.

This was, I guess, what we were talking about. This was “dialoging.”

Posted on June 19, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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