Jews and the Vatican: Our Christians, Ourselves

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 Timeâ€) 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.

Posted on June 24, 2009

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