Submission #383 by Etz Chaim Men's Club - Marietta, GA (1711)

Submission information
elisson1's picture
Submitted by elisson1
Sun, 2013-05-05 14:38
I have read the General Guidelines, "Nuts and Bolts" and Program Advanced Planning (Excel Spreadsheet) Documents
Club Name
Etz Chaim Men's Club - Marietta, GA (1711)
Walking G-d's Paths - An Interfaith Dialogue between Catholics and Jews
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"Walking G-d's Paths - An Interfaith Dialogue between Catholics and Jews" is a pilot program that was jointly run by Etz Chaim Men's Club and representatives of the Catholic Church of St. Ann, part of an ongoing process of engagement and dialogue between the two communities that grew out of ECMC's Torch Award-winning program "The Unity of Community." Using a series of six 15-minute videos created by the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, groups from Etz Chaim and St. Ann explored several facets of the (often problematic) historical relationship between the two faith communities. The dialogue helped both groups to learn about one another and dispel stereotypes, strengthening the growing friendship between the two.
Our program - "Walking G-d's Paths - An Interfaith Dialogue between Catholics and Jews" - had its roots in Etz Chaim Men's Club's "The Unity of Community" program of 2010, which involved members of the local Catholic church in our observation of Yom ha-Shoah. The program was originally suggested by Fr. Ray Cadran as an opportunity for our two faith communities to learn more about one another; the materials, created by the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College on behalf and with the oversight of the National Council of Synagogues and the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered a nuanced and balanced springboard for group discussions.

A small committee from Etz Chaim Men's Club reviewed the materials and agreed that the program should be pursued. The Committee met with representatives of the Catholic Church of St. Ann and agreed that we would first conduct the program on a pilot basis with 6-10 participants from each community: If we mutually agreed that the program was successful, then the pilot program participants would act as facilitators for future programs, allowing us to offer it to a larger audience.

The program consisted of six sessions, each beginning with the viewing of a 15-minute video followed by an hour or more of discussion, either on questions raised by that session's video or on other topics. The location of sessions typically alternated between the two congregations; at the end of each session, the time and place for the next session was decided upon.

Group members were encouraged to be candid and forthright and to feel free to ask questions. We discovered, as the sessions progressed, that the Catholic contingent was extremely curious about many of the details of Jewish observance - some were quite surprised to discover the degree to which aspects of their services and liturgical calendar originated in Judaism. Conversely, the Jewish contingent learned how much of pre-Diaspora Jewish practice was subsumed and adapted by the Church.

Each group consisted of a cross-section of its community. The Catholic group included two priests (one of whom was relocated to Chicago during the course of the program) and several Church lay leaders of both sexes. The Jewish group included a rabbi, along with several of the congregation's active laypersons.

The six 15-minute videos are titled as follows:

1. A New Future: Building Shalom between Catholics and Jews
An overview of the past, present, and future of Christian-Jewish relations and a look at the different perspectives Christians and Jews bring to the conversation.

2. Shared Origins, Diverse Roads
The late Second Temple period gave birth to Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. The video discusses the central nature of the Torah for Jews and of Jesus Christ for Christians and how both relationships were affected by the destruction of the Temple by the Romans.

3. Common Texts, Different Scriptures
Although Christianity and Judaism share many of the same scriptures, they are arranged differently and read through different traditions of interpretation.

4. Season of Freedom, Season of Rebirth
Shows how the related feasts of Passover and Easter ritually re-enact defining foundational events for both religious traditions.

5. Metaphors for a Unique Relationship
Shows alternative ways of visualizing the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Participants will compare various images and depictions and examine how they could shape the way Christians and Jews educate about each other.

6. Mending Relationships, Mending the World
While engaged in dialogue to overcome the old stereotypes and misconceptions that have in the past hampered the ability of Christians and Jews reconcile with one another, members of both faith traditions are increasingly aware that both understand themselves to have been given a mission to the world. We explore Jewish and Christian reconciliation and its significance for the rest of humanity.

Following the conclusion of the "formal" program, participants engaged in an interfaith dinner in mid-December... another opportunity to learn about each others' traditions in view of the seasonal holidays. (How many dinners have you attended in which a Catholic baked the challah and a Jew made the Christmas pudding?) In addition, members of each group attended services at the others' house of worship: the Catholics attended Etz Chaim's Men's Club Shabbat on chol ha-moed Pesach 2012, and the Jews attended Fr. Ray's farewell Mass prior to his relocation to Chicago.

More about the "Walking G-d's Paths" program can be found here:

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Self Assessment
The "Walking G-d's Paths" program has had a minimal impact at the Club level, but has generated great interest at the synagogue and community levels - a model for interfaith dialogue and understanding and an excellent opportunity to dispel stereotypes and learn about each others' faith traditions. We expect that at least 10% of the synagogue's membership will eventually participate in this program as we roll it out to a broader audience.
One of the best ways to become involved in your own faith community is to put yourself in the position of having to explain it to others! This program certainly relates to FJMC's "Community" tagline, since it intrinsically involves reaching out from the Jewish world to touch other faith communities.
Photo: Fr. John Gabriel looks on as Fr. Ray Cadran explains the significance of the Advent candle. This followed a detailed explanation by Etz Chaim MC members of Chanukah traditions and practices, including a "demonstration" candle-lighting (since the holiday had already ended.)
Other Source
This is an original program that relies on source materials developed and provided by the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College.
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