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May 09, 2003 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-05-09

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AIT• ■ •• ■ •••• ■•■••■•■••■■ •••=1••••••1111• ■•■•

This Week

Challenging Job

Ecumenical Institute honors those who work
for relationships between religions.

Special to the Jewish News


worked for the local archdiocese and taught locally, is
sparked by mandatory religion courses in his native
the Catholic point person for American Catholic-
Argentina, particularly by a teacher who introduced
Jewish relations and, in 1981, was appointed by Pope
them to a wide variety of Catholic thinkers (and
John Paul II to be consultor to the Vatican
who was later fired for it).
Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.
Responding to a question, Rabbi Klenicki
Answering a question about whether, in this age of expressed concern about the organizing bodies of
multi-culturalism, a focus on Christian-Jewish rela-
many of the Protestant denominations. He noted
tions is too narrow, Dr. Fisher responded, 'We
that the World Council of Churches "is more into
[Catholics] believe God has chosen the Jews for a
ideological gains than theological concerns." Instead
purpose for all humanity. That's not narrow, that's
of discussing theological issues, the National
very broad ... There is no more important dialogue
Council of Churches "wants a left-wing passe ideol-
than that with the Jewish people. I didn't come up
ogy that the American people are no longer into."
with that; I took it from Pope John Paul II."
David Blewett, the Institute's executive director,
Noting that this pope has taught Catholics much
lauded all of the honorees for their support of the

ur job today is even more complicated
and more challenging than in the past,"
said Harvey Weisberg of Bloomfield Hills,
who received the 2003 Legacy Award of
the Ecumenical Institute for Jewish-Christian
Studies at the Institute's annual Dove Dinner May 1
at Congregation Shaarey Zedek.
"In recent weeks, I've heard from some very intel-
ligent people that ecumenism is not needed because
the pope has already been to Israel and because dia-
logue is taking place," said Weisberg, who was
instrumental in founding of the Southfield-
based Institute and is a past president.
"But the Institute is about teaching dialogue
and about fighting prejudice and misunderstand-
ing. Our enemy is ignorance, and we have to be
the warriors against it. We need the Institute."
Pearlena Bodzin of Southfield, a past presi-
dent and an active member of the Institute's
Speakers' Bureau who also conducts Passover
seders at numerous churches, shared the
Legacy Award with Weisberg.
"My involvement with the Ecumenical
Institute has enriched my life," she said.
"Through my work, I was able to learn about
religions and cultures that make up our gar-
den of humankind."
The dinner also honored the Archdiocese of
Detroit. Accepting the award, the Rev. John
West, ecumenical officer of the archdiocese,
spoke of the "sense of covenant with our
friends in the Jewish community" and noted
the "hurt" he felt that past Sunday when
"there were two Jewish slurs that people men-
tioned at the door of my church."
"We have so much to do," he said. "We've
got a long way to go." He also shared a mes-
sage from Cardinal Adam Maida, who said "to Honorees at the Dove Dinner are Dr. Eugene Fisher of the Washington, D.C-based US. Conference of Bishops;
tell everybody we're in it for the long haul. We Harvey Weisberg of Bloomfield Hills; Pearlena Bodzin of Southfzel4 Rabbi Leon Klenicki, recently retired from
the New York-based Anti-D e famation League; and the Rev. John West, on behalf of the Archdiocese of Detroit.
need to work with the Ecumenical Institute."

Catholic Support

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of
the 2003 James R. Lyons Award in Christian-Jewish
Relations to two national leaders, Dr. Eugene Fisher
and Rabbi Leon Klenicki.
Since 1977, Dr. Fisher has been associate director of
the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, which
recently merged with the United States Catholic
Conference to become the United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops. Dr. Fisher, a native of Detroit who

5/ 9


about their relationship with the Jews, he quipped,
"You Jews are stuck with us if you like us or not.
We're going to keep aiming back to you because a
bunch of Jews came up with us."
Rabbi Klenicki recently retired from the Anti-
Defamation League, where for almost 30 years he
was director of interfaith affairs and the group's liai-
son to the Vatican. He has lectured on 16 college
and seminary campuses and authored, edited or oth-
erwise contributed to dozens of books and journals.
He continues to teach and lecture widely.
Rabbi Klenicki's interest in Christianity was

Institute and its mission, and called Rabbi Klenicki
and Dr. Fisher "some of my best teachers."
"Rabbi Klenicki taught me it was OK to disagree
with a Jew on these [theological] issues, and not only
can you disagree, you have to, because the point of
dialogue is not syncretism or finding the common
denominator; it is reaching understanding," he said.
Rev. Bruce Quatman, a member of the Institute's
executive committee and pastor of Holy Spirit
Church in West Bloomfield, said in the benediction
prayer, "We know of your love for us. We know of
our love for you. Help us to love each other." ❑

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