This year marks 50 years since the second Vatican Council absolved the Jewish people of responsibility for the death of Jesus. In the “Nostra aetate” (Latin for “in our time”), the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions, the Roman Catholic Church recognized that other religionssuch as Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism espouse some truth that is shared with Catholics. And it took the first step toward ending almost two millennia of profound enmity between Catholic and Jew.
Over twenty years before Vatican II, Rabbi B. Benedict Glazer of Temple Beth El, had begun his own efforts to reach across faith lines by reaching out to Detroit’s Protestant clergy. “He wanted to bring them together for fellowship and to get to know each other better,” says Rabbi Mark Miller, who is now Temple Beth El’s lead Rabbi.
In 1942, says Miller, “things were already terrible in terms of what was happening in the world. His first instinct was to gather people for a conversation”about those conditions and how they might be ameliorated by friendly relations with Protestant religious leaders.
The meetings were the Rabbi’s informal personal initiative, but when Glazer passed away suddenly in 1952 at age 50, his congregation decided to make his annual meetings a formal institute, the Rabbi B. Benedict & Ada S. Glazer Institute on Judaism, which brought in eminent scholars to address the annual clergy meeting.
In 1965, Vatican II – the document Nostra Aetate specifically – opened the door to include Catholic clergy, and then other non-Christian faiths. Thus over the last fifty years, changes in society, in our communities, and in the dynamics of the American religious community have created the opportunity to move away from an institute on Judaism, and towards a dialogue between many faiths.
For Rabbi Miller, who took the Beth El pulpit just after last year’s Glazer Institute, it was “a natural fit.”
“I have an interest in these big picture trends and demographics,” says Miller, who was pleased to have the opportunity to update the Institute. “I have a strong interest in interfaith work and community organizing. The Institute, the fact that it existed and it was successful was a perfect opportunity to put these ideals into practice.”
“I had my eye on 2015 because it was coming up on the anniversary of Vatican II,” says Miller. “I was always interested in getting the Jewish community and the Catholic community together for a 50th anniversary.”
Rabbi Miller reached out to interfaith leaders to become partners and also found a willing partner in the Archdiocese of Detroit, opening a conversation last summer with Archbishop Vigneron. “How do we celebrate and mark that moment and how do we take that impact and move it forward?” asked Rabbi Miller.
“It’s an intentional change in course to reach out to people in a different way,” says Miller, “to be more about dialogue and action, more active than learning and understanding.”
Formerly an event for clergy centered around a speaker, this year’s Glazer Institute will be open to the whole faith community. Miller expects strong representation from across all of our community’s different faiths.
“If we want to have strong interfaith conversations, it shouldn’t be just the clergy,” says Miller. “This year there’s no keynote speaker. The keynote speaker is the dialogue between clergy and lay leaders from the different traditions.” Fifty years ago Nostra Aetate had a profound effect on relationships among Catholics and Jews. It led to an amazing dialogue that has repercussions for the whole faith community. Nevertheless there is plenty of evidence that there is more to be done in building a community of good will among all our religious groups. Where do we go from here?
Participants, says Miller can expect to be involved in a real dialogue, a true interfaith event, and to be part of moving forward, starting a dialogue that will lead to action. It will be, “a nice couple of hours,” yet, no doubt, very productive.
“It’s a change of direction, but it’s the continuation of the ideals,” says Miller. “I hope people will take this as an opportunity to come together and take positive steps forward.”
The 2015 Glazer Institute, will be held on 1-3 p.m. on Monday, April 27 at Temple Beth El.
The event is free and the entire community is welcome to attend. For more information, or to RSVP, contact Laura Lucassian at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-851-1100 ext. 3142.