23rd Meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee

International Jewish-Catholic LiasionWarsaw, Poland, a city and land where “some of the most abhorrent events in world history” took place, where almost 3.5 million Jews who had lived side-by-side with Polish Catholics for over 800 years were nearly totally annihilated by the Nazis in the 20th century, along with three million Catholics and others — 1/10 of the total Polish population. Today, a tenuous, problematic, fragile rebirth is underway after a Polish pope wrought an irreversible new brotherhood between the two religions. This country, with its burden of tragedy and seeds of hope was appropriately chosen to host the 23rd bi-annual meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee.

The ILC, created in 1971, is composed of representatives of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) that includes delegates of the major organizations of world Jewry.

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I addressed the attendees of the 23rd bi-annual meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC) in Warsaw, Poland. The following is the edited text of my speech.

Judaism represents a unique combination of universalism and particularism. The balancing of these two tendencies provides a creative tension between the concept that all humans are created in the image of God, and the attitudes and obligations that flow from it, and the belief in the special nature of the Jewish people, often badly labeled as the “chosen people motif” or as the “election of Israel.” These ideas, therefore, are often balanced by explaining that the Jewish people are an extended family. One is closest to one’s nuclear family, then to wider relatives, then to fellow Jews, and then to the rest of humanity. The trick for the Jew in any specific time and place, and any specific situation, will be to determine the correct balance. This will be especially important in determining how to balance charitable obligations between helping fellow Jews and citizens of the world at large.

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