NEW YORK (Nov. 19)
The International Jewish Coalition on Interreligious Consultations, which is going to Rome next month to meet with Pope John Paul II and Vatican officials, will be a much stronger and more representative body than it has been for the past year now that two key organizations have rejoined.
The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the American Jewish Committee have been readmitted to IJCIC, and will participate in the Dec. 5 and 6 meetings.
Both groups resigned IJCIC — ADL pulled out in 1985 and AJCommittee late last year — because the group was not tackling what they considered essential theological issues, and because of internal conflicts between personalities within the group, according to participants.
“Discussions between IJCIC and Catholic and Protestant officials then were general, so general that they couldn’t ever hurt anyone,” recalled Rabbi Leon Klenicki, director of ADL’s Department of Interfaith Affairs. “We pulled out because we wanted more substantive meetings.
“We were at a stage of tea and sympathy; nothing ‘tachlis,’ “he said, using the Yiddish word for substance.
According to ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, “IJCIC wasn’t fulfilling some of our needs and the needs of the Jewish community.”
JEWISH COUNCIL DISSOLVED
AJCommittee, along with ADL and the American Jewish Congress, went on to form The Jewish Council for International Interreligious Relations, which is now being dissolved, according to Rabbi A. James Rudin, national director of Interreligious Affairs for AJCommittee.
The two projects the Jewish Council had already organized — separate meetings with Roman Catholic and Protestant leaders in Europe in 1991 — will be handled by IJCIC.
According to ADL and AJCommittee representatives, the time was ripe to seek readmission to IJCIC because the Vatican-Jewish relationship has matured, and because of the recent changes in Eastern Europe.
They said that IJCIC and the Vatican’s representative body, The Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews, had tackled difficult and important issues, such as anti-Semitism, at the meeting in Prague in September.
Fighting increasing anti-Semitism in the nascent democracies of Eastern Europe also became a priority for ADL and AJCommittee.
“The rapid changes in Eastern Europe, where the churches are playing such an important role in overthrowing Communism, have put a lot of emphasis on our struggle against anti-Semitism,” Rudin said.
“The danger of anti-Semitism requires joint work,” ADL’s Klenicki added.
AJCommittee also faced a recent reorganization, which left fewer resources and staff people to devote to interreligious work.
“We had to look, in this climate dous change, to reassess the most of? to have impact in that area,” Rudin admitted. Being part of IJCIC “will enrich and enhance and strengthen our efforts.”
IJCIC chairman Seymour Reich, who also serves as chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is credited with “keeping the door open” and encouraging the two groups to come back.
Reich said that when he “took over the chairmanship a year ago, it was a goal” to have the two groups rejoin because “it is good for the Jewish community. It strengthens IJCIC,” he said.
“IJCIC has demonstrated that it is viable, that it is seen by the Christian community as the vehicle for dialogue with the Jewish community,” Reich added.
He said the rejoining of ADL and AJCommittee “permits us to come together on important subjects to see if we can work out our own differences and face the Christian community together.”
Several topics are slated for discussion with Vatican representatives on Dec. 5 and with the pope on Dec. 6.
“We would like to hear a reaffirmation by the pope of the Prague declaration, which is second only to Nostra Aetate in its importance to the Jewish community,” Reich said.
He has been told by the president of the Vatican’s Commission on Religious Relations With the Jews, Archbishop Edward Cassidy, that “the pope endorsed it wholeheartedly and without reservation. Still, it would be nice if we had some indication of that in Rome from the pope.”
The statement that came out of the Prague meeting between Vatican representatives and IJCIC in early September condemned anti-Semitism as a sin and outlined concrete measures to reconcile the two faiths.
IJCIC now comprises the Synagogue Council of America, the World Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, the Israel Interfaith Committee and the American Jewish Committee.