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Synagogue Council Clarifies Participation in Interfaith Dialogues

February 21, 1967
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Stressing that it would not alter its long-standing policy of avoiding any interfaith dialogues on purely theological themes, the Synagogue Council of America confirmed today that it will participate in a series of discussions on issues “of universal religious concern” with Protestant and Roman Catholic groups.

Rabbi Henry Siegman, executive director of the SCA, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that the organization would hold its first formal interfaith discussions on religious views of various problems with the Episcopal Church in New York on March 5 and 6, and with the National Council of Churches and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Boston on May 7 and 8.

He noted that, while the planned meetings did not represent any change in policy by the Synagogue Council, they did involve a new departure as far as program was concerned in that they were the first discussions to be held on religious values of various issues. In the past, he said, the SCA had engaged in joint social action on certain issues but not in discussion of religious values with regard to these issues.

The SCA official emphasized that the organization still followed the guidelines on interfaith discussion as put forward by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik of Boston, a leading Orthodox rabbinic authority, which called for the limiting of interfaith discussion to “universal religious problems” and bars dialogue on purely theological questions.

The meeting with Episcopalian leaders next month will deal with family life while the meeting in Boston in May would deal with the role of religious conscience as applied to five specific areas — war and peace, racial justice, society’s economic obligations to its citizens, state aid to religious education and law and religious conscience.

Rabbi Siegman pointed out that the issues to be dealt with at the forthcoming conferences would concern not only the social aspects of the problems but will bring to bear on the discussions the contributions of the religious heritage of the three faiths.

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