NEWSLETTER No. 60 – December 2004


Christian & Jewish

New look Gesher given prestige launch

The Rev. Dr David Stolz who officially launched the 2004 issue of Gesher in Melbourne

The October launch in Melbourne of ?Gesher” the annual magazine published by the Victorian Council revealed a new look for the prestigious publication. Driven by its new editor, Dr. Morna Sturrock the publication has been given a face lift in reproduction terms and greater news componentry in its content. The recently-retired President of the Lutheran Church of Australia in Victoria/Tasmania, Rev. Dr David Stolz officially launched the publication with an erudite address, during which he said that sixty years ago the word ?ecumenical” had hardly been invented whereas the ecumenical movement now talks much more in terms of covenanting together to do and be various things. It builds alliances. It signs agreements. ”The journey of dialogue is not an easy task ? but task it is!” Dr. Stolz said. ?
It is a journey that begins with establishing trust. It involves learning a new language ? the faith language of the partner in dialogue. ?This language learning needs careful listening. It requires honesty and openness. Only when we have learned the language of the dialogue partner can the dialogue really begin”.

A section of the large Gesher launch audience

Dr. Stolz went on to say that the call to dialogue is urgent. It is the pre-eminent call of our time and in every corner of the globe. ?I am heartened by the accounts of dialogue and by the stories of inter-faith and inter-cultural learning in this edition (of Gesher). But these initiatives are the exception rather than the rule,” he continued, urging the Council to do everything in its power to ensure that dialogue baton is passed on to the next generation. ?Just as the story of faith is passed on by faithful fathers and mothers so the task of bridge building but the charter is not finished. The hard yards are still to be run. Faith hardy people must continue to be recruited to write articles, debate issues and provide funding. ?Of this we can be sure, the God who calls us to dialogue will sustain us as we build bridges towards the goal of one people under God”, he concluded.

Victorian Council changes guard

Last month?s Annual General Meeting of the Victorian Council saw the baton change from Michael Cohen to newly-elected chairman, William (Bill) Clancy. A member of the State executive since 1995, Bill Clancy has been the CCJ?s Hon. Secretary for the past five years. In addition to his election as Chairman of the State Council, Bill will also assume Michael Cohen?s role as Vice President of the Australian Council of Christians and Jews. He was awarded an Order of Australia (AM) in 1996 for services to medical research, health and law. Other office bearers elected at the AGM are Vice-Chairman: Rev Graham McAnalley, Hon. Secretary:  Dr Philip Bliss and Hon. Treasurer: Walter Rapoport.

Incoming CCJ VIC chairman, Bill Clancy, Revd. David Stolz and Gesher editor, Morna Sturrock

International Council appoints new General Secretary

Dr. Sybille Fritsch-Oppermann, a pastor of the Evangelische Kirche in Hessen and Nassau, Germany, has been appointed General Secretary of the International Council of Christians and Jews, succeeding Rev. Friedhelm Pieper, who completed his term of office earlier this year.
Dr. Fritsch-Oppermann previously served as Director of Studies for the Evangelical Academy in Loccum. Dr. Fritsch-Oppermann studied musicology, social science, and Protestant theology at the universities of G?ttingen, Frankfurt, and Munich, specializing in the fields of systematic theology, ecumenical relations, and interreligious dialogue. Her internship with the World with the World Council of Churches saw her working with its unit for women and its program for dialogue with people of living faiths. In the fall of 2001 she was a research scholar at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has also served as a lecturer at the University of Hamburg and as a parish pastor in Frankfurt am Main. Active in the Kirchentag movement, including its ongoing forums on Christian-Jewish as well as Christian-Muslim relations, she was a member of the Arbeitskreis Kirche und Israel (Working Group on the Church and the Jewish People) of the Church of Hessia, for which she helped develop study journeys to Israel. President of the International Council of Christians and Jews, Prof. John Pawlikowski stated: “”We are excited about Dr. Fritsch-Oppermann's coming on board as ICCJ's new General Secretary. In addition to her academic background in interreligious relations, she brings to the position considerable organizational experience and fundraising knowledge. ?We look forward to working with her in giving ICCJ new vitality in the coming years.”The ICCJ, which has 38 Christian-Jewish and interreligious member organizations in 32 countries, has its headquarters in the Martin Buber House in Heppenheim, Germany, where the great Jewish thinker lived until Nazi persecution forced him to flee. Through its annual conferences and other consultations the ICCJ offers a platform where Christians, Jews and in recent years, Muslims as well, examine current issues across national boundaries, providing the opportunity for face-to-face exchanges of experience and expertise.


A challenge for the Australian Council

At the mid-year Conference of the Australian Council of Christians and Jews in Melbourne, the impact of one of the sessions has had a lasting effect which, it is hoped, will result in a significant outcome. This was the tri- denominational presentation by three school principals — one Muslim, one Catholic, one Jewish — of a program which had been inaugurated in their schools to bring together students from these disparate backgrounds and provide them with insights into one another?s beliefs, convictions and attitudes to religion and the spiritual in their daily lives. It was the unanimous decision by the ACCJ Executive to attempt to advance this concept further a?field; to attempt to demonstrate to school principals and educators in other parts of Australia the validity and the benefits to be derived from such an initiative. The approaching new year provides a challenge to the Council to establish such contacts with educators in capital cities and indeed, also in major regional centres — to create the necessary contacts and establish the necessary parameters for such programs to be established. If during the coming year only one or two more of such undertakings can be mounted, it would represent a major step forward in the overall objectives which the Council sets for itself, to broaden the dialogue between the faiths and engender greater understanding of the other. —
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Kol Hakovot
from one editor to another

Kol Hakovot is the Hebrew expression of congratulation for a job well done. It behoves SCENE to send such congratulation to the new editor of GESHER, the Victorian Council?s prestige annual publication. Its new editor, Morna Sturrock and her assistant editor, Julie Contole have produced a brilliant 80-page volume which would take pride of place for any major organisation anywhere in the world. It is a measure of the professionalism, dedication and far sightedness of the Victorian Council that it has the energy and the facilities to muster the resources required for such a major under- taking. We commend the publication to all SCENE readers and encourage them to contact their State Council for a copy if they have not already received one.

Prominent Sydney journalist?s insights into ?Interrupted Journeys”, the stories of young refugees from Hitler?s Reich

As the dark storm clouds of World War II threatened to engulf Europe, a small number of German and Austrian teenagers fled Nazi oppression in their homeland, leaving behind their parents, families and everything familiar, to find a refuge in Australia. Simultaneously an exodus of younger Jewish children ? later to be known as Kindertransports ? was heading for Britain. Many arrived only days or hours before Britain and France formally declared war. The majority in both groups would never see their parents again. Not all were able to participate in these ?escape lines”. The return of peace heralded another exodus from ?old Europe” ? this time of the many thousands of Jewish children, dubbed ?war orphans”, who had spent the war years in hiding, or incarcerated in concentration camps, where they bore the full brunt of Nazi horrors. They re-emerged after the war as displaced persons (known to most simply as DPs) to await re-settlement in a new host country. Australia, by virtue of its remoteness, proved a popular choice. Shipping and other difficulties— including a notorious ?quota” restricting the percentage of Jews ? meant that by the time of their arrival, up to five years had elapsed since the war?s end. Interrupted Journeys tells the stories of these and other young people whose life journeys were ?interrupted”, in fact underwent permanent change as a result of Hitler?s Reich, including the extraordinary story of the Vienna Mozart Choir. Alan Gill (pictured) gained access to former secret archives to examine, dispassionately, claims that the choirmaster was a secret, high level Nazi. Gill, formerly the Sydney Morning Herald?s long-time Religion writer, is the author of Orphans of the Empire, which tells the compelling story of several thousand British child migrants, sometimes known as the ?white stolen children” or ?Leaving of Liverpool” kids. As with the earlier work, he has drawn on years of diligent research and many hours of sometimes painful interviews with people who found ?opening up” stressful but therapeutic.

Ethics Director challenges
NSW Council AGM

St. James Ethics Centre Director, Dr. Simon Longstaff challenged the 2004 Annual General Meeting of the NSW Council of Christians and Jews last month when he took his audience on a slalom ride of philosophical analysis on the future longevity of faith. Posing the question as to whether faith still has a voice in the 21st century, Longstaff claimed the concept of faith as human kind has described it over the centuries is on a slippery road. ?It does and should have a voice in modern times but it?s going to be a close thing”, he said.
The Annual General Meeting saw the re-election of the present Executive with President Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen serving a second year with vice president Fr. Joseph Sobb (pictured together at right at the AGM ) Also (pictured below left) with Fr. Sobb is Sr. Giovanni Farquer who made the arrangements for the AGM to be held at Polding House, new headquarters of the Catholic Diocese of Sydney.


The Lessons according to Rabbi Apple

Rabbi Raymond Apple AM, RFD, will officially retire as Chief Minister of Sydney?s Great Synagogue early in 2005. In recognition of his tireless efforts over many years in the cause of interfaith dialogue and understanding, the NSW Council has bestowed an Honorary Life Membership. At its December Executive meeting, the Australian Council invited Rabbi Apple to accept a patronage of the Council.

Asked some years ago a series of questions on current issues, the about-to-retire Sydney Great Synagogue chief minister?s answers are illuminating, to say the least.

A selection makes the point.

Q. What lessons have we learned in recent times?
A. The days of the easy ride are over and everything requires effort ? effort to come to grips with the complexities of modern life with all its challenges.

Q. If you were having a meal with the Prime Minister, what would you say to him?
A. Please put more passion and compassion into the policies you put forward on our behalf.

Q. Are we building the best kind of society. If not, how should we improve it?
A. We need to work on overcoming greed and selfishness, particularly on the part of the high flyers who exploit the little people.

Q. How should the nation?s leaders deal with the asylum seeker issue?
A. Give every asylum seeker a quick, humane opportunity to have their case heard and dealt with.

Q. The question is often asked that Jews are frequently referred to as a race: is this correct?
A. Not in any scientific sense. Walk into any Israeli town and you will see Jews of many races. What unites them as Jews is their religion and culture. It is not only non-Jews who talk about a Jewish race. They even talk about Jewish blood which, taken literally is nonsense. Probably what is meant is that there are certain attitudes derived from Jewish history and ethics. They are acquired not because of DNA but because they are part of the cultural precondition of a Jewish environment.

The death occurred last month of Rabbi Rudolf Brash, a major name in the Jewish community of Sydney, indeed of Australia and — in his capacity of a most prolific author — of the world. A religious leader, considered the ””father”of modern liberal Judaism in Australia, Brasch was also a writer and broadcaster, a wit and a storyteller in the classic Jewish tradition. His wise counsel and tolerant approach to religious differences meant that Christians, as well as Jews, regarded him as their “”personal padre””, as a Sydney Morning Herald reader put it. His literary output was prodigious — some 37 books in as many years. It began with serious works, such as The Eternal Flame, The Unknown Sanctuary, The Judaic Heritage: About Jewish life and theology. Though considered minor classics, they were swamped in public interest by lighter works, best known of which were his How Did ?. Begin? Series. Early in his ministry Rudy took an interest in inter-faith dialogue — then a rarity. He was invited to preach at a North London Anglican church, but was distracted when, on climbing into the pulpit, he found the congregation still kneeling. Normal custom is for the preacher to say, “”In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost””, which would hardly do for a rabbi. On the other hand, he didn't want to say merely, “”Please be seated””. He did some quick thinking and offered the ancient prayer: “”May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto Thee, oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”It produced a most fervent “”Amen””. This and similar activities led to the formation of London's first major Jewish-Christian ecumenical venture, an organisation now known as the Council of Christians and Jews, with which he was associated in Australia for many years. (Source: Extracts from Alan Gill?s Obituary in the SMH of November 16).

Around the World

Jewish groups condemn threat to US Presbyterian Church over Israel
US Jewish groups have condemned a terror threat against the Presbyterian Church (USA) that threatened retaliation for what it said were the denomination's 'anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attitudes'. ””Threats of violence against any houses of worship are intolerable,”said Kenneth Bandler, spokesman for the American Jewish Committee (AJC). Officials at the Presbyterian Church's headquarters in Kentucky have tightened security and have urged the denomination's 11 000 congregations to exercise caution, after receiving the threat.

Religion in Vietnam faces new restraints says Catholic archbishop
Vietnam was to put into effect new legislation on Monday that the communist state says will ensure freedom of religion, said a Roman Catholic archbishop who warned that it would place new restraints on religious groups. Authorities aimed to put a positive spin on the Ordinance on Religions and Beliefs, though Christians continue to face persecution in the South East Asian country. The AsiaNews service quoted Roman Catholic Archbishop Nguyen Nhu The of Hue in central Vietnam on 10 November as saying that church leaders “”must seek authorisation for every choice and decision”they make. “”This means there is no full religious freedom,”he said. The previous day, the government-run Radio Voice of Vietnam (VOV) said in a commentary that the State had “”always ensured its citizens' right to freedom of religion””.

Spirituality in the pub
Jamberoo Pub packed to the rafters. A program established some years ago by Fr Michael  Whelen, MSC, ?Spirituality in the Pub” has gained popularity all over Australia. Late last month in the small South Coast village of Jamberoo, its ?local? was packed to the doors for the evening's session, during which the Australian Council?s Hon. Secretary, Sr. Marianne Dacy and former Australian Jewish News editor, Susan Bures used the opportunity to outline progress made on the interfaith front. The session was the last in a series for the year of the 'Spirituality in the Pub' program. Previously Sr Dacy and Rabbi Apple had participated in a session in Ramsgate, NSW. The Jamberoo event was co-ordinated by a small team led by Gabrielle Fogarty. Ms Bures gave an outline of the basic tenets of Judaism, including the thirteen principles of Maimonides which aroused a great deal of interest on the part of the many Christians in the pub audience, while Sr Dacy spoke  of her own experiences of interfaith. It is part of the NSW CCJ?s forward planning to host a demonstration Seder in the South Coast, given the interest expressed by the Wollongong Group.

Candadian clergy plan to join trade union to protect their interests
The Canadian Auto Workers Union has accepted a request from some United Church of Canada clergy in Ontario to represent ministers of religion and is to launch a campaign to unionise the 4000 ministers of Canada's largest Protestant denomination.

Ecumenical Patriarch tells UK Catholics of delight at Pope?s gesture
Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain say they are happy the Ecumenical Patriarch – the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians – has spoken of his “”great delight”at Pope John Paul II's gesture whereby the remains of two of Christianity's most important saints are to be returned to Istanbul from the Vatican at the end of this month.

Churches denounce killing of Dutch film maker, plead for calm
Worshippers in churches, mosques and synagogues in Amsterdam were asked to pause for thought because of the killing in Amsterdam of Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh. “”Imams, priests, rabbis, pastors and other spiritual leaders will express their abhorrence at what has happened,”the inter-religious network Amsterdam With Heart And Soul announced after the November murder of Van Gogh, who made a controversial film about Islamic culture. “”They [the religious leaders] will also address their congregation about the responsibility of each person in Amsterdam to contribute to a calm, humane, and constructive way of reacting to the events,”the inter-faith network stated, amid fears that the murder may increase hostility.

Church of England set for decision on women bishops
The Church of England will be “”increasingly isolated and anachronistic”unless it accepts women as bishops, a working party of the Anglican church has concluded. Gender-blind equality of opportunity will remain a central feature of Western society. The Church of England will not be able to commend the gospel effectively if its structures embody sexism in a way that contemporary society no longer finds acceptable,”the working party said in its November report. Women have been ordained as priests in the Church of England since 1994, following a decision two years previously. However, women bishops do not follow automatically from the 1992 decision to accept women as priests.

ICCJ Patron, Sir Sigmund Sternberg honoured by French Government

ICCJ patron, Sir Sigmund Sternberg OBE was recently awarded the highly prestigious Legion of Honour by the French Government for his accomplished work in many aspects of interfaith relations. He has also been granted the Francisco de Miranda Order in its First Class by the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for his ?exceptional merits as a promoter of inter religious and inter cultural understanding.” In addition, late last year King Abdullah of Jordan gave an audience at Buckingham Palace to Sir Sigmund, Sheikh Dr. Zaki Badawi and Rev. Marcus Braybrooke. Stressing the importance of the work of the Three Faiths Forum, he promised that he would help foster a spirit of co-operation and understanding.

Prior to a meeting of the Three Faiths Forum Advisory Board at the Mansion House in London earlier this year a portrait of the Lord Mayor by Valerie Wiffen was unveiled. Pictured left to right: Imam Abduljalil Sajid, Sir Sigmund Sternberg, former Lord Mayor of London Sir Gavin Arthur and Rev. Marcus Braybrooke.

A Pilgrimage on Wheels

From the Vatican via Athens…to the Western Wall, Jerusalem—February/March 2005

The Pilgrimage on Wheels is an interfaith cycle ride which will reflect on the Jewish-Christian relationship and raise awareness of the importance of dialogue between the faiths. The ride starts in St Peters Square in Vatican City, with a blessing from Pope John Paul II, and ends at the Western Wall in Jerusalem?s Old City three weeks later. The Pilgrimage has been split into three legs: The first leg will take cyclists through the heart of Italy, starting in the Eternal City of Rome and passing medieval spa towns, monasteries, palaces and castles. The second leg then heads across to Greece and crosses from West (Igomenitsa) to East (Athens) and the third and final leg of the challenge goes from the Northern Negev Desert in Israel via the ancient city of Arad and on to Nazareth and Jerusalem.. The Pilgrimage on Wheels will witness the transformation in Jewish-Christian Relations in the last 50 years. It will demonstrate the Christian re-awakening to the Jewish origins of Christianity and a positive appraisal of Judaism as an ?elder brother?. Among Jews, there is a growing awareness that the Church has taken and continues to take a strong stand against antisemitism. Pope John Paul II, for example, has firmly condemned it as a sin and called on the faithful to do teshuva (repentance) for misdeeds against Jews. Jews also acknowledge the need to engage in dialogue and writers such as Martin Buber and Claude Montefiore have reminded Jews that Jesus was a fellow Jew (their “”great brother””, as Martin Buber described him). No healthy and enduring relationship between people is built on guilt and Jews and Christians now need to move on to a more positive basis for relations. The cycle ride aims to provide not only a physical challenge but will also challenge participants to reflect on an encounter that continues to shape the religious world. The relationship between Jews and Christians is one of the few pieces of good news in interfaith relations today. The Rome-Jerusalem cycle ride will show how this bitter past has been and provide hope that other conflicts that exist in our world can also be resolved.

?In a world still scarred by ethnic and religious conflict, at the close of the bloodiest century since human life began, the path to reconciliation still awaits us if we can find it, and the only way we can do so is together.”
Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Dr Jonathan Sacks

“”God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the Nations: we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant””. Pope John Paul II

Letters to the Editor (Email address:

Puzzles of interfaith friendships

As we move from the stage of Interfaith dialogue to that of interfaith friendships at grassroots level, are there no remaining problems; is everything settled? Far from it! The Jewish dietary laws create an invisible but immobile barrier between their adherents and the rest of us (as Anglicans) Whereas we can enjoy our Jewish friends? hospitality, we cannot reciprocate. When so often (at functions) light refreshments are served, dare I invite my (Jewish) guests to partake or could such an invitation cause embarrassment? Perhaps wisest not to ask? I think it a pity that such an obstacle should exist. But if indeed, it is the Will of the Almighty for the House of Israel, who am I to query it?

Daphne McLachlan, Double Bay, NSW

There can now be accessed a considerable amount of background information and news, current and past articles on matters relating to Christian-Jewish interfaith dialogue in Australia and abroad on the Council?s updated website which has links to those of ACCJ?s State branches and other relevant sites.

Inadequate review

I read with concern the publication of Aharon Ben Anshel?s review of Daniel Goldhagen?s book ?A Moral Reckoning”. The review most inadequately acknowledges the numerous positive developments in the relationship between the Roman Catholic Chruch and world Jewry. Nowhere is the relationship more positive than in Australia. Indeed it has developed far beyond Vatican II. Channels of dialogue are open and effective and it behoves SCENE fully to reflect the strength of this relationship.

David D. Knoll President, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies

The opinions of book reviewers are theirs and are identified as such. The admonition for ?Scene” fully to reflect the progress made in Australia in closing the gaps between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community is taken on board and its dramatic progress unreservedly acknowledged. In broad terms ? book reviews notwithstanding ? the editorial content of the SCENE aims to reflect the progress being achieved by interfaith dialogue, not only where the Catholic Church is concerned, but indeed all Christian denominations. Ed

Please see membership applications for Victoria and New South Wales
This edition's book reviews Irving Greenberg, Philip A. Cunningham
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