JTS Graduate School Establishes New Alliance to Promote Interfaith Understanding

A Visiting Scholar Program with Rome’s Cardinal Bea Centre

Press Contact: Eve Glasberg
Office: (212) 678-8089
Email: evglasberg@jtsa.edu

July 15, 2010, New York, NY

The Graduate School of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies in Rome have announced a consortium agreement that will begin with the 2010–2011 academic year.

The Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies, directed by Father Thomas G. Casey, SJ, is part of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies in Religion and Culture, a division of the Pontifical Gregorian University. The Centre’s philosophy is based on the spiritual patrimony common to Jews and Christians and its goal is to “promote between them the mutual knowledge and esteem that come above all from biblical and theological studies and from a fraternal dialogue” (Vatican II, Nostra Aetate 4).

“Consortial agreements such as this broaden the horizons of our graduate students and our faculty and expose them to as many perspectives, as many opportunities as possible,” says Dr. Stephen Garfinkel, associate provost and former dean of The Graduate School, under whom the agreement was established. “By partnering with a Christian institution, we are providing more context for all concerned.”

Dr. Burton Visotzky, the Nathan and Janet Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies at JTS, who taught at the Cardinal Bea Centre in 2007, was instrumental in setting up the consortium. The program will begin with two components: The Graduate School and the Centre will exchange one faculty member each for a semester or an academic year of teaching and one PhD student each for classes and study. Both institutions hope to expand the program over the next few years.

The first visiting scholar under the new partnership is Dr. Robert Harris, associate professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at JTS, who will teach “Introduction to Judaism” at the Cardinal Bea Centre during the spring 2011 semester.

“During the Renaissance of the twelfth century, a veritable revolution took place in biblical exegesis among rabbinic and Christian scholars of northern France,” says Dr. Harris. “They began to formulate a new and innovative ‘contextual’ approach to reading and interpreting biblical texts according to a methodology that came to be called peshat among Jews and ad litteram among Christians. Without diminishing the weight of divine authority, they sought to enable the Bible to speak in its own voice and, in so doing, began a process through which they might hear the Bible read in the religious tradition of the other. Despite many false starts, today—thanks to Vatican II and other ecumenical efforts—interfaith dialogue between Jews and Christians has become the rule and not the rare exception. Thus, the opportunity to teach at the Cardinal Bea Centre in Rome is, in a sense, a culmination of my academic work.”

For more information on the Cardinal Bea Centre or the Gregorian Pontifical University, visit http://www.unigre.it/home_en.htm.