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Engaging in Hard Conversations

09/14/2022 08:11:18 AM


Beth Schafer

Last weekend I participated in an interfaith day of learning at Queens University in Charlotte, NC. The gathering was inspired by Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”), the 1965 Papal decree that sought to change the Roman Catholic Church’s relationship with the Jewish people, by stating that the Jewish people were not guilty of deicide (the killing of Jesus). In the aftermath of the Holocaust, the Church began to own its part in creating a hostile and antisemitic world that has led to the murder of millions of Jews over the millennia.

A most striking note came in the panel discussion. Dr. Malka Simkovich, Director of Jewish Studies at Catholic Theological Union characterized the Jewish-Catholic relationship as being in a new phase of its interfaith encountering. She explained that at the beginning of interfaith relations, you stress and celebrate everything you have in common, your shared humanity. But once that table is set, the next phase points out the differences and the pain and suffering some of those differences have caused. These conversations are quite difficult and delicate. They take incredible trust, patience, and compassion and require hard self-reflection.

In this month of Elul, that idea really jumped out at me. In order that our relationships be as honest and authentic as possible, we have to be willing to engage in those hard conversations. We need to listen with compassion if someone tells us we’ve hurt them, and we need to look for paths of forgiveness when someone has hurt us and wants to make amends.

I hope this season gives us the confidence to strengthen all of the relationships that are important in our lives, and brings us peace for having made the effort. How wonderful the New Year will be if we do.

To hear the music, “In Our Time,” that I co-wrote and produced with Rev. Ricky Manalo and that debuted at the event, click here.

Shabbat Shalom,


Sat, December 10 2022 16 Kislev 5783