Series Brings Thoughtful Discussion to Divisive Topics

Friday, February 8, 2019

by Jeffrey Martin '04, '05 (M.A.)

Rabbi Abraham Skorka is a scholar known around the world for his commitment to promoting friendship and understanding between people of different faiths, including with the future Pope Francis in his native Argentina. A rabbinical seminary rector for decades, he will bring his expertise to bear on some of society’s most divisive debates in a series of lectures at Saint Joseph’s University.

The series, titled “Issues that Divide Our Society: Rabbinic Perspectives,” will include responses from SJU specialists. Each event will be held at 7 p.m. in the Haub Executive Center, McShain Hall. The series is offered in collaboration with the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Skokra, a University Professor and visiting scholar in the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations (IJCR), explains that engaging in topical issues is not an uncommon practice in Jewish faith.

“In Jewish tradition, there is not a difference between holy issues and secular issues,” he says. “Everything related to human life needs to be analyzed according to principles of morality and spirituality.”

On February 18, Skorka will present on “The Perils of Polarized Discourse,” with a response by James Caccamo, Ph.D., associate professor of theology and an expert on ethics. The series will continue on February 25 with “The Interreligious Complexities of the Abortion Debate,” with a response by Marvin J. H. Lee, Ph.D., a consultant in SJU’s Institute for Clinical Bioethics, and will conclude with “Science and Religion: Contradictory or Complementary” on March 4, featuring a response by Gerard M. Jacobitz, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology.

Philip Cunningham, Ph.D., professor of theology and director of the IJCR, says that Skorka’s expertise makes him the ideal person to approach these controversial topics with sensitivity.

“The rabbinic tradition, which celebrates the thoughtful and deliberative interpretation of scripture, has always been the guide to how Jews should respond to the pressing issues of the day,” Cunningham says. “Since Rabbi Skorka is an expert on the ethical discussions found in the rabbinic tradition, he is an ideal person to share with the Christian and Jewish communities of Philadelphia the wisdom of that tradition.”

All events in the series are free and open to the public.

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