SJU’s Skorka, Gregerman Recognized for Leadership in Interfaith Dialogue

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

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

Rabbi Abraham Skorka may have a friendship with someone who can affect change on a large scale, but he still believes in the power of person-to-person discourse.

“Change is produced by individuals,” he says. “Big moments can set the tone, but the work that makes an impact is done by individuals.”

A University Professor who is working closely with the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations (IJCR), Skorka was recognized for his singular impact on interfaith dialogue this weekend, receiving the Shevet Achim award at the annual conference of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Catholic Relations (CCJR), held at Providence College in Rhode Island.

Skorka, 68, has dedicated his career to improving interreligious relations. He spent nearly 20 years as professor of biblical and rabbinic literature and rector at the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano Marshall T. Meyer in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During that time, he hosted a series of talks on religious and political topics with Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the man who would become Pope Francis.

“Throughout his life, Rabbi Skorka has been a tireless advocate of interreligious dialogue,” says Philip Cunningham, Ph.D., director of the IJCR at Saint Joseph’s. “Even after all he’s accomplished, he continues to engage with people in Jewish and Catholic congregations, facilitating conversation.”

As a University Professor at SJU, Skorka will lead workshops and conversations on and off campus. Last month, the IJCR hosted “Friends in Faith,” a day of dialogue for 100 students from Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr and Pope John Paul II High School in Royersford. A series of public lectures on rabbinic perspectives on contemporary social issues is under development for the spring semester.

“In his time here, Rabbi Skorka will be able to have a singular focus on something that he has dedicated his life to: interfaith collaboration and education,” Cunningham says.

Skorka says that the Shevet Achim award energizes him to continue his work.

“Taking into account the people who have received this award in the past — scholars, authors and founders of centers for interfaith dialogue — I feel very honored,” he says. “This is a stimulus for me to move forward.”

At the conference, Adam Gregerman, Ph.D., assistant director of the IJCR, was elected vice chair of the CCJR board of directors. He had spent the previous four years as a board member at large.

“A real benefit to having a national organization that brings together local institutes and centers is that we get to hear from others what’s happening in their areas,” Gregerman says of the CCJR. “We get to exchange experience and ideas. And through that collaboration, we can build a stronger interfaith dialogue.”

In addition to these recognitions at the CCJR conference, Cunningham was honored on October 25th by Center for Catholic Jewish Studies at Saint Leo University in Florida with their “Eternal Light Award” for outstanding contributions to the cause of Catholic-Jewish relations.

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