Rabbis, Christian Orthodox clergy and scholars from around the world discuss the environment, religious values and the rise in anti-Semitism
Leading Orthodox Christian and Jewish interfaith officials, scholars and clerics discussed the crucial importance of protecting the environment and religious values and condemned growing incidents of anti-Semitism and religious prejudice around the world during a three day conference to help improve relations between these two ancient faith communities.
Co-sponsored by the Liaison Office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Office of Interreligious and Intercultural Affairs, and the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), a Jewish umbrella group, the meeting was the latest in an on-going effort to improve relations and dialogue between Orthodoxy and Judaism.
About 40 Christian Orthodox clergy, rabbis, and academics from around the world, including Russia, Georgia, Romania, Israel, France, Greece, Finland, and the United States met with local government and religious leaders. Thessaloniki Mayor Ioannis Boutaris, Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki, and David Saltiel, president of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki, were among those leaders who met with members of the consultation.
Participants also visited the Monastiriotes Synagogue, the Holocaust Monument and the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki.
The Orthodox Christian delegation was led by His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, and the Jewish delegation by IJCIC Chair Professor Lawrence Schiffman. The conference, titled “The Spiritual and Physical Environment: Respecting Our World, Respecting One Another,” marked the eighth such conference between Christian Orthodoxy and Judaism since these conferences were instituted in 1976.
A major theme of the meeting was to commemorate the solidarity Jewish and Christian Orthodox citizens of Thessaloniki displayed at the time of the Shoah in World War II, and to discover what processes are necessary to sustain that level of solidarity in today’s increasingly contentious world.
Noting that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has declared 2013 the Year of Global Solidarity, Metropolitan Emmanuel said: “It is well documented that Greeks living in Thessaloniki at the time of the Shoah stood with their Jewish neighbors and friends. Today, more than ever, we must stand together to battle the evils of anti-Semitism, religious prejudice and all forms of discrimination.”
Professor Schiffman, vice provost at Yeshiva University in New York said: “These meetings are extremely important for both the Jewish people and Orthodox Christianity because we share a long history and common roots. We are committed to building mutual respect and better understanding between our two faiths.”
Rabbi Chaim Weiner, Director, European Masorti Bet Din in London, Professor Shira Lander of Rice University in Houston, Texas, and Professor Georges Prevelakis, University of Sorbonne, Paris, discussed how people with religious values can influence and interact with secular society.
His Grace Bishop Petroniu of Romania and Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, Interfaith Director for the Anti-Defamation League, presented papers on the obstacles and challenges that continue to face the Orthodox-Jewish relationship, particularly problems in how each faith teaches and portrays one another, and offered suggestions to help advance the dialogue.
Israeli Rabbi Julian Sinclair and Finnish Rev. Heikki Huttumen discussed the religious obligation to care for the earth, and how faith adherents must take immediate steps to work together to protect our water, land and air.
Betty Ehrenberg, Vice Chair, IJCIC, presented the joint communique, which was approved and stated that, “Given recent tragic events around the world – environmental, political and social – the need for interreligious consultations such as this one are all the more relevant as we work together to respect our world and respect one another.” The final communique is below:
EIGHTH ACADEMIC CONSULTATION BETWEEN JUDAISM AND ORTHODOXY
“The Spiritual and Physical Environment: Respecting Our World, Respecting One Another”
“Loving G-d, Loving Our Neighbor – Leviticus 19:19”
The Liaison Office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Office of Interreligious and Intercultural Affairs, and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations
Thessaloniki, June 6, 2013
Hyatt Regency Thessaloniki
13th km Thessaloniki-Perea
Thessaloniki, 57001, Greece
At the invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, distinguished theologians, scholars, and religious leaders met in Thessaloniki, Greece, to commemorate the solidarity Jewish and Christian Orthodox citizens of Thessaloniki displayed at the time of the Shoah orchestrated by the Nazis in World War II, and to discover what processes are necessary to sustain that level of solidarity in the world today. The list of participants is attached.
After being received by the Mayor of Thessaloniki, Ioannis Boutaris, and high level governmental representatives, the consultation opened with a welcome message from His all-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Other messages were delivered from the Primates of the Orthodox churches and both Israeli and Greek government officials.
Introductory remarks by His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France focused on His All Holiness’ declaration of 2013 as The Year of Solidarity. He pointed out that Jewish and Christian Orthodox living in Greece during World War II achieved solidarity, demonstrated by the fact that the Archbishop of Athens, Damaskinos, formally protested the actions of the Nazi occupational authorities.
In his introductory remarks, Professor Lawrence Schiffman, Chair, International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, (IJCIC) identified the mutuality of existence and co-existence in the Jewish and Christian traditions as the foundation for solidarity. With Rabbi Joel Meyers moderating, Professor Dr. Angeliki Ziaka, and Rabbi Dr. David Berger also offered their views on this topic.
During the second session, Rabbi Chaim Weiner, Professor Shira Lander of Rice University, and Rev. Father D. Safonov from the Moscow Patriarchate examined how religious values influence and interact with society. Professor Georges Prevelakis of the Sorbonne provided an analysis of the geopolitical repercussions of these issues.
Building upon the foundation of religion’s influence on society, Rabbi Dr. Richard Marker moderated a session about our religious obligation to care for the earth, and helped cast a vision for how adherents to the faith traditions can embrace stewardship. Rabbi Julian Sinclair and Rev. Dr. Heikki Huttumen presented their viewpoints and identified ways in which stewardship could be addressed and practiced.
The delegates to the consultation visited the Monastiriotes Synagogue, the Holocaust Monument, and the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki, and were welcomed at the Jewish Community Center. David Saltiel, President of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, addressed the group, along with Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, Chief Rabbi of Moscow, and Rabbi Aharon Israel, Rabbi of Thessaloniki. Speakers offered perspectives on the life of the Jewish community in Thessaloniki and its relationship with their Orthodox Christian neighbors. Professor Schiffman and Betty Ehrenberg, Vice Chair and incoming Chair of IJCIC, had the opportunity to meet with Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki.
After establishing a historical precedent and identifying the possibilities for positive effects religious traditions can have on society, the fourth session addressed the obstacles and challenges to establishing solidarity. Rabbi Eric Greenberg and His Grace Bishop Petroniu of Romania discussed issues to help advance cooperation between Judaism and the Orthodox Church.
Closing addresses by Professor Schiffman and Metropolitan Emmanuel urged members of all faith communities to combat any new forms of racist ideology, of anti-Semitism, religious prejudice and all forms of discrimination. The faith communities must be faithful in pursuing justice and stand firm for interreligious solidarity.
Given recent tragic events around the world—environmental, political, and social—the need for interreligious consultations such as this one is all the more relevant as we work together to respect our world and respect one another.