DALLAS — Leadership of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas met with Bishop Edward Burns of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas on July 28 to provide input and feedback on how to engage millennials in organized religion.
Comments will ultimately be shared with Pope Francis at a synod in October 2018.
The meeting was one outcome of a previous get-together with Bishop Burns, held in May at the Jewish Federation, to discuss wide-ranging topics of mutual interest and potential for collaboration between the Catholic and Jewish communities. At that initial meeting, which was also intended to welcome the new bishop who came to the Dallas Diocese in February of this year, Bishop Burns discussed the October 2018 synod that had recently been announced by the Pope. A synod is a gathering of bishops throughout the world, called by the Pope, to reflect together on contemporary issues of faith and life.
The agenda of the October 2018 synod, as determined by Pope Francis, will focus on young people who were born or identify as Catholic, the current state of their engagement with the Catholic Church, challenges faced by millennial Catholics, how the Catholic Church can better serve young people and how to more effectively engage youth and young adults. The Pope has specifically invited input from non-Catholic communities and individuals as well as Catholics. Prompted by the Pope’s call for feedback, Bishop Burns called together a three-day convocation, or listening sessions, for community members and congregants of his diocese. During the meeting in May with JCRC and Federation leadership, the bishop invited the Jewish community to participate in the local convocation.
A group of 10 JCRC/Federation representatives met with the bishop in a private room at St. Rita’s Catholic Community Center and Church while the listening sessions for the larger community were simultaneously being held in public rooms at the Center.
More than 700 people participated in the event, but the JCRC/Federation delegation was the only non-Catholic group invited to meet personally with the bishop. Jewish attendees included Rabbi Ari Sunshine of Congregation Shearith Israel; Rabbi Ariel Boxman of Temple Shalom; Rabbi Heidi Coretz, SMU Hillel and Congregation Shir Tikvah; Former Federation Board Chair and JCRC Executive Committee member Cindy Moskowitz; Congregation Beth Torah President Cyd Friedman; JCRC Executive Committee member Larry Steinberg; JCRC Advisory Council member Josh Prywes; Federation CEO Bradley Laye; JCRC Executive Director Anita Zusman Eddy; and JCRC Community Outreach & Public Affairs Manager Michelle Golan. Catholic attendees were Bishop Burns, Bill Keffler, Lynn Rossol, Annette Gonzalez Taylor and Jason Deuterman, all of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, and Reverend Joshua J. Whitfield, of St. Rita.
Bishop Burns led the dialogue asking for comments and input about how the Jewish community has worked to keep young people engaged and committed to Judaism. The group had a lively discussion. Ideas and input included the effectiveness of Jewish camps, youth groups and Birthright trips to Israel in instilling and strengthening a Jewish identity in young people.
The description of Birthright and other trips to Israel and their success in strengthening and enhancing the connection to Judaism and to Israel was of particular interest to the bishop and the other Catholic leadership. “The Jewish community of Dallas felt privileged to be invited by Bishop Burns to be part of this community-wide, and ultimately international, dialogue,” said Cindy Moskowitz.
“The discussion was substantive and meaningful in the information that was shared, but it was also an example of the close relationship that our JCRC has developed with the Catholic community and the bishop. These interfaith partnerships are so important and we greatly value the relationship with the Catholic community and leadership in Dallas,” she added.
Both religions have similar values related to the need for social action, supporting and assisting others less fortunate. The group also noted the importance of interfaith relations and positive relationships between the Catholic and Jewish people. There was discussion about bringing together high school students of each faith to learn about and get to know each other. Rabbi Ari Sunshine commented, “This was a wonderful dialogue, one which we hope to continue not only with adults as we did today, but also with our youth. Arranging for our students to visit each other’s houses of faith, to meet each other and potentially work together on social action projects would be a meaningful way to promote mutual understanding and respect for both our shared values and our differences.”
Comments from the meeting were recorded and will be compiled as part of a report that will be presented to the Vatican and discussed at the synod of bishops. The Dallas Diocese has also created a survey to solicit input from any community members who wish to share comments at https://www.FeedbackForFrancis.com.
The information gleaned from the surveys will be compiled along with the feedback given at the convocation, to be presented to the Pope.
— Submitted by Jamie Moore on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the Jewish Community Relations Council.