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JPII University in Lublin opens center for Catholic-Jewish relations

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Aleteia - published on 11/09/22

The university setting will give scholars the opportunity to involve young people in the projects.

The Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations is a research and training unit of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, established by Rev. Prof. Mirosław Kalinowski, Rector of the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL). The Center officially started its activity this October 2022.

The aim of the Center is to strengthen Catholic-Jewish relations in science, education, and culture on the international level.

The Center is named after Rabbi Prof. Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), an eminent theologian, philosopher, rabbi and poet. He played a particularly important role during the Second Vatican Council, influencing the formulation of Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate document, which represents a fundamental turning point in Catholic-Jewish relations. 

“We envisage that in addition to scientific activities and historical and cultural research, common heritage and interreligious dialogue, socio-cultural projects will also be prepared. A strategic issue is to involve young people from Poland and Israel – mutual visits and events in which they can participate. We want this activity to be widely present in the Internet space,” Kalinowski explained to Acistampa.

The director of the Center will be Prof. Mirosław Wróbel, head of the Biblical Studies Section at the Catholic University of Lublin, translator of the Aramaic Bible, researcher of rabbinic literature, who holds a doctorate in biblical sciences from the École Biblique in Jerusalem.

The deputy editors will be Dr. Witold Mędykowski and Rev. Dr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik. The first of them is a historian, political scientist and archivist, specializing among other things in the history of Polish Jews and the Holocaust.

Rytel-Andrianik, a biblical scholar and orientalist, holds a doctorate in biblical sciences and archaeology from the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem and a doctorate in oriental sciences (in the field of Judaic and Jewish studies) from Oxford University. 

Father Rytel-Andrianik also offers a weekly reflection on the Sunday Mass readings for Aleteia, which can be found here.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka, former rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires and a personal friend of Pope Francis, will also be part of the Center.

Science, Education, and Culture

The Center’s three lines of action – science, education and culture – open up the possibility of addressing a wide range of issues in a reliable manner. The environment of the Catholic University of Lublin ensures not only qualified scientific staff, but also the possibility of involving young people, a crucial element of the project. It combines research work, commemoration of the past, education and involvement of young people, as well as shaping social consciousness globally through modern media.

The research activity of the Center focuses on issues of Jewish history, culture and heritage, mainly in Polish lands, but also in Europe, Israel, and the world. The subject of research will be the mutual relations of the Jewish and Catholic communities, and their coexistence over the centuries. This aims at a comprehensive approach to the issue of mutual Polish-Jewish relations and common cultural heritage. The Center’s tasks will include, among others:

1. Scientific research;

2. Documentation and archival research;

3. Creation of databases;

4. Preparation of research publications, source publications, lexicons, publications of popularization and others;

5. Development of biographies of individuals and families who selflessly rescued people of other nationalities during the period of totalitarian regimes of the 20th century,

6. Organizing scientific conferences, forums, meetings and discussions on selected topics in the area of research.

Educational activities are aimed at forming mature civic attitudes, particularly among young people, and developing interreligious and international dialogue. Among the planned forms of activity are:

1. A program of visiting professors and external lecturers within the KUL courses;

2. A student exchange program between KUL and universities in Israel;

3. Joint projects commemorating the lives and martyrdom of Jewish and Polish people, involving young people from Poland and Israel;

4. Organization of seminars for Polish school teachers;

5. Organization of internships for students and professionals;

6. The study of Hebrew and Yiddish languages.

An important aspect of the Center’s activity is media public education – disseminating knowledge and shaping public awareness through regular media publications on research results and events related to the Centre’s activities.

The Center’s cultural activity has the task of bringing Jewish culture closer together, the mutual interpenetration of Jewish, Polish and European cultures through, among others by:

1. Presentation of documentaries and feature films on Jewish and Israeli themes;

2. Meetings with writers and cultural artists, journalists, eminent historians and researchers in other fields;

3. Organizing exhibitions combined with lectures to show the different aspects of Jewish culture, common history and martyrology;

4. Co-organizing anniversary ceremonies commemorating victims of totalitarianism;

5. Cooperation with other institutions and organisations in the care of memorial sites, cemeteries and architectural monuments;

6. Use of modern media in the presentation of Jewish culture and its links with Polish and European culture.

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