Rabbi David Rosen, who received a papal Knighthood in 2005 for his work in Catholic-Jewish relations, spoke in a Q&A led by President John J. DeGioia in Riggs Library on Tuesday. The event, titled “Achievements, Challenges and Experiences in Catholic-Jewish Relations,” focused on Rosen’s career as a rabbi, his thoughts on past accomplishments in Catholic-Jewish relations, and ways to better these relations today.
“We have achieved so much that the capacity for… a mutually respectful conversation we can take for granted,” Rosen, currently the International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, said.
His interest in these conversations and interfaith relations grew during his time as the Senior Rabbi of the largest Jewish congregation in South Africa. He was attempting to create a dialogue between different religious communities in the area, and he approached a leader of the Dutch Reformed Church who told Rosen that he would not participate because Jews did not believe in Christ. He also expressed genuine concern that Rosen would go to hell.
Rosen, who had never experienced anti-Semitism until then, recognized that a lack of awareness would not ameliorate such instances of prejudice, and that full participation by the religious communities was necessary. He jokingly told him, “You have to come to our meetings because I’m going to give you the opportunity to convert me.” He found that the religious organizations had common ground through a commitment to social justice, which was instrumental in establishing a degree of respect.