On May 8, 1996, Rabbi Alan Katz of the Rochester Board of Rabbis, Roberta Borg, president of the Jewish Federation, and I signed what we called the Rochester Agreement.
This historic agreement committed us and our respective communities to respond publicly to "acts of religious, racial, ethnic and any other kind of intolerance by publicly denouncing such acts."
The agreement also called on Catholics and Jews to cooperate in efforts to educate the wider community about each other’s faith, as well as in efforts to provide various services to the wider community.
Since the signing of the agreement these efforts have included study groups of Catholic and Jewish clergy and educators; Catholic and Jewish educators team teaching their respective faiths; and interfaith pilgrimages by Catholics and Jews to Israel in 1998 and to Rome in 2005.
The Brennan-Goldman Institute at our St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry is a direct result of this agreement that has stimulated multiple opportunities for Catholic-Jewish cooperation and understanding.
In the past 15 years the Rochester Agreement has enabled Catholics and Jews not only in our area but around the world to develop deeper understandings and friendships. We can and should be proud of these accomplishments, but we must never falter in our efforts to educate our communities about the importance of denouncing acts of intolerance.
On Sept. 21 we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Rochester Agreement with a small luncheon at the Bishop Hickey Conference Center at our Pastoral Center. Present were about 30 people who were present at the signing or who have helped to put the agreement into action. I am especially delighted that all three signers were present for and offered brief comments at the event.
On such an occasion as this it is a pleasure to remember the excitement of the moment 15 years ago. No less is it a joy to think about the good things that have happened since then.
I also have been mindful that the Rochester Agreement is the fruit of long years of patient prayer, conversation and search for common meaning in the years prior to 1996. I think, for example, of the great work of Rabbi Judea Miller and Father Joseph Brennan, among many others. We remembered them all at the luncheon with gratitude, respect and affection. Our memories of them and their contribution to all that we celebrated Sept. 21 is a blessed reminder of our responsibility to pass on to the coming generation what they gave to us.
Please pray for all of those past and present who have poured themselves out to develop and live out the Rochester Agreement. Their commitment contributes to harmony in the human family and is a step toward the peaceful unity that is God’s will for all of us.
Peace to all.