PITTSFORD — A new institute for Catholic-Jewish studies and dialogue will provide a formal framework for interfaith dialogue as well as benefit future generations seeking mutual understanding between believers from each faith, according to the institute’s supporters.
The Brennan-Goldman Institute will be located at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, 120 French Road, and will be funded with a $100,000 donation from an area philanthropic family that wishes to remain anonymous, according to a statement from the Diocese of Rochester. The institute’s name is meant to honor Father Joseph Brennan, a diocesan priest, and Isobel Goldman, community-relations director for the Jewish Community Federation of Greater Rochester, the diocese said. Both Father Brennan and Goldman have long been leaders in Catholic-Jewish dialogue, the diocese noted.
The institute will focus on creating a syllabus that can be used to educate junior- and senior-high students about each faith; present study workshops on each faith for teachers and youth leaders; invite speakers to address the general public on issues of common interest to both faiths; and facilitate discussions between priests and rabbis.
The institute’s formation was announced during a June 21 press conference by Bishop Matthew H. Clark Sister of St. Joseph Patricia Schoelles, president of St. Bernard’s; and Eli N. Futerman, president of the JCF. All three leaders expressed gratitude to the anonymous donor family and expressed their hopes for the institute’s future.
“We hope that this will bring forward greater understanding of the two faith traditions,” Sister Schoelles said.
“We hope that this gift is a seed that will flourish and bear much fruit,” the bishop added.
“I think it’s a great day for Rochester,” Futerman said, noting the city is known for its positive interfaith relations. He added that future generations will benefit from the work undertaken by the institute.
Both Father Brennan and Goldman said they felt honored that the institute was being formed in their names. Father Brennan said he was particularly pleased that the institute would create a framework for ongoing Catholic-Jewish dialogue.
“This is an amazing opportunity to continue to work together,” Goldman added. “We’re blessed in this community to have great interfaith partners.”
St. Bernard’s Office of Continuing Education will house the new institute, which will be staffed by Daniel L. Hull, director of continuing education at St. Bernard’s. A committee including officials from JCF, St. Bernard’s and the diocese will be established to oversee the program, the diocese said. Other committee members will include a youth-education leader from each faith; delegates from the priest-rabbi discussion group; and other “at-large” Catholic and Jewish members.
Sister Schoelles noted that the institute was the latest fruit of an ongoing Catholic-Jewish dialogue that was officially recognized with The Rochester Agreement, signed May 8, 1996, by Bishop Clark, Rabbi Alan J. Katz of the Rochester Board of Rabbis, and Roberta M. Borg, then-president of the Jewish Community Federation of Greater Rochester.
The agreement committed the three signatories and their communities to respond publicly to “acts of religious, racial, ethnic and any other kind of intolerance by publicly denouncing such acts.” It 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 agreement’s signing, those educational efforts have included study groups of Catholic and Jewish clergy and educators; Catholic and Jewish educators presenting together classes on their faiths; and interfaith pilgrimages by Catholics and Jews to Israel in 1998 and to Rome in 2005.
The agreement was believed to be the first of its kind in the United States, Sister Schoelles noted.