2013 - 2014

Song of Wonder
A Concert of South Indian and Judeo-Spanish music with Nirmala Rajasekar and David Jordan Harris
May 1, 2014 at Sacred Heart Chapel, Saint Benedict's Monastery, St. Joseph, Minnesota

Exploring the theme of wonder through the music and poetry of South Indian and Judeo-Spanish traditions, vocalists and string musicians Nirmala Rajasekar and David Jordan Harris were joined by Carnatic percussion master Thanjavur Muruga Boopathi, percussionist Mick LaBriola, 'ud player David Burk, and vocalist Shruthi Rajasekar.  Nirmala and David, inspired by the poetry of a thousand years in each of their traditions, probed the many facets of wonder as gateways to an illumined and impassioned life. Highlights of the concert included excerpts from the oldest extant piece of notated Jewish music; improvisational performances by Nirmala on the veena in both familiar and rare ragas (the melodic soundscapes of Indian music); ancient Tamil Sangam poetry; plangent Judeo-Spanish and Hebrew chants from traditional Jewish communities in Bosnia, Turkey, and Morocco; and new musical arrangements flowing from this evening's cross-cultural collaboration.  This event was sponsored in collaboration with the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, Minnesota.

Listening for the Spirit of God in Our Pursuit of Justice: Spirituality and Justice in the Jewish Tradition
Lecture by Rabbi Rachel Timoner at SJU on April 28, 2014
Judaism is an action-focused tradition. From the commandments given at Sinai and the shouts of Israel's ancient prophets to the teachings of contemporary women and men of prophetic vision and witness, Judaism calls upon people to end poverty, oppression, and all forms of injustice. But what is the relationship between spirituality and justice in Jewish tradition? In this lecture, Rabbi Rachel Timoner explored the meaning of God as spirit, ways of discerning God's spirit in and around us, spiritual practices that help us nurture the gifts of God's spirit in our lives, and how all of this relates to the covenantal call for creating a better world.

Religious Diversity in the Middle East Today: A Blessing or a Curse?
Lecture by Rev. Paul Haidostian, Ph.D. at SJU on March 24, 2014

The Middle East is known to be the cradle of many civilizations including the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Yet, the same region is better known today for political and military conflicts that increasingly and violently undermine the constructive meaning of religion and the celebration of the rich diversity that could ensue. But are there not in the Middle East genuine expressions of peaceful coexistence and dialogue, whether structured or not? In this presentation, Dr. Haidostian drew on his experiences as an administrator, academician, and theologian to analyze current religious trends and developments that challenge communities in the Middle East and elsewhere. Finally, he discussed the implications of the topic for interreligious living in the world.  This lecture was sponsored in collaboration with Intercultural and International Student Services at CSB/SJU and the Global Center at CSB/SJU.

The Paradox of Women in Islam
Lecture by Asra Nomani at CSB on February 19, 2014

Indian-American journalist Asra Nomani, who teaches journalism at Georgetown University, chronicled the struggle Muslim women face in reclaiming the rights women were granted at Islam's birth in the seventh century, which, in her view, have since been erased by centuries of man-made rules and tribal traditions masquerading as divine law. She argued that the efforts for Muslim feminists like herself are not anti-Islamic, as these feminists use the fundamentals of Islamic thinking to challenge the ways in which Islam has been distorted by Sharia rulings issued by ultraconservative men. Sharing her personal story of empowerment, in which she walked through the front door of her mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia, in 2003, and gathered up the strength to go into the main hall reserved for men only, she claimed that her struggle is to move Islam forward by reaching back to its progressive past. This lecture was sponsored by Intercultural and International Student Services at CSB/SJU in collaboration with the Sister Nancy Hynes Institute for Women's Leadership at CSB and the Jay Phillips Center.

Religion in Prison
Film screening of "If I Give My Soul" and interfaith conversation with Andrew Johnson at SJU on February 17, 2014

The film "If I Give My Soul: Pentecostalism in the Prisons of Rio," which documents the work of Minnesotan Andrew Johnson on why Pentecostalism thrives among inmate populations in Rio de Janeiro, received its world premiere screening and was followed by a panel discussion featuring Johnson and filmmaker Ryan Patch in conversation with Minnesota prison chaplains Damon Drake, Robert A. Klanderud, and Rabbi Lynn Liberman on the role of religion inside prisons in Minnesota and elsewhere. This program was sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center in collaboration with Intercultural and International Student Services and the Department of Sociology at CSB/SJU.

In Quest of the Jewish Mary: The Mother of Jesus in History, Theology, and Spirituality
Lecture by Sister M. Christine Athans, BVM, Ph.D. at SJU on February 12, 2014

How did Mary, the mother of Jesus, portrayed in Sacred Scripture as a Jewish woman of the first century, evolve into the blue-eyed Northern European whose images adorn many churches and homes? The rediscovery and new appreciation of the Jewishness of Jesus since the time of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) has led some Catholics to rethink how they perceive and understand Jesus' mother. In this lecture, which  included a PowerPoint presentation of Marian art over the centuries, Sister Christine Athans drew on her recently published In Quest of the Jewish Mary: The Mother of Jesus in History, Theology and Spirituality (Orbis Books, 2013) to explore historical, theological, and devotional approaches to Mary. She gave special consideration to what might have been Mary's experiences as a first-century Jewish woman, including her prayer life, and how this Jewish Mary serves as an inspiration for twenty-first century Christians. 

Pope Francis and the Jewish People
Lecture by Rabbi Mordechai Levin at SJU on November 18, 2013

During his tenure as head of the Argentina Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, promoted interfaith dialogue. He attended religious services at several synagogues, met with Jewish organizations, and enjoyed a friendly relationship with the Jewish community in Argentina. Rabbi Mordechai Levin, who met fellow Argentinean Cardinal Bergoglio before he became the Pope, reviewed this relationship in the context of the history of Catholic-Jewish relations in Argentina and what it may tell us about the future of Catholic-Jewish relations around the world. This program was sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning in collaboration with CSB Campus Ministry and SJU Campus Ministry. 

Hank Greenberg: Baseball Star, Jewish Hero, American Legend
John Rosengren interviewed by Rabbi David Wirtschafter at SJU on October 2, 2013

According to award-winning journalist John Rosengren, SJU '86, "one man modeled assimilation for a generation of Jews struggling to find their way in the New World: Hank Greenberg." The Hall of Fame ballplayer with the Detroit Tigers in the 1930s and 1940s "transformed the way Gentiles viewed Jews and the way Jews saw themselves." In an interview with Rabbi David Wirtschafter, visiting scholar in Jewish studies with the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, Rosengren discussed the subject of his new book, Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes, which explores religious and moral dilemmas faced by Greenberg and how he "stood tall as a beacon of hope for Jews and, ultimately, became a hero to all Americans." This program was sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center in collaboration with the SJU Athletic Department.