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Catholics and Jews Assess Lessons Learned


Restoring the value of human life and the dignity of God that was destroyed during the Holocaust is the greatest challenge to mankind this century, according to participants at Fordham University’s seventh annual Nostra Aetate Dialogue. “The Holocaust is one of the defining events of this century,” said Rabbi Irving Greenberg, president of the Jewish Life Network. “Nothing has shaped society as much and nothing has been the same since.” This theme, “The Holocaust, the Continuing Challenge for Contemporary Ethics” was the subject of this year’s Nostra Aetate Dialogue. The Nostra Aetate series is meant to encourage conversation between the Catholic and Jewish communities. At the forum, hosted by the Archbishop Hughes Institute on Religion and Culture, Rabbi Greenberg and the Rev. John Pawlikowski discussed how Hitler’s savagery destroyed the image of an intervening God and placed responsibility for preventing future calamities on mankind.

“We need to reclaim the dignity of God,” said Rabbi Greenberg. “Any time you have a failure of this kind — a catastrophe of such mass cruelty and of such biblical proportions — it must be studied, analyzed and discussed so it never happens again.” Greenberg said burning issues, such as the failure of the Catholic Church and the Jewish community to respond swiftly and aggressively to the Nazi genocide,”cannot be resolved [because it is in the past]. But we can work to restore the dignity and uniqueness of a human being [the image of which was destroyed by the Nazi regime].” Father Pawlikowski, professor of social ethics at the Catholic Theological Union agreed, saying the “basic challenge lies in the need to alter the relationship between God and humanity.

The image of an intervening God died in the ashes of the Holocaust. ” Technological advances have made our lives easier, but should be monitored to ensure they promote respect for human life rather than de-humanize society, Father Pawlikowski said. During the Holocaust “there was a desensitizing of … society,” he said. “I think a free market often ignores human needs. We need to learn how to become responsible for the needs of humankind in a global market. We know now, that God will not intervene. The responsibility falls to us.”


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