ORONO, Maine — An international leader in Christian-Jewish relations will speak at 3 p.m. Thursday in the Bangor Room of the Memorial Union at the University of Maine and at 7 p.m. the same day at Congregation Beth Israel, 144 York St., Bangor.
Rabbi A. James Rudin of Sanibel, Florida, is the senior interreligious adviser of the American Jewish Committee. He also served as the organization’s longtime director of interreligious affairs.
In 1997, he was given the Person of Reconciliation award from the Polish Council of Christians and Jews in Warsaw, and the International Council of Christians and Jews awarded him its Interfaith Gold Medallion in 1999.
Rudin’s topic at the university will be “The Jewish Jesus and the Christian Christ: Is There a Difference?” At the synagogue, he will speak about “The Impact of Modern Israel on Christian-Jewish Relations.”
Earlier this year, Rudin praised the work of two popes in an essay published online through United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“It was no small thing for a global church to eradicate the long-standing pathologies of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism that were embedded in the hearts and minds of many throughout history,” the rabbi wrote. “Deicide was never an official doctrine of Catholicism, but the obscene and lethal charge of ‘Christ killers’ had been hurled against Jews for nearly 2,000 years. To transform the church’s encounter with the Jewish people and Judaism stood as an enormous challenge. But John XXIII’s leadership — followed by that of his successor, Paul VI — inspired Catholic clergy and laity to work together to achieve purposeful change throughout the church.”
The rabbi worked closely following Vatican II with Catholic leaders, including Cardinal John O’Connor, to improve interfaith relationships.
“In June 1987, our friendship was both tested and ultimately strengthened when Pope John Paul II received Austrian President Kurt Waldheim at the Vatican with full honors,” Rudin wrote in May in a commentary published by the Religion News Service. “At the time, Waldheim was living under an ugly public shadow because he had hidden his wartime record as a German officer in the Balkans where he was involved in the murder of Jews and Eastern Orthodox Christians. The warm Vatican welcome for Waldheim upset many Jewish and Catholic leaders, including O’Connor.
“At the time, I was in Germany participating in a Lutheran-Jewish conference. One night, while asleep in my hotel room, the phone rang. ‘Sorry if I woke you,’ said the familiar voice with the distinct Philadelphia accent. “Jim, this is John. I really wish you were in New York now. You could be of big help to me with the problems created by the Waldheim visit. When are you coming back? We need you here.”
The rabbi wrote about his friendship with O’Connor in his book, “Cushing, Spellman, O’Connor: The Surprising Story of How Three American Cardinals Transformed Catholic-Jewish Relations.” Other books Rudin has written or edited include “Israel for Christians: Understanding Modern Israel,” “Evangelicals and Jews in Conversation,” “Evangelicals and Jews in an Age of Pluralism,” “Twenty Years of Jewish-Catholic Relations” and “A Time to Speak: The Evangelical-Jewish Encounter.”
Rudin’s appearances in Maine are sponsored by the University of Maine Judaic Studies Program, the Jewish Community Endowment Association Cultural Affairs/Distinguished Lecture Series, Congregation Beth El, Congregation Beth Israel, the Wilson Center, All Soul’s Congregational Church and the Honors College at the University of Maine.