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2020-2021, News, Statement

“Call for Solidarity with Our Jewish Colleagues and Neighbors”

The Jay Phillips Center for Interreligious Studies at the University of St. Thomas is a member organization of the Council of Centers on Jewish Christian Relations (CCJR). The Jay Phillips Center endorses and is a signatory on the recent CCJR statement, a “Call for Solidarity with Our Jewish Colleagues and Neighbors.” The Anti-Defamation League and the Pew Research Center document the recent disturbing increase in antisemitic incidents and hate crimes. We join the call to speak out and work against antisemitism and all forms of hatred and violence whenever we encounter them. You may read the CCJR statement in its entirety below or on the website by clicking here.


A Call for Solidarity with Our Jewish Colleagues and Neighbors

28 May 2021

A Jewish man beaten by a mob of protesters in Times Square. A man yelling antisemitic slurs at a rabbi outside a synagogue telling the rabbi, “Jews should die”–and then leaving a bag of human feces in front of the building. A synagogue preschool getting a voicemail from a caller threatening to be “the next synagogue shooter.”

These are only three of the incidents that occurred in the United States in a single month: May 2021. In 2020, the number of antisemitic incidents in our country was the highest since the Anti-Defamation League began keeping records forty years ago. Unfortunately, there is no sign this year that the numbers will decrease.

It should not need saying: there is never any political or social justification for targeting individuals and communities because of who they are. Attacks on Jewish individuals, schools, synagogues, and other community centers–like attacks on anyone in our country–make us all vulnerable. They are alarming signs of deeper polarization, hatred, and violence. They erode the foundations of trust and basic decency, undermining our ability as a society to address the many challenges that confront us.

The Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations (an association of centers and institutes in North America devoted to enhancing mutual understanding between Jews and Christians) stands together with our Jewish colleagues and neighbors at a time when Jewish Americans are feeling especially vulnerable. We call on all people of goodwill–as individual citizens and as communities, whatever our faith tradition–to do the same. Antisemitism can never be tolerated. We must speak out and work against it and all forms of hatred and violence whenever we encounter them.


Statement issued by a supermajority vote by the Councul’s regular members below:

  • Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Center for Theology & Ministry at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, Illinois
  • Edward B. Brueggeman Center for Dialogue at Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Catholic-Jewish Dialogue Committee at Stonehill College, Easton, Massachusetts
  • Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Saint Leo University, St. Leo, Florida
  • Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
  • Centre for Catholic-Jewish-Muslim Learning at Kings University College, London, Ontario, Canada
  • Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education, Saint Elizabeth University, Morristown, New Jersey
  • Christian Jewish Relation and Encounter at Sisters of Sion, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Driscoll Professorship in Jewish-Catholic Studies at Iona College, New Rochelle, New York
  • Gratz College – Jewish Christian Studies Program at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Hayyim Kieval Institute for Jewish-Christian Studies at Siena College, Loudonville, New York
  • Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center, Manhattan College, New York City, New York
  • Institute for Islamic-Christian-Jewish Studies at Baltimore, Maryland
  • Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey
  • Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota
  • Jay Phillips Center for Interreligious Studies at University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Jewish-Catholic Theological Exchange at Providence College, Providence, Rhode Island
  • Judaic and Catholic Studies Centers at Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut
  • Kraft-Hiatt Program for Jewish-Christian Understanding at College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts
  • Kripke Center for the Study of Religion & Society at Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska
  • Lux Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Sacred Heart Seminary & School of Theology in Franklin, Wisconsin
  • Manhattan College Holocaust Resource Center at Manhattan College, New York City, New York
  • Miller Center for Interreligious Learning and Leadership at Hebrew College, Newton Centre, Massachusetts
  • Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue at Jewish Theological Seminary, New York City, New York
  • Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue at Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama
  • National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education at Seton Hill University, Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding at New York City, New York

2020-2021, News

Twin Cities artists create Interfaith Prayer Wall, bridging divides across religions

Twin Cities artists create interfaith canvas to bridge divides and inspire calm.

By Kelly Smith | Star Tribune | APRIL 23, 2021 — 6:05PM

On a large canvas, 18 local artists’ pieces reflect multiple religions including Judaism, Christianity and Islamic faiths — illustrating the unity and connection across religions.

The Interfaith Prayer Wall, a 6-by-9-foot canvas created last year by Twin Cities artists, was on display at a Jerusalem art gallery and at the University of St. Thomas

until April 20 and will be showcased later this year at the University of Minnesota. It’s also viewable online, part of a virtual exhibit launched this year.

In an increasingly polarizing, contentious time, the artists hope their art bridges divides and inspires calm.


2020-2021, News

Interfaith Prayer Wall Visually Unites Artists

tc | jewfolk, March 31, 2021

A piece of art can evoke an array of emotions and a variety of interpretations from different people, but one thing is clear: art appeals to nearly everyone, uniting people of various cultures and religions. This common thread was the artistic force behind a current virtual exhibit called Visual Prayer. Parts of the exhibit feature the inspiration of 19 women artists from several different religions, 10 of whom are Jewish artists.


2020-2021, News

Hoedeman Gallery Installations Celebrate Interfaith Art and Dialogue

Heidi Enninga ’14 | March 15, 2021 Faith, Multimedia, News, Top News

Along the bustling thoroughfare connecting the northernmost residence halls to the rest of campus is a sign to pause, no blinking yellow light or yield sign necessary.

Traffic sometimes slows through this main access hallway in the Iversen Center for Faith, which now displays the first-ever exhibits for the new Hoedeman Gallery of Sacred Art. It is a space that Father Larry Snyder, vice president for mission at the University of St. Thomas, said celebrates both the artistic expression of different faiths and also the way the arts bring people together.

Until recently, the Hoedeman Gallery of Sacred Art walls were white and blank, Snyder said. “Now that the art is there, it’s like the building has come alive, and the space has found its purpose.”


2020-2021, News

“Dangerous religious ideas” topic of Jay Phillips Center event

Academics Faith & Spirituality | March 2, 2021

Rabbi Rachel Mikva will be interviewed about her recently published book “Dangerous Religious Ideas: The Deep Roots of Self-Critical Faith in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam” in a webinar at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, March 23.

This event, jointly sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at Saint John’s University and the Jay Phillips Center for Interreligious Studies at the University of St. Thomas, is free and open to the public.

The link to join the webinar, which will last one hour, can also be found on the webpage for this event.

John Merkle, CSB/SJU professor of theology and director of SJU’s Jay Phillips Center, will conduct the interview and moderate a question-and-answer session open to viewers.


Damian Costello, Ph.D.
2020-2021, News

Life and Legacy of Nicholas Black Elk Explored in Series on Indigenous Worldviews

Hans Gustafson | UST Newsroom | February 12, 2021

Nicholas Black Elk is being considered for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church, and some are on a mission to shed light on his life story. Damian Costello, Ph.D., internationally recognized expert on the life and legacy of Nicholas Black Elk and author of Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism, will deliver a two-part series to the St. Thomas community, covering “The Vision and Legacy of Nicholas Black Elk” and “Indigenous Sources for Christian Worldviews and Ways of Living” respectively on Feb. 16 and 23 at 11:45 a.m. These sessions will be live online.


2019-2020, News

Introducing the Inaugural Cohort of Interreligious Research Fellows

The Newsroom | November 7, 2019 Academic News, Faith, Front Page, News

Congratulations to students Grant Pederson, Rabia Sheikh and Dominique Stewart, who make up the 2019-20 cohort of Interreligious Research Fellows (IRF). Sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, and in collaboration with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, the IRF program is a yearlong opportunity for St. Thomas students to receive funding to design and implement an academically rigorous, closely mentored research project that examines and engages the encounter between, among, and/or within religious communities and people with various religious identities, including secular, nonreligious, and spiritual worldviews and ways of life. Read more about this cohort’s interreligious research projects and read more about the program. Consider applying for next year’s cohort!

2019-2020, News

“What do Americans know about religion?,”

Jean Hopfensperger, published 02 August 2019, Star Tribune:

What is Ramadan? What religion is most associated with yoga? What is one of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths? If you can’t answer these questions correctly, you’re not alone. Most Americans have some knowledge of Christianity but a limited grasp of other faiths, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center. Read More…

2018-2019, Statement

Statement on Tragic Events at Tree of Life Synagogue

October 29, 2018

We are deeply saddened by the horrendously violent tragedy at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh that took place on October 27th and claimed the lives of eleven people and harmed several others, including law enforcement and first responders. Our thoughts and condolences go out to all the families of the victims.

With the Parliament of the World’s Religions, the Jay Phillips Center acknowledges that “The Jewish people, alongside other peoples who faced genocide, know deeply the experience of historical rupture; today is one of those days when the memory of hate is too present once more.” We echo the sentiment of Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, who sagely reminds us “an attack on a synagogue is an attack on a mosque, is an attack on a church, is an attack on a temple.”

We at the Jay Phillips Centers will continue to strive towards cultivating understanding and friendship across lines of religious difference and to foster constructive relations between and among people of various religious identities, with an eye to doing whatever we can to help prevent future tragedies such as these.

With the JCRC, the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and the many organizations and people who work hard every day to build understanding across religious divides, we want our local Jewish communities and the community of Squirrel Hill to know that we stand with you, your families, and loved ones. “You are never alone.”

  • Hans Gustafson, Director of the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at the University of St. Thomas
  • John Merkle, Director of the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at Saint John’s University

Click here to read “Statement on the Shabbat Murders at the Tree of Life –Or Simchat Synagogue in Pittsburgh” issued by the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations on Oct. 31, 2018.

2017-2018, News

Five Observations – Encountering the Dakota Worldview

Brittany Stojsavljevic March 5, 2018

“We stand together and bring that hope, that together we can bring beautiful diversity to the rest of the sick world and give them a model of standing together and working cooperation.”

“We relied on oral tradition, and that brings me here today,” Bob Klanderud said to the standing-room-only crowd on the St. Thomas campus as he shared stories of culture, belief and modern-day realities of Dakota and Lakota people, particularly in Minnesota. To an audience that included undergraduates, community members and seminarians, Klanderud made what can seem to be a simple request: to listen.