Everywhere we look around New Orleans, we cannot help but realize that this Crescent City is profoundly influenced by its strong and historic Catholic presence. Indeed, a significant percentage of our Sinai Family are of Roman Catholic heritage and many proudly practice their faith while raising Jewish children and bringing them to Religious School on Sundays and Hebrew School on Wednesdays. These folks are among so many intermarried congregants whose presence both strengthens and enriches our congregational life.
It is then all the more important for us to remember how, fifty years ago, with the Vatican’s adoption of the remarkable Nostra Aetate (Latin for “In Our Time”), the ages old Catholic relationship to our Jewish people was profoundly changed for the better.
Carefully guided, and at times single mindedly advocated despite protests from a block of powerful traditionalist cardinals, Pope John XXIII and his successor Paul VI, enforced this earth shattering change in Catholic teaching. The Nostra Aetate emphasized and embraced historical facts: the Jewishness of Jesus as well as its earliest saints and the Hebrew Scriptures which is the largest portion of the Catholic Bible.
Moreover, the Nostra Aetate denied once and for all ages old charge of decide, Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus. Instead, a new spirit was born within the Catholic Church which allows Jews and Catholics to study together and enter into constructive dialogue on hundreds of important issues and subjects.
In 1963, Pope John XXIII greeted a visiting Jewish delegation; welcoming them with the words: I am Joseph your brother!
Now, more than fifty years later, the promise of this new spirit within the Church has been evidenced by both John Paul II’s pilgrimage to the Western Wall and Yad Vashem, his establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel, and his moving and historic sermon delivered in Rome’s Great Synagogue.
Ever since New Orleans’ Archbishop Cody was greeted and welcomed to Temple Sinai by our beloved Rabbi Julian Feibelman in 1964, a warm and constructive relationship between our congregation and the Archdiocese of New Orleans has obtained.
During our years here at Temple Sinai, we have been honored to welcome Archbishops Hannan, Shulte, Hughes, and Aymond to our sanctuary pulpit.
The Archbishops have reciprocated and we have celebrated Chanukah at the Cathedral and enjoyed joint musical events with our Cantor and Choir. Last August, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Katrina, Archbishop Aymond extended me an historic honor by welcoming me to the Cathedral pulpit to deliver the sermon on that poignant occasion.
Our New Orleans Jewish community will now be honored to join with the Archdiocese on Monday, November 23rd at 6:30 pm at Loyola University’s Numemaker Hall for a heartwarming 50th anniversary celebration of the Nostra Aetate. The Archbishop, will join my beloved teacher and precious friend, Rabbi Michael Cook of our Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in a commemorative lecture. You will not want to miss this wonderful celebration!
Rabbi Edward Paul Cohn