In 1974, Mary and Paul Filben were asked by Bishop John May to start a dialogue group between the Catholic Church of Mobile and the local Jewish community. Self-described “post-Holocaust Catholics,” the Filbens, who have both died in recent years, built the Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue into a major part of interfaith life in the city.
Based on that reputation, the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations is holding its annual national meeting in Mobile this month, with Ahavas Chesed hosting some of the events.
The council is an association of centers and institutes in the United States and Canada devoted to enhancing mutual understanding between Jews and Christians. It is dedicated to research, publication, educational programming, and interreligious dialogue that respect the religious integrity and self-understanding of the various strands of the Jewish and Christian traditions. Long-time Dialogue participants Rickie and Larry Voit have attended CCJR events for years.
Mobile’s Dialogue continues under the auspices of Spring Hill College. Ahavas Chesed Rabbi Steve Silberman said “This is a significant feather in the cap of Mobile, this congregation and Spring Hill College.“
The convention will be housed at the Mobile Marriott. After registration, the first event will be Shabbat services and dinner at Ahavas Chesed on Oct. 24, starting at 6 p.m. They will also attend Shabbat morning services on Oct. 25, starting at 9:30, followed by lunch and an afternoon of dialogue with the leadership of the Dialogue. The day will wrap up with Havdalah.
On Oct. 26, the day begins with Catholic Mass, followed by a Christian liturgy at 9:15 a.m., both at the hotel.
After a bus tour of Mobile, there will be panels at Spring Hill College. A 2 p.m. panel for conventioneers will discuss Pope Francis and the future of dialogue.
At 4 p.m. there will be a public panel, “Beyond Intolerance and Hate: Interreligious Relationships in the South.” Panelists will include Scott Douglas III, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries; author Roy Hoffman, who has written extensively about the Southern Jewish experience; and Mark Potok, Senior Fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
That evening’s dinner includes the organization’s Shevet Achim Award ceremony, with Mary C. Boys as the honoree. A long-time advocate of Christian-Jewish dialogue, she is Dean of Academic Affairs and Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology at Union Theological Seminary, and an adjunct faculty member of the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she received one of her many honorary doctorates.
On Oct. 27, the final panel will be on “American Catholic, Jewish and Protestant Interactions over Middle East Issues, at the Marriott at 10:15 a.m. Speakers include Adam Gregerman of Saint Joseph’s University, Peter Pettit of Muhlenberg College and Emily Soloff, associate director of interreligious and intergroup relations at the American Jewish Committee.
While overall registration for the weekend was due by Sept. 15, additional information on the events can be found here.