Teaching the teachers

Catholic educators tour Israel with the Anti-Defamation League.

Christian educators 370 (photo credit: Samuel Connor)
Christian educators 370
(photo credit: Samuel Connor)
Last month, a group of 19 Catholic educators from 10 different US states toured the holy sites of Israel, meeting with government officials, religious clergy and Holocaust survivors.
The trip was organized by the Anti- Defamation League, which has brought more than 150 people to tour Israel in its annual “Bearing Witness Advanced” program since it launched in 2005.
The group, which included Father Michael Dolan of the Archdiocese of Hartford, traveled around the country for 10 days, from the Golan Heights to the Dead Sea and everywhere in between.
“Given the fraught history of Catholic-Jewish relations and the commitment of the Catholic Church, expressed in Nostra Aetate in 1965, to repudiate the centuries-old ‘deicide’ charge against all Jews, eschew conversionary efforts and reaffirm the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people, the ADL - along with the Archdiocese of Washington DC and the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum - developed the Bearing Witness program,” said David Waren, the ADL director of education, who led the trip around Israel. “The program reflects a shared commitment to ensure that the teachings of Nostra Aetate are institutionalized within the Catholic education system.”
The ADL launched the Bearing Witness program in 1996, which has since trained more than 1,700 Catholic educators across the US about the historic interfaith relationship between Judaism and Catholicism, in multiday seminars. Since 2005, it has been bringing small groups of graduates from the program on “Bearing Witness Advanced,” to actually see Israel and, as ADL director Abe Foxman has said, “to experience first-hand the scope of Jewish life in today’s Israel,” with the hope that the teachers will “take these meaningful experiences... back into their classrooms.”
The ADL brings “outstanding Bearing Witness participants” to Israel,” Waren told The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition, “to deepen their knowledge and capacity to teach about Jews and Jewish practice, the Holocaust, contemporary anti- Semitism, including anti-Zionism, and the relationship of Jewish national identity to the State of Israel and the roots of their own faith.”
The group, the ninth annual delegation from the program, met with figures from Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Naomi Tsur to Ibrahim Abu Shindi, director of the Arab-Jewish Community Center in Jaffa; Zeidan Atshe, a Druse community leader in Ussifiye; and Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, the papal nuncio to Israel.
They also visited the Western Wall, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, Masada, the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth and Mount Bental, overlooking Syria in the Golan Heights.
“The itinerary has evolved in recent years,” said Waren, “to include greater emphasis on understanding of the complex political, security and religious factors that currently impact Israel, its citizens and its neighbors.”
Asked how the trip would impact their classroom experience, one participant said: “My understanding of Judaism, of Israel, of my faith has all been deepened, and I believe I will be able to teach related subjects [such as the Holocaust] with even greater sensitivity.”
Another offered that “This program will allow me to cut through much of the misinformation presented by the American media… I feel more capable of representing the mosaic of Israelis to my classroom.”