Rabbis, Latino priests seek stronger ties at AJC event

Msgr. Lorenzo Miranda, archdiocesan Vicar for Clergy (center), and Father Arturo Corral, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Church (third from right), listen during a priests-rabbis roundtable discussion March 10 at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. — Credit: VICTOR ALEMAN

Dozens of local Latino Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis seeking to strengthen interfaith relations — and discuss their shared migrant experiences — came together March 10 for a day of fellowship and conversation at Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles.

“Exploring Bonds, Celebrating Traditions: A Day of Learning and Dialogue for Rabbis and Latino Priests,” presented by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Los Angeles in partnership with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, brought together reform, conservative and orthodox rabbis and Latino priests for roundtable discussions between the clergy members about faith issues, socio-political positions, and much more.

Rabbi Marc D. Angel, founder and director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, offered the keynote address, followed by responses from Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar and Rabbi Mark Diamond, regional director of AJC Los Angeles, which led to robust roundtable talks.

Angel spoke at length about his experience growing up in Seattle as a Sephardic Jew, a Jewish tradition with roots in Spain, from where they were expelled more than 400 years ago. Despite expulsion, the faith tradition thrived in Turkey and elsewhere, with Sephardic Jews maintaining Hispanic traditions and speaking a medieval Spanish known as Judeo-Spanish or “Ladino.”

“Growing up in a Hispanic Jewish community in Seattle was a double blessing and a double whammy,” he said, noting that there was always “an identity crisis” — an experience not unlike those faced daily by Latino immigrants in the U.S.

“When we grow up as part of a minority group, whether it’s Jewish or Sephardic Jewish or Hispanic, how do we maintain our traditions, the integrity of who we are, while at the same time learning to adapt and be open to change and progress?” he asked.

The ongoing challenge to find this delicate balance “connects us as minority groups,” explained Angel. Interfaith gatherings such as today’s can serve as a starting point for identifying such bonds and similarities, he continued, and also for learning about our differences and eliminating possible prejudices and stereotypes.

Father Arturo Corral, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Los Angeles, described the roundtables as a positive “first step” toward understanding differences in order to work together more productively and positively impact important societal issues, such as immigration and workers’ rights.

One of the topics addressed at Father Corral’s table (by three Jewish rabbis and three Latino Catholic priests) involved sharing memories about their initial introductions to each other’s faith traditions (e.g., a television documentary about the Holocaust). That led to a discussion about similarities, both cultural (how both groups have faced prejudice/discrimination) and religious (“Jesus was Jewish”).

Father Corral found the interfaith gathering to be a “very positive experience,” and was encouraged to see leaders from both religions in attendance, including Bishop Salazar, who participated alongside fellow priests and rabbis during the roundtable discussions.

“He was with us, showing us the importance of strengthening and embracing our relationship with the Jewish community,” Father Corral said. “That meant a lot to me.”

During his address, Bishop Salazar discussed the importance of the Second Vatican Council’s Nostra Aetate, the groundbreaking 1965 declaration that called for Catholics and Jews to engage in friendly dialogue and biblical and theological discussions, and also calls for the Church to dialogue with other world religions.

“This is a real challenge to all of us, to move more closely together,” said Bishop Salazar. “Today [we called] Latinos and Jews together in this great part of the world, to have Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis come together to see how we can work more effectively with one another, understanding one another’s traditions, and then move forward to see how we can better minister to our people.”

For Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe Bernhard, senior rabbi at Arat Ari El in Valley Village and president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, the interfaith event offered the opportunity to step away from his day-to-day life and “broaden” his perspective. “I’m aware of the insularity of my life, even as a rabbi in a very open and inclusive kind of community.”

He found it very fulfilling “to be able to have a conversation with this group and to hear their different responses, even if the responses aren’t directly related to something Rabbi Angel was saying, but just as a touch-point for different kinds of ideas — that’s worth the ticket.”


Seeking the face of God in the Scriptures

Archbishop José H. Gomez

Prayer is seeking the face of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls the story of how St. John Vianney once found a peasant praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The saint asked him what he was doing, and the man replied: “I look at him and he looks at me.”


February 2016
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

February 14, 2016

  • Sunday, February 14

    Mother Cabrini Library and Chapel Open House, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m., 3801 Scott Road, Burbank. The event is hosted by the Los Angeles Region.


    Italian Catholic Club of SCV Valentine's Day Dinner Dance, 7 p.m., Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Parish Hall), 23233 Lyons Ave., Newhall. Come enjoy a delicious gourmet buffet dinner and dance the night away to the music of Linda Pippin. Wear your favorite red dress, shirt and/or tie. All adults (single or married) are welcome. Tickets are $35 each (prepaid), or $45 at the door. Please call Anna Riggs at (661) 645-7877 to reserve your spot by Feb. 10.


    Stations of the Cross, 2 p.m. Calvary Cemetery, 4201 Whittier Boulevard, East Los Angeles. Continuing each Sunday of Lent. For more info, please call Calvary Cemetery: 323-261-3106.


    Year of Mercy Mass and Pilgrimage in The Shrine of St. John Paul II, 3 p.m., Our Lady of the Bright Mount Church, 3424 W. Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles.  Mass celebrated in English with Fr. John Paul Gonzalez of Christ the King Church.  Mass will be followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and confession, with Divine Mercy Chaplet.  The closing prayer will be a blessing and veneration of the 1st class relic of St. John Paul II.  

    South Bay Catholic Co-ed Adult Softball League Pre-Season Practice Games, McMaster Park, 3624 Artesia Blvd., Torrance.  Must RSVP to Fred Lawler (League Commissioner) at (310) 504-0271 or fredlawler@hotmail.com.

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