New York, NY, July 26, 2017 … Catholic school educators from across the country returned from a unique educational expedition to Israel facilitated by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Middle and high school educators from 15 states participated in ADL’s nationally acclaimed Bearing Witness Advanced program, the only initiative of its kind within the Jewish and Catholic communities.
The program has been equipping Catholic educators to teach about the history of anti-Semitism, modern-day Israel, the Holocaust and the importance of Catholic-Jewish relations for over a decade.
This year, participants had the opportunity to experience Israel from the modern, high-tech city of Tel Aviv and the Old City of Jerusalem to the biblical town of Nazareth and the Golan Heights. They visited Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites including the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Church of the Annunciation, the Mount of Beatitudes and a mosque in Taibe. The group also visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s national memorial to the Holocaust and met with educators, journalists, community leaders, interfaith experts and scholars representing diverse religious, political and cultural perspectives.
“This is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience for Catholic educators, allowing them to see for themselves and understand the complexities and realities of Israel, contemporary anti-Semitism and the theological and historical foundations of their own faith and its relationship to Judaism,” said David S. Waren, ADL Vice President of Regional Operations and Advancement, who briefed the participants during the mission. “Our ultimate goal is to enable them to present these vital topics to their students in ways that are objective, relevant and motivating.”
This initiative builds upon a related program begun in 1996, Bearing Witness: Anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and Contemporary Issues, which has trained more than 2,100 Catholic school educators across the U.S. about the historical relationship between the Jewish and Catholic communities and the impact of that relationship on Catholic teaching, catechesis and liturgy.
“The Catholic and Jewish communities have reached an important crossroad as we have truly moved from historic enmity to brotherhood and deep mutual respect,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “With Pope Francis elevating and placing a significant emphasis on interreligious engagement, such a mission is as timely as ever.”
In 2005, the ADL initiated Bearing Witness Advanced - endorsed by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - to allow Bearing Witness graduates to extend their learning and travel to Israel.