A conference in Falls Village, Conn., earlier this summer brought together young leaders from the Catholic and Jewish faiths to discuss shared problems and learn to work together despite their differences.
Rabbi Shaul A. Rappeport, of the Congregation Ohev Sholom, 1501 Cherry St., attended along with people from all over the world.
Ever since the Vatican II conference, which opposed anti-Semitism in 1965 and established Nostra Aetate, or the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with non-Christians, both the Vatican and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) have worked to maintain ongoing relationships, Rappeport said.
"We were fortunate to have people with feet on the ground in the '60s," he said. "Nostra Aetate exonerated the Jewish people. It established a theological need for Jews and Catholics."
A similar but smaller conference was held in Italy in 2009 that Rappeport could not attend.
"It paved the way for this one," he said.
For IJCIC chairman professor Lawrence Schiffman, the conference alleviated a fear that people would not remember what relationships between the Vatican and the Jewish community were like before the Vatican II conference.
"We were very concerned younger people won't get involved with this, working on this, continuing to build relationships," Schiffman said. "It's what the Jewish community certainly wants. It's important because we have such good relations."
It also served as the first conference of its kind in the United States. More than 16 countries were represented, including Italy and the Vatican, Israel, Poland, France, Brazil, England, Canada, Austria, Germany, Holland and Switzerland.
Yet with so many different nationalities, there was no language barrier, he said.
"They spoke remarkably good English," Rappeport said. "(The event) took place in English."
For almost a week, top experts from the Jewish and Catholic faith spoke about topics such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the development of the Jewish and Catholic communities, the role of the family, the role of women, and hot topic issues such as birth control and abortion.
"(Talking about these issues) is so important for the well-being of the world," Rappeport said.