David Blumenthal, professor of Judaic Studies, is lecturing at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome this spring as the Philip and Muriel Berman Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies. This is the second year of the lectureship, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), which sends an American Jewish scholar to lecture at the University as part of AJC's commitment to promote greater mutual respect and understanding between Catholics and Jews. One third of the College of Cardinals, one-quarter of the world's Catholic bishops, and more than 12,000 priests are graduates of the University, which was founded in 1551.
Blumenthal will teach a six-week course titled "The Jewish Mystical Tradition: The Zohar." The Zohar is a medieval mystical text that was popular among Catholic theologians during the Renaissance. While in Rome, Blumenthal also will represent the AJC at various meetings with Vatican officials who are involved in promoting Catholic-Jewish relations, including the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Jews.
Rabbi A. James Rudin, AJC's director of interreligious affairs, said, "This program represents the positive fruit of the new relationship that exists between Catholics and Jews throughout the world. As a direct result of the last 30 years of joint effort, it is now possible to develop rich contacts and exciting educational activities with the future leaders of the Roman Catholic Church who are now studying at Gregorian University. This program is an extraordinary way to have an impact on shaping their attitudes and beliefs toward Jews and Judaism."
During April, May and June, Blumenthal will be a Skirball Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies in England. While there, he will speak on his current research in obedience and altruism as these relate to religious thought and practice.