Dear members of the Seton Hall family,
Many of you by now have heard the abhorrent antisemitic comments from prominent members of our society. These comments not only traded on old forms of antisemitism but seemingly threatened violence as well. Sadly, but also predictably, this calumny against our Jewish brothers and sisters found support amongst a group calling itself the Goyim Defense League and later at a college football game. Recently, the FBI warned of threats to Jewish Synagogues in New Jersey. That someone should fear for their safety in their house of worship is appalling. Worse, these threats immediately recall the eleven people murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.
Unfortunately, recent antisemitic events follow an upward trend. According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Jewish incidents in the United States reached an all-time high in 2021. This marked a 34 percent increase from 2020 — amounting to seven incidents per day, the highest number since the ADL began tracking such events in 1979.
My purpose here, however, is not merely to call attention to these events but also to direct your attention to the remarkable opportunity you have as students here at Seton Hall. Part of what occurred in some of these events was a result of uncritically watching a “documentary.” Documentary films, like books, can be wonderful but also misleading, flawed, and even just plain wrong. Seton Hall affords you an opportunity to hone your thinking skills and become comfortable asking questions and seeking truth. You have the resources to become informed on issues such as the Holocaust or Jewish faith and history, Islam, Christianity, and a wealth of other subjects. You have an extraordinary history faculty and outstanding scholars of religion a few steps away.
This is not a promotion for the majors or even a suggestion to take classes, as wonderful as that would be. It is an encouragement to seek out professors and ask questions. If you see a documentary on the Jewish people and you have questions, seek out Rabbi Alan Brill and Dr. Rachel Slutsky in the Jewish-Christian studies program; if you wish to know more about the Holocaust, seek out Dr. Molesky, pick his brain, and ask for references; Islam, seek out Dr. Axel Oaks-Takacs and Dr. Issam Aburaya. And, of course, I and many others from Religion, Catholic Studies, Seminary, and Core are happy to speak with you about Catholicism any time.
Finally, I should note that our campus contains a wonderful diversity that can be a resource for knowledge. Groups such as Seton Hall Hillel and the Muslim Student Association can be invaluable in this respect. Educating yourself promises to help you, of course, but also to improve the larger cultural discourse of which you are an integral part.
I will finish on a more theological note. Seton Hall is a Catholic university. Catholics conceive all people as made in the image and likeness of their Creator. Christians have sometimes failed to honor this belief and supported antisemitism. Nevertheless, it is a profound and radical teaching that means that when we encounter one another, we encounter a person eternally loved by God. This person is of a value that we can hardly conceive. This means, in effect, that to encounter another human being is to stand on holy ground, a place of God’s dwelling. Thus to mistreat another person is to desecrate the holy; it is to reject God’s love for that person. Whenever we demean or mistreat another, we should feel our bones tremble at what we have done. I will leave you with this portion of a poem that Dr. Gregory Glazov read during a talk that I believe speaks to this moment:
"that old woman who leads a goat on a string
is needed more
is worth more
than the seven wonders of the world
anyone who thinks or feels she is not needed is a mass murderer"
— Tadeusz Różewicz, "In the Midst of Life"
Anthony Sciglitano, Jr.
Sister Rose Thering Fund for Education in Jewish-Christian Studies
Seton Hall University has a long and living legacy of engendering interfaith dialogue, education, and understanding. The Institute of Judeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall was founded in 1953; faculty members such as Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher and Sister Rose Thering’s work was instrumental in bringing to fruition Vatican Council II's statement of goodwill in Nostra Aetate, the "Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions.” Over the last 70 years, that legacy of interreligious dialogue, cooperation, and goodwill has grown and embraces all faiths at Seton Hall.
Categories: Faith and Service