What better way to prepare oneself worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord’s coming into the world as the incarnate God than to join those whose tradition viciously mocks the incarnate God:
Bishop Jerome Listecki, right, lights a Menorah along with Rabbi Saul Prombaum, left center, and David and Betty Hammes at the Congregation Sons of Abraham of the first night of Hanukkah. Erik Daily
Local Catholics, Jews unite at opening Hanukkah service
By JOE ORSO | La Crosse Tribune
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Two days after Catholics began their Advent season, the local Jewish congregation began Hanukkah with an interfaith first for the Coulee Region.
Bishop Jerome Listecki, head of the Diocese of La Crosse, addressed about 50 people at Congregation Sons of Abraham, making him the first Catholic bishop to speak at the synagogue.
“I am here with you this evening as a friend,” Listecki said, wearing a violet zuchetto that resembled the yarmulkes worn on the heads of Rabbi Saul Prombaum and others gathered. “In that friendship, I share in the confidence that together we might walk in a rededication to our freedom and mutual respect directed by the light that guides our path.”
The event wasn’t the beginning of the relationship between local Jews and Catholics.
In 1998, members of the synagogue, a Catholic parish and United Church of Christ congregation traveled together to Israel …
The joint celebration was coordinated by Monsignor Bernard McGarty, a visiting scholar of ecumenical studies at Viterbo University, who also attended.
Prombaum, head of the Jewish congregation, led the people in Hebrew, English and silent prayers during the first part of the service.
“Praised are you, Adonai our God, who rules the universe, your word bringing the evening dusk,” the congregation said as Listecki, sitting in the fourth pew, prayed along. “You create day and night, rolling light away from darkness and darkness away from light.”
At the climax of the event, as snow continued to fall outside, Prombaum invited Listecki to light the center candles of four Hanukkah menorahs.
Then Listecki, Prombaum and David and Betty Hammes, a Catholic couple who in January will have been neighbors of the synagogue for 50 years, used the central candles to light the first of the eight Hanukkah candles on the four menorahs.
Prombaum also recognized the Hammeses with a brass leaf on the synagogue’s Tree of Life, and said they live by Leviticus 19:18, which includes the command to love your neighbor as yourself.
“We love you as our neighbors,” Prombaum said to them.
After Listecki’s address, he took questions, including one on the Catholic church’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Listecki said the Vatican has tried to maintain itself as an arbiter and a broker of peace.
During his remarks to the congregation, Listecki said the Jewish-Catholic dialogue began in his life with a Jewish friend of his family, who read the Mourner’s Kaddish, a Jewish prayer, at his father’s wake.
And he referred to a Vatican II document he called a blueprint for inter-religious dialogue for the church in the world.
“Words on paper take time to develop and cut through the generations of inaccuracies and errors,” he said, referring to the document, Nostra Aetate. “But friendships are created in the shared experiences of life amid the struggles of our times.”