31 May 2022

Rabbi Jack Bemporad in Rome: Personal Encounters and IRD Events

In the last two weeks of May 2022, Rome welcomed its beloved professor of interreligious studies and Judaism – Rabbi Jack Bemporad. Paying a short visit to the eternal city, Rabbi Jack participated in a series of academic events and informal gatherings with the Russell Berrie Fellows.

Two lectures, “How to Read the Bible” and “Challenges and Religious Responsibilities of Religious Leadership Today,” took place at the Angelicum. The Russell Berrie Fellows had an excellent opportunity to get in closer, in-person contact with Professor Bemporad to discuss actual theological and practical issues. Rev. Evans Nyamadzawo from Zimbabwe says, “It is a rare blessing to meet such a high intellectual and philosopher as Rabbi Jack in our time. He is an endless source of knowledge. My personal encounters with Professor Bemporad made me realize how much loving and caring he is. He is a man of wisdom and practical issues; he listens to us and helps to find a real solution to our challenges.”

Russell Berrie Fellow Meilia Irawan shares her experience of attending Rabbi Jack’s classes, “The difference between humans and other creatures lies in their contemplation. It is significant to bring humans to the highest point of contemplation of their true nature. This is the wisdom I learned from Rabbi Jack.” She inspiringly continues, “Humans reflect through images of the attributes of God that exist in their intellectual consciousness and beliefs. With this highest awareness, people bring love by harmonizing the micro- and macro-cosmos.” Meilia agrees with Professor Bemporad that wisdom brings love, and love gives birth to civilization.

Furthermore, Rabbi Jack delivered the public lecture on “Wisdom, Virtues and Vices in the Book of Proverbs: Some Philosophical and Ethical Considerations” at the Centro Pro Unione located at the ancient Piazza Navona in the heart of Rome. According to Rabbi Jack, the Book of Proverbs is founded on the concept of choice, which affirms free will. “We determine what we become through our choices,” emphasized Rabbi Jack. He also added, “The way we live our life completes us.” In this context, a person considers “choosing influences” that determine the life he lives. So, humans need wisdom to make the right choices based on virtues or vices.

Interestingly, Professor Bemporad noted that wisdom is part of God’s creative act and the means through which God creates. The world is the product of wisdom, and God infused his wisdom through all his works. Rabbi Jack concluded that wisdom is, in fact, the fear of God, i.e., practicing religion.

Reflecting on the event, Bernadette McGonigle, a JPII Leader from Ireland, shares: “Rabbi Jack gave another enlightening and thought-provoking talk on Proverbs and wisdom. From Proverbs, he summarized that our obligations should become inclinations and vice versa. “

Thinking about his first in-person encounter with Rabbi Jack, Jan E. Janoszka, a Fellow from Poland/UK, shares: “For the first time, I could participate in two conversations with Rabbi Jack Bemporad. I am truly grateful to have had these opportunities. On both occasions, I could admire his biblical scholarship, a wealth of interreligious knowledge and experience, and his contributions to healing our common humanity.” “Above all, however, he is a person of integrity who is not afraid to pay the price when it comes to social justice, and that is what I would like to thank him for! Many blessings to you, Rabbi Jack – Shalom, Salam, and Peace to your whole family,” Jan concludes with gratitude.