In 2020, the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ), an umbrella organisation of 40 national Jewish-Christian dialogue organisations world-wide, could not have its annual conference because of Covid restrictions. Instead, The Friends and Sponsors of the Martin Buber House (the space where the ICCJ is housed) decided to hold an “International Creative Contest”. Young people between the ages of 20-30 were invited to submit essays, poems, podcasts, films, comics or cartoons on the topic of “Christian-Jewish Dialogue – Why? What For?”. These submissions were then judged by a jury of seven members from the US and Europe and the winners were announced in late January 2021. Two of JPII Leaders in Interreligious Dialogue, Samantha Lin (Cohort IX) and Lidiia Batig (Cohort VIII) tied for second place with their respective story submissions.
Samantha Lin is finishing her STL at the Cardinal Bea Center for Judaic Studies while simultaneously working full time as the VP of Marketing for Premium Service Brands, a US-based company. After graduating with a degree in Middle Eastern studies from Georgetown University, Samantha worked in refugee resettlement and ultimately came to Rome as a Russell Berrie Fellow in 2016 to delve into Jewish-Christian dialogue, specifically within the modern Israeli cultural context. Her research focuses on post-Shoah theology in literature and collective memory in Israel. Through her award winning essay, Samantha wanted to connect her childhood experiences, shared lives and celebrations, her growing awareness of both historic and present anti-Semitism, and deeper education, then show how all these things work together and ultimately drive toward dialogue.
Lidiia Batig holds an MA in Religious Journalism from the Ukrainian Catholic University and an MA in Journalism from the Ivan Franko Lviv National University. In Ukraine she founded “The School of Interreligious Journalism” to help equip journalists with skills and tools when covering interfaith issues, promoting dialogue and fighting divisive propaganda. This educational project was funded by the JPII Leader Grant Program and received the prestigious Intercultural Achievement Award in the category “Innovation” from the Federal Ministry Republic of Austria in 2018. She is currently a student of the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences. Her award winning short story “Interview with “Jewish” G-d” is not only a sort of a personal confession, but a blend of autobiography, memoirs, and an attempt to create her own interfaith story, connected with the tragedy of the Shoah. Lidiia says:
“The main idea of my short story is that through our despair and our pain, we can also become a source of power for others. My protagonist Esther is ready to meet G-d– to wake her up from her foolishness and anger. Esther is me; she is a modern Job; she is the Jewish nation after the Shoah; she is a person, a revolutionist, a child who experienced death of hopes, faith and dreams; who survived, but is not able to start living again. She is a memory and a heritage. Fragile and strong at the same time. She is a part of the experience I have gained while studying Jewish-Christian dialogue. Her wounds are not healed, but she desires to find G-d and to experience true love even through incredible pain.”
Congratulations to Lidiia and Samantha on their successes; we are very impressed by your contributions to Jewish-Christian Dialogue and proud to have you in the JPII Center family!