SHU Welcomes New Religious Leader To Head Its Center For Christian-Jewish Understanding
Rabbi Eugene Korn, Ph.D., an expert in Christian-Jewish relations, will succeed Rabbi Joseph H. Ehrenkranz as executive director of Sacred Heart University’s Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding (CCJU) on July 1, 2007. Rabbi Ehrenkranz is co-founder of CCJU and is retiring after 15 years. He will assume the role of director emeritus.
In making the appointment, the University’spresident, Dr. Anthony J. Cernera, noted that the Center is an important expression of SHU’s mission as a Catholic university. Founded at the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the University has always expressed a deep respect for other religious and cultural traditions, and the CCJU has become a world leader in dialogue and interreligious cooperation. Referring specifically to the University’s Mission, Dr. Cernera pointed out that Sacred Heart works to “exemplify the Judeo-Christian values of the God-given freedom and dignity of every human person.
“Over the past 15 years, the Center has achieved international stature as a leader in interfaith dialogue, and it earned the personal endorsement of Pope John Paul II. In Rabbi Korn, we have found a warm and engaging leader whose intellectual gifts are matched by his deep humanity, someone who can further develop the Center's mission and carry its extraordinary work into the future,” he added.
Rabbi Korn grew up in Irvington, New Jersey, a suburb of Newark, during the turbulent, yet idealistic, 1960s. The spirit of that time helped shape his personal philosophy and prepared him for the important role he is about to assume.
“The 60s was a time of great idealism—the triumph of civil rights, the Peace Corps and President Kennedy. Many of us who grew up in that time felt that there were no limitations on what we could achieve and how we could improve the world. I still retain some of that youthful idealism,” said Rabbi Korn, who previously was national director of Interfaith Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League and an adjunct professor of Jewish Thought at Seton Hall University.
The editor of a scholarly Modern Orthodox journal called Meorot (“Illuminations”), Rabbi Korn has served as the associate executive director of CCJU since January. His relationship with Sacred Heart developed over a period of years as he was invited to lecture at CCJU on numerous occasions.
Rabbi Korn has an Orthodox Jewish background. He graduated from Yeshiva University, where he studied math, philosophy and Talmud, and was ordained by the Israeli rabbinate. He received a Ph.D. in moral philosophy from Columbia University and worked for years in Jerusalem at the Shalom Hartman Institute, considered by many to be the foremost Jewish think-tank in the world.
While Rabbi Korn said his philosophical and religious principles do not differ from those of Rabbi Ehrenkranz, he does have an expanded vision for CCJU that may prompt more emphasis upon scholarly and theological interchange on national and international levels.
“I’d like to develop that dimension a bit more. My background is more academic than communal, whereas Rabbi Ehrenkranz played a pastoral role much of his life and was more oriented toward community,” Rabbi Korn said. “We have a wonderfully talented staff that can take both dimensions of CCJU to a new level, but it is dependent upon creating an endowment that will enable us to do the things we are dreaming of,” he said.
Rabbi Korn said that CCJU would also like to work more closely with the University’s Religion and Philosophy departments “so that we can take advantage of their expertise and they can utilize some of our expertise. I think we can make a contribution to the academic life of the University.”
His ultimate vision for CCJU comprises three different institutes: The first to focus on religious education that will make Jews and Christians more aware of the recent changes in Christian theology regarding Jews and Judaism; the second to pursue leading edge research in issues of values, pluralism and theological pluralism; and the third to deepen the special relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish People.
Rabbi Korn recently represented CCJU at a conference entitled “A Dialogue of Civilizations” in Monaco. He spoke on “the sanctity of human life” as a value shared by Christianity, Judaism and Islam and which he believes can form the foundation of a common language among people of different faiths.