One of the profoundest achievements of the Second Vatican Council was the positive shift in Catholic relations with Judaism, and, in the decades following, the flourishing of those relationships with a steady flow of documents, encounters and exchanges.
In October 1960, Saint John XXIII anticipated this epochal reconciliation with his greeting to an American Jewish delegation, “I am Joseph, your brother” (Gen 45:4). Just a month before, Saint John had received Augustin, Cardinal Bea’s suggestion to incorporate relations with Jews in the work of the newly founded Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity in the preparations for the Council. Eventually that initiative resulted in the conciliar document we know today as Nostra Aetate, the text that initiated the new era of Jewish-Catholic encounter.
For its part, rabbinic literature has memorialized the relationship between Judaism and Christianity in another biblical story of two brothers, that of the reconciliation of Esau and Jacob. Genesis recounts, “Jacob bowed to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. Esau, however, ran to him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept” (Gen 33:3-4). That moment still lives in the mind of world Jewry, including the minds of several commentators on an innovative statement by Orthodox rabbis on the divinely-inspired relationship of the two traditions, “To Do the Will of Our Father in Heaven” (2015).