Beyond the Walls: Abraham Joshua Heschel and Edith Stein on the Significance of Empathy for Jewish-Christian Dialogue

By: Joseph Palmisano

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Joseph Palmisano offers an in-depth examination of the significance of empathy for Jewish-Christian understanding. Drawing on the writings of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) and Edith Stein (1891-1942), he develops a phenomenological category of empathy defined as a way of re-membering oneself with the religious other. Palmisano follows Heschels and Steins philosophical theory and praxis through the unprecedented horrors of the Shoah, showing that Heschels call to Christians for a return to God is an ecumenical call to humanity to embrace perceived others: a call to live life as a response to Gods pathos. This call finds a prophetic answer in Edith Steins witness of empathy when faced with the Shoah. Stein, a Catholic, creates a dialectical bridge with the Jewish other, neither distancing herself nor denying her Jewish roots. Steins simultaneously Jewish and Christian fidelity is a model for interreligious relations. It is also a challenge to Catholics to remember their religions Jewish heritage through new categories of witnessing and belonging with others. Beyond the Walls is a critical contribution to the fostering of interreligious understanding, offering both a model of the ideal Jewish-Christian relationship in Heschel and Stein and criteria by which to evaluate contemporary initiatives and controversies concerning interreligious dialogue.
Publication Date:
11 / 09 / 2012

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