From its founding in 1947 Merrimack College always enjoyed good relations with the Jewish Community of the Merrimack Valley.
The first president of the College, Fr. Vincent McQuade, OSA, included members of the Jewish community in his efforts to found the institution. In 1995 Merrimack College established its Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations as a further step in strengthening Jewish-Christian relations and dialogue, as called for by the Second Vatican Council. This important initiative, conceived and advanced by Professor Padraic O’Hare of the Department of Religious and Theological Studies, has grown over the past twenty years to become an important part of the College’s academic and social landscape.
In 2008, with the encouragement of Rabbi Robert Goldstein of Temple Emanuel in Andover, Massachusetts, then chair of the Center’s board of directors, we expanded our mission to include Muslims and became the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations. The College has concentrated its interreligious dialogue to the “people of the book” as an extension of its Catholic mission and Augustinian heritage.
Over the years this mission has been accomplished by such programs as:
- Frequent public lectures by leading scholars and activists in the field;
- Interfaith conferences and prayer services;
- Curricular and co-curricular offerings, including academic travel courses for students;
- The nation’s first undergraduate academic program in Jewish-Christian-Muslim Studies; and
- The biennial Goldziher prize to a scholar or activist in Jewish-Muslim relations (begun in 2010).
This array of lectures and conferences has nurtured a significant, appreciative community of Jewish, Christian, and more recently Muslim friends of the College who have supported the operations of the Center by their participation and generosity. Also, there are over 30 Merrimack undergraduates pursuing a minor in Jewish-Christian-Muslim studies. Many faculty and administrators of the College, from each of the three Abrahamic religions, have participated in the programs of the Center.
The Center has encouraged Merrimack to realize its distinctive educational mission in ways that affirm the College’s Catholic identity and its Augustinian heritage, while at the same time welcoming other Christians and adherents of other faiths into the academic life of the campus and the embrace of our academic community. Our partners in presenting these programs and services have included:
- The William and Mary Greve Foundation;
- The Catherine McCarthy Foundation;
- Temple Emanuel, Andover;
- Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center;
- The Interfaith Youth Initiative of Boston’s Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries;
- Facing History and Ourselves;
- The Merrimack Valley Jewish Federation;
- Holocaust Center—Boston, North;
- The Algerian American Association of New England;
- The Honorable Abdallah Baali, Algerian Ambassador to the United States;
- Unity Productions Foundation;
- Crossing Borders;
- Brandeis University; and,
- The University of Massachusetts, Lowell.
The Center’s programs and services have covered topics in religious, political, cultural, and social arenas. We will build on the success of this approach. Today new challenges face the world and those who work for peace. They prompt us to re-envision the Center’s mission and to seize emerging opportunities that strengthen the Center and what it offers.
Our primary emphasis on the three Abrahamic faiths encourages mutual understanding and respect among their adherents. But it also prepares students to live and thrive in a world of many different faith traditions by helping them learn respect and openness to persons from diverse backgrounds and cultures. As we move forward, we also invite all persons of good will into the mission of the Center. Not everyone’s life journey has led to an explicit profession of faith within a specific religious tradition or community. The Center welcomes all, whatever their background or conviction, who seek to increase knowledge and respect amidst religious and cultural diversity.