(Above) – A jubilee choir performs a moving rendition of “The Lord Is My Light” at the Nostra Aetate celebration. 

Fifty years to the day after the papal declaration that launched a new era in Catholic-Jewish relations, around 900 people gathered to commemorate the landmark document at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center for the Arts.

“For centuries, it was documented by Catholics that somehow Judaism was a surplus religion following the rise of

Rabbi James Rudin who spent decades working to bring real-life meaning to the words of Nostra Aetate speaks to the crowd at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center. (Photo credit – Thomas Spink Georgia Bulletin)

Rabbi James Rudin who spent decades working to bring real-life meaning to the words of Nostra Aetate speaks to the crowd at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center. (Photo credit – Thomas Spink Georgia Bulletin)

Christianity,” Rabbi James Rudin said. “Even though Jesus was a Jew living in the land of Israel and his early followers were Jews, the prevalent belief was that Jews had failed to recognize the Messiah and as a result Judaism was an extraneous religion subject to contempt. For over 1,900 years, there were tragic, horrific attacks, but Jews and Judaism did not disappear.”

As the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious affairs, Rabbi Rudin spent decades working to bring real-life meaning to the words of Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council document that cleared Jews of blame for the death of Jesus and declared that anti-Semitism was wrong. Rabbi Rudin remains an AJC adviser and served as co-host of the anniversary event, a joint celebration of AJC Atlanta and the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.

The celebration Wednesday, Oct. 28, began with an inspired performance of Rabbi Micah Lapidus’ version of “Hinei Mah Tov” by a choir of Davis Academy and Marist School students. A video presentation then shed light on the history of Nostra Aetate.

Rabbi Rudin explained how instrumental the document was in settling differences between the Jewish and Catholic communities.

He told the interfaith crowd that he believes there are “many paths to G-d,” and he concluded with a quote from poet Robert Browning: “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.”

After Rabbi Rudin’s speech, Fox 5 news anchor Russ Spencer was announced as a surprise guest host and said, “It’s my humble belief that we all pray to the same G-d.”

Spencer introduced the Weber School dance ensemble, whose performance preceded Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory’s thoughts on 50 years of positive Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

Noting that Nostra Aetate means “in our time” in Latin, Archbishop Gregory said: “We now have a hope for tomorrow, but there is still much more work to be done in our time for a richer and more blessed future for both of our communities.”

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said he looks forward to an even brighter future between the Jewish and Catholic communities.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said he looks forward to an even brighter future between the Jewish and Catholic communities.

The performances after his speech emphasized interfaith dialogue and cooperation.

A jubilee choir directed by Dónal Noonan, music director at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, performed “The Lord Is My Light,” based on Psalm 27.

“More Than Hope,” a dramatic historic presentation exploring the growth of Jewish-Catholic relations, featured a cast of Pamela Gold, Clayton Langly, Kathleen McManus and Christopher Moses. Mira Hirsch, director of education at Theatrical Outfit and member of The Temple, wrote and directed the production.

A music performance of Ubi Caritas and Psalm 150 and a final communal song of “Siyahamba/Marching in the Light of God” closed the festivities.

All Photos courtesy Thomas Spink, Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Georgia Bulletin