The year 1995 was the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Europe and the public revelation of the horrors of the death and concentration camps. The same year marked the thirtieth anniversary of Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate. That document was the first doctrinally binding pronouncement in the Roman Catholic Church’s two millennia to accept Judaism and the persistence of the Jewish people to the present. It “recalls the spiritual bond linking the people of the New Covenant with Abraham’s stock . . . [and] deplores the hatred, persecutions, and displays of Antisemitism directed against the Jews at any time and from any source.” Accordingly, “this sacred Synod wishes to foster and recommend that mutual understanding which is the fruit above all of biblical and theological studies, and of brotherly dialogues.”
Since 1965, many good things have occurred including the Guidelines of 1974 and 1985 for implementing Nostra Aetate, which extend it both in letter and in spirit, the meeting of Pope John Paul II and Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff in the central synagogue of Rome in 1986, the pope’s visit to Auschwitz; the inauguration of Vatican-Israel diplomatic relations, the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, "Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church," issued in July 1985, and 1998’s “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah.” Pope John Paul II’s elocution before the congregation and Rabbi Toaff expressed the bond between the Church and Judaism: “The Jewish religion is not ‘extrinsic’ to us, but in a certain way is ‘intrinsic’ to our own religion. With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.” Since then the Vatican has vigorously condemned anti-Semitism as a sin against God and humanity, and has called upon the Church to repent of the anti-Semitism found in past Catholic thought and conduct.
The Center’s mission is to promote Jewish-Catholic-Muslim “discussion and collaboration” as urged in 1965 by the Vatican’s Nostra Aetate (In Our Time) and seconded in subsequent Papal actions and declarations. “Since Christians and Jews have such a common spiritual heritage, this sacred Council wishes to encourage and further mutual understanding and appreciation.” Nostra Aetate also states that the Church “regards with esteem also the Muslim,” and it urges all “to work sincerely for mutual understanding.”
As befits Manhattan College, an institution of higher education, the Center’s principal sphere is education. Founded in 1996 as the Holocaust Resource Center, the Center expanded its Mission in 2011 and was renamed the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center. This reflects the spirit of the Center’s Mission and the vision that all the foci are interconnected and are part of the educational outreach of the Center. The Center is committed to understanding and respecting differences and similarities between people of all religions, races, ethnicities and nationalities.
The Center educates people about the Holocaust, which is essential to current and future generations, in order to combat prejudice, genocidal ideologies, apathy and Holocaust denial. To this end, the Center remains committed to the lessons of the Holocaust, which are essential to educating current and future generations in order to combat prejudice, genocidal ideologies, apathy, and Holocaust denial. To this end, the Center is committed to educating people about the Holocaust and genocide while exphasizing the contemporary significance of these events. The primary audiences are the College community, the local region and teachers but the Center also seeks to affect a broader arena. Through education about human suffering in the absence of tolerance, the Center aims to foster acceptance and understanding among religions, cultures, and communities.