Even before the Second Vatican Council issued its historic 1965 declaration on Jews and Judaism, Nostra Aetate #4, a group of dedicated American Catholic leaders, clergy and lay, had already completed significant work, in building positive relations between the two religious communities. Sister Rose Thering was one of the pioneers in the effort to overcome "the teaching of contempt," a 1900-year-old tradition that was widespread in Christian churches. Her doctoral thesis in 1965 was a systematic examination of Catholic teaching materials vis-a-vis Jews and Judaism. Five years later, she conducted a survey to determine how Nostra Aetate was being implemented in religious education.
In 1985, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Vatican II, Sister Rose Thering undertook another study of the Roman Catholic education system. The results of this study are both promising and encouraging. Jews and Judaism are no longer esoteric studies in Catholic schools. Indeed, there is a growing interest in Judaism on the part of both students and faculty. But much still remains to be done. Crucial issues remain, but as Sister Rose's survey indicates, these issues are now being faced and addressed by a growing number of Catholic educators and institutions. For all this and for much more, the AJC commends Sister Rose Thering and others who have committed themselves to building a new and constructive relationship between Jews and Catholics â" a relationship of mutual respect and understanding.