By Karen Vance
EVANSTON - A distinctive exhibit about Pope John Paul II will make its international debut in May at Xavier University.
The exhibit, which will highlight the pontiff's relationship with the Jewish people, is designed to encourage dialog between Christians and Jews. It is being directed by William Madges, a professor at XU; Rabbi Abie Ingber from Cincinnati Hillel Jewish Center, and Yaffa Eliach, a Holocaust scholar from New York.
On Wednesday, the trio, along with James Buchanan, director of XU's Edward C. Brueggeman Center for Dialogue, will have a brief audience with the pope, receive his blessing for the project and collect personal artifacts for the exhibit.
The exhibit is scheduled to open May 18, the pontiff's 85th birthday.
"To think I'm traveling to Rome to tell the pope about a birthday present and a unique exhibit is surreal," Ingber said.
Madges, chair of Xavier's theology department, is working with Ingber and Eliach, a professor at Brooklyn College, to create the 1,500-square-foot exhibit, A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish Community.
Eliach is founder of the co-sponsoring Shtetl Foundation, which is working to build an open-air museum in Israel for East-European Jewish History. She served as the Brueggeman center's scholar-in-residence last year.
Ingber recommended Eliach after hearing her speak more than 20 years ago about the pope's relationship to the Jewish people. When the two began talking last year about the need for an exhibit on the topic, XU President Rev. Michael Graham was supportive and work began.
Buchanan praised the pope's connection to the Jewish people, beginning in his childhood in Poland, through his work as a bishop on Catholic-Jewish relations in the Second Vatican Council and continuing into his papacy.
He is the first pope to visit a synagogue, establish diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican, and visit the Western Wall in Israel.
Following its tour, the exhibit will become permanent exhibits at the center in Washington and an undetermined museum in Israel.
Xavier is raising at least $100,000 for the interactive exhibit, and the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati has agreed to match the donations.
About the exhibit
"A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish Community" will open May 18 at Xavier University's A.B. Cohen Center Galleries and run through July 15.