Slovakia is experiencing a major comeback within its Council of Christians and Jews. The number of people who are ready to enhance their involvement in Jewish–Christian relations in Slovakia has reached the highest in years. For the first time since WW2 the positive motivations far exceed the negative reasons for such cooperation.
The common denominator is a desire to work together well beyond reconciliation and to build a common country confident about its past, firm in its present and hopeful for the future. The driving force behind the latest move is a combination of three factors: booming heritage restoration, widespread readiness to embrace living tradition, and budding research into various aspects of Jewish–Christian relations and related fields. Slovakia hasn´t faced the brain drain that affected so many countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Quite on the contrary, a growing number of young adults keep on returning after years of studies and career abroad. On return, they tend to combine professional career with non-profit work and service to charities. The Slovak CCJ is clearly benefitting from all these trends. In terms of thematic range, the CCJ will use interdisciplinary approach to focus particularly on theology, history, social and political sciences. As far as operations are concerned, the CCJ will facilitate public discourse on current and most pressing issues, will foster theological, historical and social science debates, and shall serve as a coordinating body for the vast range of activities related to JCR in Slovakia. Given the background of its members, it is bound to play an increasingly active role also internationally.
After two years of a series of consultative meetings involving a range of people interested in the work, the Slovak CCJ formally revived last week. Having outlined its overall direction and set out initial work plan, it elected its new Board that embraces continuity, interfaith and interdisciplinary balance. Having served the Council for twenty years as its president, Dr. Štefánia Sališová decided to retire, but shall remain an active member of the CCJ. Over the years, often singlehandedly, she laid the foundations for the initiatives related to Jewish–Christian relations that have taken place in Slovakia within and outside the CCJ. The newly elected President, Lucia Faltin, has been back from Cambridge for the past two years. Lucia is known to a number of people across ICCJ as she has been involved in the field for the past 18 years, having served as the Chair of the Young Leadership Council and at the ICCJ Executive Board in mid-1990s. From then she spent 12 years helping to build the Cambridge-based Centre for the Study of Jewish–Christian Relations. Now, in addition to her professional engagement in philanthropy, she is the Vice-President of the Slovak Government Council on Human Rights, Ethnic Minorities and Gender Equality, having been elected to the post by non-profit organisations.
The two Vice-Presidents are Dr. Juraj Alner and Dr. František Ábel. A journalist by profession, Juraj Alner is one of the founding members of the Slovak CCJ. Having also served as the President of the Pan-European Union in Slovakia and Secretary General of the European Association of Journalists, Juraj Alner embodies commitment to JCR and European integration. František Ábel is a university lecturer in New Testament studies at the Protestant Theological Faculty in Bratislava. He is one of the driving forces behind the research and public education in Jewish–Christian relations in Slovakia. His Faculty has raised a number of scholars who became committed to JCR academically and/or as activists. For instance, the President of the Czech CCJ Pavol Bargár started his university studies at this Faculty and now works as an academic at its Prague-based counterpart. The Young Leadership Session is chaired by Katarína Očková, a doctoral student at the University of Edinburgh. He research focuses on Jewish culture and family in Slovakia. She is supervised by Hannah Holtschneider, who used to work at the CJCR in Cambridge along with Lucia Faltin, George Wilkes and James Aitken – both also used to work for the ICCJ for years.
Watch the date! The first major event of the Slovak CCJ, scheduled for November, is a conference on living heritage organised with ICCJ as part of its Central European conference series. It will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Slovak CCJ.
For further information contact Lucia Faltin: luciafaltin(at)hotmail.com