ADL and Catholic Educators: Bearing Witness Together

  • August 15, 2014


Kathleen Stinehart, Ursuline Academy, Theology Department

Before I had kids, I was not aware of the brain’s amazing ability to remember every lyric to every Disney song ever written. Because  my girls loved Pocahontas, one of those songs is Colors of the Wind. As is so often the case, when you get a line in your head, you just can’t get it out.  For me during the Bearing Witness experience, that line was,

 “But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.”

I grew up in south St. Louis.  My dad was an Irish immigrant and my mom’s parents were, too.  My parents always believed everyone was their equal, and we were raised to think that way as well.  You wouldn’t think that there would be a downside to that, but I believe that because I was protected from the hatred in the world, I may have been a little naïve about it.

In the course of my education, I of course learned about the Holocaust, read Ann Frank, and knew Hitler to be the face of evil in the 20th century. But before attending Bearing Witness, I had no idea of the scope and intensity of anti-Semitism both historically and currently.  Talk about learning things I never knew I never knew.

I’m not sure how I stumbled through the first 52 years of my life without an awareness of this terrible bias.  I certainly was not aware of the role of the Church in creating an atmosphere where this culture of hatred and discrimination could flourish.

As a teacher of Scriptures, my newfound  awareness will absolutely color the way I teach.  I have always loved the richness of the Hebrew Testament stories and tradition. I hope that my love of this has somehow transferred to my students.  But my teaching of the New Testament (dual covenant) will be drastically different.  The emphasis that I will place on Jesus as a Jew and the importance of Nostra Aetate will be my focus.

As I have been reading over the material that was given to us, (not enough hours in the day,) I come more and more to realize how much I never knew I never knew. But, I suppose as with all successful learning experiences, it has given me a tremendous thirst to know more. We have a great Jewish Community Relations Council here in St. Louis, and I can’t wait work even more closely with them.

I met three rabbis in DC, which is three more than I had ever met before. I spoke to a survivor of the Holocaust, which is one more than I had ever had the opportunity to speak to before.  With many thanks to our “elder brothers” in faith, I will be able to share my altered perception of the world with our young people.