By Leonard Swidler
In the wake of the bifurcated World War the first half of the twentieth century, the world attempted in the 1950s to reestablish “normalcy,” only to be met with the major paradigm-shift of the multiple upheavals of the 1960s: The Civil Rights Movement, the Second Wave Feminist Movement, the Anti-War Movement, the world-wide Student Movement; the election of the Two John’s (Catholic President John F. Kennedy and Pope St. John XXIII), and Catholic Vatican Council II (1962-1965)….
In the midst of those upheavals Temple University ceased being a Baptist-related private univer-sity and became a state-related public university—with an academic department of religion unique in the world. These recollections/reflections are about what happened in the early years of that unique entity Temple University Department of Religion (TUDOR), as experienced and remembered by one who was part of that beginning (Temple officially became a State-Related University July 1, 1966—which is also precisely when I officially became a member of TUDOR.
First, how I got involved: My father, Samuel Swidler, was a Jewish lad of fifteen from Western Ukraine when in 1912, he came by himself to America, picked up perfect English—along with his knowledge of Hebrew, Yiddish, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, and German—and eventually married my Catholic mother of Irish descent. I was born in January of the auspicious year 1929, the beginning of the Great Depression (like Louis XIV, I could say: Apre moi le deluge!). I subsequently had twenty-five years of Catholic education, including an advanced degree in Catholic theology (Sacrae Theologiae Licentiatus, S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Catholic Theology Faculty of the University of Tübingen (founded in the 14th century), quite possibly the first layperson ever to receive a degree in Catholic theology), as well as a Ph.D. in History and Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin.
Andie and I spent the first years of our marriage in Germany as I completed my S.T.L. and the dissertation research for my Ph.D., and returned to the U.S. in 1960 to teach at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, she in English and I in History. My research had been on the dialogue that began in Germany after World War I between Protestants and Catholics called the Una Sancta Movement.1Andie and I shared all the major aspects of our four years in Germany in various degrees and ways: birthing and raising our first child, teaching (part-time for myself and eventually full-time for her) to support ourselves, soaking ourselves in Germany and Europe, and research on my two dissertations (Ph.D. and S.T. L.). Hence, afterward when the Second Vatican Council totally reversed the Vatican stance against dialogue with non-Catholics, Andie one day said to me: “There is no scholarly periodical devoted to ecumenism and dialogue, perhaps we should start one.” And so we did. The first issue of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies (JES) appeared in 1964. We invited Elwyn Smith from the Presbyterian Pittsburgh Theological Seminary to be Co-Editor along with me and Andie Managing Editor.
The first issue started with a bang!, including articles by Enfant terrible Hans Küng, and his then friend/colleague Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI).2 That first year the subtitle of JES was: Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, but before the end of the second volume it was dropped because we had already taken on our first non-Christian Associate Editor, Rabbi Arthur Gilbert.
Things were going swimmingly in 1965 at Duquesne University. Andie and I had launched the Journal of Ecumenical Studies (JES), Vatican II and all its everyday excitement was coming to a thunderous climax, and I was heavily involved with Father Henry Koren—Founder of Duquesne University Press, Chair of the world-famous for phenomenology and existentialism Philosophy Department—in working to reinvent the Theology Department from a sort of unacademic catechism class to a serious academic enterprise. I had also set up a radio program with the Duquesne University FM station, interviewing interesting persons from the area and visitors. It was there that I interviewed Lowell Streiker, a young scholar who was teaching in the newly established (1964) Department of Religion at Temple University (which was to become a state-related university in 1966). We had just published an essay of his, “The Modern Jewish-Christian Dialogue,” in JES,3 and I was so positively impressed by him in the radio interview that I urged him to apply to join our Theology Department (I was acting as “recruiter” for Father Koren). He said that he would think about it. A couple of days later I received a phone call from Lowell, saying that when he spoke to his Chairman of the Religion Department at Temple University, Bernard Philips, a Jewish philosopher, Bernard responded by offering to hire me, my Co-Editor Elwyn Smith, and the Journal of Ecumenical Studies!
Well, I was not at all interested since I was so deeply involved in the exciting things at Duquesne University, but Elwyn, who was professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian seminary, was really eager to get into a university, and kept pushing me to go with him for an interview. Eventually, I reluctantly told Elwyn that I would go just for his sake, but that I would tell Bernard Philips that I would not even consider coming unless he made a firm commitment to hire not just one Catholic, me, but several, and further, that he would also hire Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and others as well. I did not want to be a “token Catholic.” This was a fantastic dream idea at that point, and I thought such a demand would kill the offer to this troika, Swidler, Smith, JES, and allow me to happily stay at Duquesne University.
It must be recalled that up until that time religion, or rather, theology, in the U.S. was almost always taught by Protestant theologians. Think Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Pennsyl-vania, Columbia, Chicago University, Stanford…. There were Catholic colleges and universities, of courses, where whatever passed for the teaching of religion was—confirmed by my personal experience at St. Norbert’s College (1946-1950)—often non-credit glorified catechism taught (in my time—jokingly—to classrooms of war-hardened ex-GIs!) by Catholics. It was precisely that tsunami of ex-GIs after World War II that helped bring Catholicism “of age” in the 1950s’ America. That and the World War II experience in general also led to taking the study of theology more seriously in U.S. higher education, both Catholic and Protestant—but still religiously segregated.
That all began to change drastically as the world moved into the Baby-Boomer generation, with its civil-rights movement, anti-war movement, student-rebellion “light-up/turn-on/drop-out” movement. Part of this break with the past world-wide paradigm shift was the opening up of religion, most dramatically expressed by the Catholic Church’s Vatican Council II in which “all” Catholics were told to engage non-Catholics in dialogue, even “taking the first steps.” All this was very, very new and giddy-making (my “demand” to Bernard Phillips doubtless a manifestation of the latter). At that time there was one significant Catholic scholar teaching about Catholicism at a non-Catholic university—Christopher Dawson at Harvard, Professor of the newly established (1960) Stilman Chair of Catholic Studies.
However, much to my utter surprise, when I presented him my “demand,” Bernard responded, saying: Great idea! We’ll do it! He then presented me with a concrete offer: 1) Full Professor, 2) a nine-month salary of $13,000, 3) a lightened load of one undergrad and one grad course each semester, and 4) a $50,000 annual subsidy for JES (the equivalent of at least $300,000 in 2013 dollars). I still was not persuaded—even though at Duquesne I was only Associate Professor earning $9,500 with a 12-month commitment. I planned to go back to my Dean and tell him about the offer, and expected that he would say that they of course could not match those finances, but they would offer me a raise to perhaps $11,000 (which I would have accepted). Instead, I was utterly surprised once again. The Dean said to me: “Gee Len, I don’t see how you can turn that offer down.” Well, after consulting with Andie, I decided to accept the offer—much to Elwyn’s delight, of course. Thus, I and JES came to Temple University Department of Religion (TUDOR).
Looking back now, I can see why Bernard went after me and bought my “demand.” In the JES issue before the one containing Lowell’s essay, I see now that I had published an editorial on “Religion and Higher Education,”4 which had laid out in positive form my “demand” to Bernard Philips—long before I was invited to visit there, or even knew about Temple’s existence. I opened my editorial by writing,
The Christian churches and synagogues face a common problem in higher education: how to make religion and theology relevant and effective in the lives of university and college faculties and student bodies, and through their leadership in society at large…. [To date, their efforts] are really only manifestations of religious tokenism. [Rather,] “should we not as quickly as possible shift our emphasis in the area of higher education to where it will be most effective? Should we not expend most of our efforts where most of the students are, the secular campuses?
Over ninety percent of the college and university students in the next two decades will receive their education on secular campuses. It is obvious, therefore, that thousands of trained men and women, lay and clerical, must be sent to these campuses…. Theology must be taught as an intellectual discipline by men and women who are the scholarly peers of professors in other disciplines. Only thus will it be able to meet the intellectual and moral challenges of the intellectual community and our society at large, which is so greatly influenced by college graduates. Here is where the best theologians among the clerics belong. However, since theology is not an exclusively clerical sphere there should also be laywomen and laymen who are trained theologians teaching in these university theology programs, which should not remain extra-curricular but which must be as academically recognized as chemistry, philosophy, and history.
As I in 2014 [and again in 2021] read my words from 1965, I am struck at how prescient I unconsciously was at that time. It was only the following year, July 1, 1966, that Temple Univer-sity, with its newly established in 1964, Department of Religion, would become a “secular” university—and I and JES would be part of it! I even strongly urged the interreligious structure of faculty—which, after Bernard Philips accepted my “demand” (of course, he might well have gone in that direction even without it), did in fact become the mark of Temple University Department of Religion (TUDOR). I was careful to include a non-believing “unfaith”—perspective as well:
These theology faculties should never be exclusive…. What are needed are ecumenical faculties including Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, and world religion scholars. It is in an intellectual, ecumenical setting that all theology can become most profound and most relevant, when it must constantly meet the challenges and problems of all the disciplines and all the faiths—and unfaiths…. large numbers of men and women must be sent off to be trained in theology in first-class fashion. Secondly, every avenue of approach to the setting up of these ecumenical, theological faculties on secular campuses must be investigated and heavily trafficked…. The churches and synagogues must extend every effort to produce scholarly theologians in numbers and encourage them to form these ecumenical faculties.
That’s exactly what happened at TUDOR, starting at its inception as a state-related university in 1966. That year the number of TUDOR faculty went from 6 to 10, and in another 2 years to 21! The one really famous theologian on the faculty then was Paul van Buren, an Episcopal priest who did his doctorate at the University of Basel, Switzerland under the world-famous theologian, Karl Barth. Shortly after I published the above JES editorial, Paul appeared on the cover of Time Magazine as one of the four (in)famous “God Is Dead” theologians.5 It is ironic that he studied under “conservative” Karl Barth as he went in a completely opposite direction intellectually.
Bernard Philips kept his word about hiring more than just one Catholic theologian. I quickly suggested that Patrick Burke, a young Australian priest who had done his doctorate in systematic theology at the Catholic Theology Faculty of the University of Munich (where I had been in the late 1950s and Patrick came in the early 60s). Patrick had earlier tried to get me hired as Dean of the “Iowa School of Theology,” where he was teaching at the time). Patrick quickly suggested to Bernard Father Gerard Sloyan, widely known in Catholic circles as the President of the “Liturgical Movement” (the engine for Catholic reform in the U.S. in the years leading up to Vatican II) and a New Testament scholar. Shortly after they both were hired, Roderick Hindery, a recently laicized American Benedictine monk was hired in the area of comparative ethics. So, within two years we suddenly were four Catholic scholars on the TUDOR faculty. In the same time period we also hired Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims.
Let me here also report a very promising development that fits together with what I wrote about in the above cited JES editorial, and my coming to Temple. It happened that in 1965, the year before I came to Temple, the Pennsylvania government passed a law establishing the possibility of objective teaching about religion in public high schools, and the state legislature set up a state committee to establish guidelines for such teaching. I was invited to be on that committee, which I of course, gladly accepted. The program quickly became moderately popular and was moderately extensively taught around the state, and increasingly so. Unfortunately, when the 1943 world-wide oil crisis struck, all school activities beyond the mandatory were frequently cut—and, unfortunately, it has remaned that way for the ensuing half century.
Of course, because of Vatican II, Catholics were suddenly “hot numbers,” and this was true on the student level as well. On the undergraduate level Temple University in the middle 60s was known as both the largest Jewish and largest Catholic university (!) in terms of numbers of students. I well remember that in those days our general introductory classes (called “Religion and Human Life”) would normally be 40% Catholic and 40% Jewish, and 20% Protestant. In 2014 the percentages would be about 23% Catholic, 3% Jewish, 20% Protestants, and the rest a wild world assortment, including self-proclaimed agnostics and atheists (often my best students!).
It was on the graduate level, however, where the revolution of Vatican II was most dramatically reflected. When I arrived in the fall 1966, there had been only one previous Catholic graduate student, Rodger Van Allen—who became my advisee and wrote his dissertation on the history of Commonweal, a major American Catholic intellectual periodical, and went on to be professor of theology at Villanova University, a large Catholic university in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He is still teaching there as of 2014. A group of about seven Catholic doctoral students came with me that fall, 1966, and by two years later, 1968, there were fifty (50!) Catholic doctoral students in TUDOR! Vatican II had told Catholics to go and investigate the world—and scores of them did by coming to study religion at the “secular” state university, Temple!
My first graduate seminar was on Vatican I, but my second one (1967)—on Vatican II—was quite unusual. Let me recall, first, however, one interesting of that aspect of that first graduate seminar I ever offered. For the first assignment, I asked each student to pick a topic he (they were all “he’s”) wanted to research and to then work up a thorough bibliography. There was one German student—Peter Schreiner (son of a family friend who came to pursue just an MA with TUDOR)—in the seminar who proceeded in stereotypical German fashion to gather a seemingly unending bibliography. After about 200 plus entries, one of the American grad students in panic told him that the Americans wanted him to please stop!
The graduate seminar I offered the second semester was the follow up on Vatican II. I don’t remember the exact number of students, but I recall that all were Catholics save one, who was a Protestant pastor who had spent many years in the Philippines. What made it unusual was that we as a seminar had access to all the documents of Vatican II as they developed in their various stages. This happened because I had quickly become friends with Father William Leahy, He was a young priest of the Philadelphia archdiocese who had finished his doctorate in theology in Rome just before the beginning of the Council and was appointed by Cardinal Krol of Philadel-phia as an “expert” (peritus) to Vatican II, and subsequently made a Secretary of the Council. That meant that he received all the different versions of each document (Shema), so that looking at them chronologically revealed a lot about the forces at play at the Council. Since all the Shemata were in Latin, they were closed books to the average American graduate student, but not to young Catholic priests of the 1960s, since they had been soaked in Latin in their philosophical and especially theological studies—all of their textbooks were in Latin!
Consequently, each of the graduate students chose a Vatican II document (the close of the Council was only a few months past then!) and had the opportunity/burden of going through all of its permutations (modi, that is, suggested changes, submitted by Council Fathers) each had to be considered-accepted-rejected) to write an analysis of it for the seminar. I am sad to say that I did not save any of those seminar papers.
TUDOR was unique in several ways. One, Temple was the first state university (1964) to have a full-fledged department of religion. There were of course departments of Christian theology at many private universities, including our neighbor in Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania, founded by Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century. It was basically a Protestant theological faculty, as were all the others, as already noted. There was the “half-way house,” for example, of the School of Theology at the University of Iowa where the faculty was hired and paid for by the various religions, and the courses were then recognized by the University. I mentioned above that Pat Burke had arranged for me to be interviewed as a candidate for the deanship of the Iowa School of Theology. However, in the end they hired one of their own, George Forell, who was a spell-binding lecturer at Iowa. Eventually, the School of Theology was incorporated into the University—but that was only after TUDOR led the way.
I should say something further about the extraordinary faculty of twenty-one members that Bernard assembled by 1968 or soon thereafter. Only three of the six faculty at Temple when I and the other three new-hires arrived in 1966 remained by 1968 and afterward: Ernest Stoeffler (Protestant History and Theology), the one former member of Conwell School of Theology faculty, Bernard himself (Religious Mysticism), Paul Van Buren (Contemporary Christian Thought), Allen Cutler and Lowell Striker; the latter two did not remain and the sixth’s name eludes my memory. Two others came in 1966 besides Elwyn Smith (Protestant Thought) and myself (Modern Catholic Thought and Interreligious Dialogue), namely, Thomas Dean (Religious Thought) and John Raines (Social Ethics), both young ABDs. The faculty of 1968 included in addition to the four Catholics already mentioned—1) Patrick Burke (Modern Catholic Theology/ Philosophy), 2) Gerard Sloyan (New Testament and Catholic Theology), 3) Roderick Hindery (Comparative Ethics), 4) myself—5) Franklin Littell (Church-State Relations and Holocaust Studies), 6) Richard DeMartino (Zen Buddhism), 7) Leonard Barrett (African and Caribbean Religions), 8) Samuel Laeuchli (Christian Patristics), 9) Ismail al Faruqi (Islamics), 10) Bibhuti Yadav (Indian Religions), 9) Maurice Friedman (Religion and Literature and Buber Studies), 10) Robert Gordis (Hebrew Bible), and slightly later Charles 11) Fu (Chinese Religions and Buddhism). In addition to myself and Smith, I was also responsible for hiring Patrick Burke, Franklin Littell, and al Faruqi—and later, in the wake of the 1979 Khomeini Iranian revolution, Seyyed Hossein Nasr.
Speaking of personnel matte I was responsible for, or at least partly…. because I was interested in teaching at Temple University Japan (TUJ) for a year, Tom Dean, who was likewise interested, proposed that he would serve as Director of Graduate Religious Studies for a year, during which I could go to Japan, if I would take over the Graduate Director position when I returned so he could go to Japan—I agreed.
So, I became Director of Graduate Religion Studies 1991-1993. When I started, I went through all the graduate student files, and brought everyone in line, performing several “rescue operation” in the process. Example, Brian Victoria was at the dissertation stage and had been a student of Charles Fu. Unfortunately Charles was going through a difficult personal time, and Brian was caught by the waves caused. So, I took over as dissertation advisor; he finished spectacularly, his dissertation on the complicity of Zen Buddhism (of which he is also a certified Roshi) in the imperial wars of twentieth-century Japan, being reviewed in the New York Times, and was the cause of the two major Zen institutions in Japan publicly expressing their apologies.
Another initial development occurred at TUJ when Arlene and I taught there 1989-91. We theoretically already had the possibility of setting up an MA program, and so I launched it in TUJ, and in fact, several graduate students did take graduate level courses at TUJ, and one that I know of in fact did complete his MA in religion at TUJ.
I set up a similar MA program combining Religion and Journalism, and again, at least one student finished such a joint MA. Hmmm, it is clear that to be a successful serial entrepenure, you have to be able to set structures and personnel in place that will carry the project on after you hand it off. I knew/know that, and work hard to follow through in that way. So far, I have been successful while I am alive in a few cases, and have done my best to secure the AL (“After Len”) life of those institutions. By the nature of things, I cannot be certain this side of the grave—but do my best in setting up structures and inspiring/training adequate successors.
A second successful “rescue operation” was with Racelle Weiman, an American/Israeli who was working with Franklin Littell. She, however, because of personal circumstances, was far over the time limit, and had to reapply, and retake her Comprehensive Exams. I took over the position of Advisor, and arranged for the written Comprehensives Exams to be taken at the University of Haifa, where Racelle was teaching, and then for the oral Comprehensive Exams to be taken in my hotel room in Washington during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion with Professors Sloyan, Littell, and myself examining; she went on to become the Founding Director of the “Center for Holocaust and Humanities Studies” at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, and later the first Director of the “Dialogue Institute: Interreligious, Intercultural, International” at Temple University.
Slightly less dramatic was the “rescue operation” of Steve Antinoff, who was a student of Richard DeMartino (see Steve’s essay about Richard in th3 TUDOR volume). Steve was teaching in TUJ, as was also Tom Dean, who was also on Steve’s dissertation committee. I arranged during a trip through Tokyo on my way to Korea to stop to have the oral Comprehensive Exam of Steve’s at TUJ with Richard on the phone—all before the existence of the World Wide Web.
I promoted the TUDOR doctoral program vigorously while Director of Graduate Religion Studies with various forms of advertising. Having done doctoral studies in Germany, I was very aware that the great majority of German PhDs in theology did not end up teaching at universities; in fact, only a small percentage did. Most simply found appropriate work in the “real world.” I made the case to potential American and international doctoral students that university level teaching was not the only prospective gainful employment available to religion PhDs. As a result, thirty to thirty-five new students came each fall semester I was the Director (meaning that seventy were admitted, but only about half actually came—usually because of financial considerations). Consequently, during those years and immediately following, TUDOR had normally 165 active doctoral students (!) —doubtless the largest in North America, and probably in the world! My successor as Director, Shiganori Ngatomo, continued the same policies, with similar results.
Unfortunately, matters took a decided turn for the worse in 1996, when James England was hired away from Swarthmore College and made Provost. He then set about downgrading many graduate programs of the University. He unilaterally mandated that TUDOR immediately cut its intake of doctoral students more than in half! At that time TUDOR had thirty teaching assistants, which of course meant that seven or eight were available to redistribute each year to the incoming thirty-five doctoral students. By my higher mathematics, that meant that twenty-seven or eight were tuition-paying doctoral students. I then sat down and figured out conservatively the financial loss of funds from the forbidden doctoral students. I simply multiplied the annual tuition for instate students, times the missing twenty-seven students for the first year. I then added the same amount for the second year—plus the same amount for the first “cohort’s” second year of tuition. The same also was true for the third year, plus, of course the second cohort’s missing second-year tuition. All in all, figuring very conservatively, over a three-year period, Temple University lost $500,000 (1990s dollars!). That would have paid the salaries for at least three to four middle-level professors for those three years!
I sent all that carefully laid-out data to Provost England, asking what his rationale for the demanded cut in graduate students was. I eventually received a curt “send it up the chain of command” reply. Unfortunately, neither our Chair nor our Dean went to bat for our graduate program, which consequently has continued to be seriously weakened.
Thus, while the first half of the 1990s drew the highest number of TUDOR doctoral students (165), it was also a devastating decade for the faculty. It was during the 1990s that many of our outstanding older faculty left, retired, or died, and were—or were not!—replaced by younger scholars. We lost, e.g., Gerard Sloyan to the then prevailing law of mandatory retirement (age, 70)—who as of 2014 is still teaching at the Catholic University of America and Georgetown University at age 94, and still publishing scholarly articles and books. Richard DeMartino retired to care for his slowly dying mother; Zalman Schachter took early retirement to go live and teach in Israel; Charles Fu was hired away by his homeland Taiwan, and was building a fantastic bridge of cooperation with TUDOR when he suddenly died from post-surgery infection for what turned out to be a benign tumor; Gerhard Spiegler was hired away as a College President; Patrick Burk went into American politics with the Libertarian Party, Bibhuti Yadav died of a stroke; slightly earlier (1986) Ismail al-Faruqi and his wife Lois (who also taught part time in TUDOR) were murdered by an African-American convert to Islam (Ismail had taught him while he was in prison); Thomas Dean took early retirement so his wife could accept a tenure-track teaching position in a mid-west college (sadly, after a year she decided not to continue teaching—too late for Tom to return.
Paul Van Buren retired to work in Israel, and died later of a recurrence of cancer, and John Raines retired in 2011, but could not stand the boredom, and so teaches an Honors course per semester as an adjunct. As of 2014 [now 2021], the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of TUDOR, I, Leonard Swidler, am the only full-time (or, indeed, part time) teaching faculty member from that Pioneer cohort.
Today we have multiple halls where large numbers of students can gather for classes or other events. However, in the early years after Temple became a state-related university in 1966, there was only one large space, and it didn’t even belong to the university, namely, “The Baptist Temple” on Broad Street. Today it is part of the university and has been interiorly renovated into a splendid performance and lecture auditorium, but then it was still belonged to an active church congregation. It was a splendid facility, holding up to two thousand. TUDOR made use of it at least four times in first decade of its existence; I organized three of them.
The first was really the most awesome. It took place in the spring semester of 1968. My wife Arlene had translated from German to English at least two of the books of the then world-famous Catholic Moral Theologian Bernard Haring. During the summer of 1967, when the enthusiasm of Vatican Council II (1962-65) was still in full bloom, Arlene and I both taught at a summer conference in Washington, D.C., along with Haring. I asked him what he would be doing the next year, and he said that in spring he would be teaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Practicing my hutzpah, I asked him if he would be open to coming down from New York an evening each week to teach a course at TUDOR. He said yes!
After making all the necessary arrangements, I sent word abroad that the course could be for credit or free. As a result 650 persons signed up for the course! At that time the only place large enough to hold the crowd was the Baptist Temple. So every Monday night 550 nuns—still wearing their “penguin habits”—flocked to the church (plus an additional 100 priests and laity). It seemed that each of the nuns also brought along a small tape recorder. When asked about them, each replied that they had groups of 20-50 persons back home (they came from southeastern Pennsylvania, south New Jersey, and northern Delaware) for whom they played it each week! (Thus, figuring on average 20 lay persons hearing Haring’s taped lectures each week for each of the 550 nuns, approximately 11,000 to12,000 heard Haring’s lectures each week—long before the internet!)
That first evening I went with Prof. Ernest Stoeffler, Protestant church historian on our TUDOR faculty—originally from Germany, the land of the Reformation. The first striking image was the sight of 500 Catholic nuns in “penguin-like” habits storming the doors of the largest Protestant church in Philadelphia, “The Baptist Temple” on Philadelphia’s main north-south thoroughfare, Broad Street. When Father Haring went to the podium and said “Good Evening,” all 500 of the nuns responded in one sing-song voice: “Good Evening Father!” I thought Ernie would have a heart attack! “The Reformation has been undone!”
Largely because Arlene was so familiar with Haring’s thought, she was hired to serve as his “Assistant” for the course, and had three graduate student TAs working under her handling the paper work and grading. I of course went every Monday night, and after the first two weeks, Arlene arranged for groups of twenty-five to meet with Haring for an hour ahead of time at the nearby Newman Center, and we two and a guest or two also got to have dinner with him before the class each week. At the end of each class (which lasted two hours) he prayed for things like: “O Lord, give Cardinal Krol (who was very conservative) the wisdom to see xxxx, and the strength carry it out.”
When dealing with the Vatican II document on the Church in the Modern World (the whole course was on Vatican II), he would relate why certain wording was the way it was because of a struggle in the drafting committee, and he would at times remark: “When I wrote these words, I meant….” It was like listening to a Hebrew Bible prophet speaking in front of you! He was fearless. When I later read his war memoirs, I understood better. Among other escapades, as a medic with Field Marshal von Paulus’ doomed Sixth Army at Stalingrad, the men in his unit came to him and pleaded that he was the only one who could lead them out through the closing pincers movement behind the Nazi army. He said he would try on two conditions: They release the Russian prisoners unharmed, and then lay down their weapons. Fortunately, he had earlier, when moving westward with the Wehrmacht, left behind him a trail of Russian households he—both as a Catholic priest and as a medic—had befriended. He succeeded. He later wrote this about this experience:
As we broke out of the ring around Stalingrad—without weapons—Russian peasants gave me their sleighs and horses so I could take a substantial number of wounded with me. Without the kindness of the Russian populace at that time we would have starved and frozen to death—and had we survived, we would have been taken prisoner. When at the capitulation of our armies I became a Russian prisoner of war, courageous Poles freed me from prison and without any higher approval made me their pastor.
It was amazing to learn at his feet!
There were three other occasions in the very late 60s and early 70s when we had to press into service the Baptist Temple. One was when I invited Professor Hans Kung to lecture, and again there was no hall large enough to contain the crowd. The second was similar when Professor Edward Schillebeeckx at Pat Burke’s and my invitation came to lecture at Temple—the crowd overwhelmed all other available halls, except the Baptist Temple. All three of these “rock-star” theologians were indeed theological stars at Vatican II, and hence were household names, especially, but not only, among Catholics.
The one other time TUDOR made perforce use of the Baptist Temple was when through Ismail al-Faruqi we invited the head of the “Black Muslims,” Wallace Muhammad. Sitting there in the Baptist Temple surrounded by the hundreds of Black American Muslims, I felt like I really was in a Baptist church! Wallace’s lecture, that is, “sermon,” was a “low Christology” with which I personally felt very comfortable, while all around me the “congregants” were interjecting and shouting “Allah Wakbar!” instead of “Alleuja!” (they both mean “Praise God,” one Arabic and the other Hebrew).
TUDOR has had over the years an extraordinarily broad and deep relationship with German scholarship—which makes a lot of sense since outside of the English language the greatest amount and greatest quality of research in the fields of religion and philosophy have been in German since the eighteenth century. To begin, of the early core of TUDOR’s initial extra-ordinary faculty, seven either had German doctoral degrees or whose mother tongue was German. To begin, the “Founding” Professor Ernest Stoeffler was from Germany. The others were Gerhard Spiegler, whose mother tongue was German, as well as Samuel Laeuchli from Switzlerland, and Zalman Schachter, raised in, and fled from, Vienna. Then there were the German-trained Ausländer: Paul van Buren whose doctorate was earned under Karl Barth at Basel, Switzerland, the Australian Patrick Burke, who earned his Doctor of Theology at the University of Munich, Franklin Littell who spent nine years in Germany at the end of World War II renewing the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland of Nazi muck, and myself with my Catholic Theology degree (besides my PhD in philosophy and intellectual history from the University of Wisconsin) from the university of Tübingen.
Over the years TUDOR sponsored multiple public academic lecture series auf deutsch, and even put on a quite stunning Ringvorlesung auf deutsch (Lecture Series of twelve weeks in German) of lectures on Jewish-Christian Dialogue by twelve professors held in the Religion Department, Spring, 1980. I personally also offered several semesters graduate seminars on doing research in German, spending all our time in the research section of the main library working our way through all the German language reference tools there—which are neglected to their peril by religious studies scholars.
Then there were the extraordinary student, and later, faculty exchanges I set up with the University of Tübingen and the University of Hamburg, and eventually all the universities of West Germany. Several faculty members from Tübingen and from Hamburg taught as Exchange Professors one or more semesters at TUDOR, and I and other TUDOR faculty taught semesters at those two universities.
Doubtless, even more significant was the exchange program for ten German students to come to TUDOR every year for a year. This was mainly a one-way exchange program with German universities, and lasted around twenty years, bringing two hundred German graduate students to TUDOR for a year of intense study with no cost to either Temple University or the German universities, or the governments, or the students! The resulting international and, personal, and interpersonal value was/is in invaluable—and cost free!
That program led to joint seminars with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Luther-an Seminary, which was always heavily peopled by the exchange German graduate students who were eager to meet with Jewish intellectuals living a full Jewish academic/religious life (Remember, Germany was Judenrein!). Perhaps sixty percent of the ten German students each year earned a TUDOR MA, and a further perhaps eight or ten stayed and did a doctorate with us.
There were perhaps two “capstone” programs with Germany. For the 1979/80 academic year I wrote to sixty university faculty members all over Europe with the proposal described just below. The responses were uniformly negative from France, Spain, Holland, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and Rumania. However, instead of just one or two positive responses from Germany there were thirteen! Nine were universities: Freiburg imBr, Tübingen, Heidelberg, Bonn, Duisburg, Münster, West Berlin, East Berlin, and Regensburg, plus four Catholic and Protestant Academies (conference centers), Aachen, Arnoldshain, West Berlin, and East Berlin).
We at Temple University would conduct a graduate seminar on Jewish-Christian relations fall 1979 and spring 1980 in conjunction with the German universities, at the end of which we would come to Germany/Austria for face-to-face dialogues. We were four professors (Sloyan, Catholic; van Buren, Episcopal; Schachter, Jewish; and Swidler, Catholic), and thirteen graduate students, six Jewish, four Protestant, and three Catholic.
We all travelled together for over one month, the funding coming from a special grant from the West German Foreign Office that I was able to solicit. The impact on the Americans was stunning; the effect on the Germans was staggering! A glimpse of it may be found in the Special Issue of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies devoted to it. Just a word on how it began. We flew first to Brussels on Sabena Airlines because that was the closest to our first destination, Aachen, Germany. As we waited for the arrival of our luggage, Zalman and I walked out to the front of the airport to check on our bus. As we came out, Zalman looked up and said, “Len, the last time I looked at this Belgian sky it was full of Stuka Dive Bombers.” I knew what Stukas were, but I had never experienced them screaming down preparing to drop their bombs on me. Moments like that occurred all throughout the trip—life-altering!
Let me add that Zalman was born in Galicia, Poland, and grew up in Vienna. After the Anschluss, the Nazi takeover, in 1938, Zalman’s father smuggled his family to the Belgian border, only to be betrayed and left standing by the smuggler. He later tried again, and this time succeeded, giving them two years breathing before the Stukas and the Blitzkrieg roared in. Zalman and family fled south before the invading armies to Switzerland, only to be refused entry. The father then was eventually able to get the family on a French boat in Marseille across the Mediterranean to French North Africa, and from there across the hump of Africa to Dakar, and then via ship to South America, and then Caribbean island-hopping until they at long last landed in Brooklyn, and safety. This “going home again” for Zalman—and all of us with him—was an irreplaceable experience. This was indeed Deep-Dialogue!
Quite independently, the Reconstructionist Movement within Judaism wanted to start its own seminary, and wanted to do so in conjunction with a public university. Intimate to this planning was Rabbi Arthur Gilbert, who knew about the Swidler/Smth/JES move to Temple, and so approached Swidler about a possible collaboration. The upshot was that the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College was set up on North Broad Street physically contiguous to Temple and arranged that they would accept students for rabbinical training only if they were at the same time accepted into the TUDOR doctoral program. This provided a steady flow of bright Jewish graduate students in TUDOR, while the religious spread of the faculty also drew a wide range of students from different religions and cultures.
I mentioned earlier that JES took on its first non-Christian Associate Editor already before the second volume was finished, in 1967, and that Associate Editor was Rabbi Arthur Gilbert. Arthur was trained in Reform Judaism and worked most of his adult life in the field of interreligious dialogue, spending for a number of years during the 1960s in the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ). During that period he was the Executive Director of the “Committee on Religion in the Social Studies Curriculum” of the NCCJ, and that was when I met him at Duquesne University, and invited him to become an Associate Editor of JES. It was in that same period that Arthur also became intimately involved with the Jewish Reconstructionist Movement, founded by Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan and Rabbi Ira Eisenstein in the 1930s.
Various trajectories came together in the latter 1960s, with Vatican II and its commitment to Dialogue, the beginning of the “Second Wave of Feminism” with Betty Friedan’s 1963 book The Feminine Mystique, the Civil Rights Movement, TUDOR being founded in 1964, adding Rabbi Gilbert to the staff of JES in 1965, Temple University becoming a State-Related university in 1966, Swidler and JES joining TUDOR in 1966, Rabbi Gilbert joining the Reconstructionist Movement administration in 1967.
Ira Eisenstein and Arthur Gilbert were the major figures planning the establishment of a Rabbinic Seminary for the Reconstructionist Movement in the late 1960s. When it was founded in 1968, Ira was the first President and Arthur the first Dean. They decided that they wanted to found the seminary in a close relationship to a major university. Serendipitously—or Providentially?—Arthur knew of my and JES’s move to TUDOR and Chair Bernard Phillips’ commitment to gathering a faculty of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist…. critically-trained scholars, and so telephoned me to ask whether there might be an openness to exploring a relationship between a newly founded Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) and TUDOR. I assured him that Bernard would not only be open, but enthusiastic. The result was that the RRC bought property on North Broad Street adjacent to Temple University and mandated that for acceptance to study at RRC a student would have to be simultaneously accepted into the Ph.D. program at TUDOR! Thus for about the next two decades TUDOR had a constant trove of highly trained Jewish doctoral students. Unfortunately, this arrangement was taken so for granted that when a new RRC president came in, we let him get so far into land negotiations in the suburbs that the physical move of the RRC could not be stopped, which sadly soon also led to the loss of the mandated Jewish TUDOR doctoral students.
These were some of the extraordinary accomplishments of various elements of TUDOR in its amazing early decades. I hope that besides remembering the past, and those extraordinary scholars who made TUDOR so extraordinary, these recollections will also encourage TUDOR in the future to take pride in its extraordinary beginning decades, and continue to make its own creative contribution to humanity in the future.
1See Leonard Swidler, The Ecumenical Vanguard (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1965).
2Hans Küng, ssss; Jospeh Ratzinger, dddddd
3Lowell Streiker, “The Modern Jewish-Christian Dialogue, Journal of Ecumenical Studies, II, 2 (spring, 1965), pp. 179-188.
4Leonard Swidler, “Religion and Higher Education,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, II, 1 (Winter, 1965), pp. 97-99.
5http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,9413410-1,00.html, October 20, 1965 Time—accessed 6/14/13.