Breakthrough to Dialogue: The Story of Temple University Department of Religion
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Breakthrough to Dialogue: The Story of Temple University Department of Religion

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Edited by Professor Leonard Swidler

“The challenge of religious and political pluralism has become critical in the 21st Century as some warn and others promote a clash of civilization or cultures. Breakthrough to Dialogue, Leonard Swidler (ed.), will be welcomed by scholars, religious leaders, policymakers, and others who seek to train, develop, and implement an agenda for change.

This volume chronicles the creation and history of Temple's Department of Religion (TUDOR) in which Bernard Phillips, its founding chair, and Swidler with other "star" professors and their students pioneered, a unique and path-breaking initiative: requiring a one-year introduction to World Religions and that students major in one religion and minor in two others. TUDOR, under Swidler, also introduced the Journal of Ecumenical Studies and later the creation of the Dialogue Institute which promoted inter-religious dialogue globally.”

John L. Esposito, University Professor and Professor of Religion & International Affairs at Georgetown University

This is the story of a group of pioneering professors who in 1966 brought their diverse traditions into Temple University’s Department of Religion and explored whether they could learn from and understand each other. Temple’s religion program was already breaking new ground as one of the first such departments in a public university. From the beginning, Temple had made an effort to hire scholars of different religious backgrounds and beliefs: Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and those who adhered to no organized religion. With the worldwide strife of that decade as a backdrop, they began to see whether they, as a microcosm of a troubled globe, could help people from different communities and beliefs learn to tolerate and appreciate each other.

Those first efforts have taken root and grown in significance over the years providing insight, practical steps forward and a measure of hope. This growth has given us a path leading to greater understanding, respect, and acceptance of differences in our world.