All Roads Lead to Rome

by Rachel Roth
Managing Director
American Conference of Cantors

When the idea for a group of 20 ACC cantors to travel to Rome, Italy for a “Conference on Catholic-Jewish Relations” and to put on a concert at The Vatican was floated at an ACC executive board meeting, I didn’t pay close attention because I thought it was one of those pipe dreams we have when we’re brainstorming. Little did I know the force behind Gunther Lawrence and his dream for a Cantorial Concert at The Vatican. The dream is becoming a reality as the Second Conference on Jewish-Catholic Relations is planned for Rome this November 14-18, 2010–and the Cantorial Concert is a major part of the program which will be held at Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.

Over the last few months, I’ve become acquainted with this man who wrote, The Business of Being a Jew–Behind the Scenes with Pope John Paul II, the importance of Women Rabbis, challenges of Intermarriage, and the future of American Judaism. This book is full of anecdotes and personal experiences that tell the tale of interfaith relationships and how they have developed and changed over the last five decades. It is this history and experience that Gunther brought to his congregation’s cantor, Claire Franco, when he enlisted her support and participation. His brainchild, the Interreligious Information Center, is putting together a 4-day Conference that will bring together North American Reform Jews and Catholics together with Catholic Seminary Students and Vatican officials to discuss the relationship between Jews and Catholics across the world. 

In addition to exchanges on such issues as Pope Pius XII, Israel-Vatican Relations, intermarriage, and outreach to the Muslim community, participants will discuss closer Catholic-Jewish cooperation in their own communities. Representatives of both faiths recognize that the age of the computer and internet challenges the spirituality of church and synagogue members. This especially applies to the younger generation and the unaffiliated. Catholic and Jewish leaders hope that the voices of twenty Cantors singing music of the synagogue before Pope Benedict XVI can help to arouse a deeper commitment of Church and Synagogue members, as well as the unaffiliated and younger generation.

My challenge is how I get across Gunther’s passion for this Conference to be well attended and have real-world impact, his desire for the Cantors’ concert to be a success, and the intricacies of planning an event with The Vatican.

I decided to do what everyone does these days…I’m writing a blog. I intend to take you along with me over the next few months as we plan to get 20 cantors, significant others, a film crew, and congregants of URJ Congregations and North American Catholic Churches to Rome. I hope the blog is as inspiring as my conversations with Gunther and my work with both Cantor Franco and Cantor Roslyn Barak, who are co-chairing the concert portion of the Conference.

If you would like to support the Conference on Catholic-Jewish Relations, the IIC, or the American Conference of Cantors, or if you would like more information on any of these organizations, please email me at or visit our website at I look forward to sharing this journey with you.


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One Response to “All Roads Lead to Rome”

  1. avatar

    I am glad to hear that my Cantor, Nancy Kassel is going to be a participant.

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