Archbishop Rozanski joining Rabbi Stiffman to speak to St. Louis Jewish community for first time


Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman (left) and Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski

This Sunday, two men, both leaders in their respective religious communities will come together to speak about what it means to be a “good neighbor” as well as create a bit of local history. The two men are as alike as they are different, and have unique a bond that they both hope can be emblematic in a time of great tension in our society because of increased polarization in the political, ideological and religious arenas.

“This will be the first time that Archbishop Rozanski will speak publicly in the Jewish community since he has arrived in St. Louis,” said Rabbi Jim Bennett of Congregation Shaare Emeth.

Rozanski, who became the archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 2020 will be joined by his friend, Rabbi Emeritus Jeffrey Stiffman.

“Since arriving Archbishop Rozanski’s arrival in St. Louis the two have forged a friendship and are seen as role models for this partnership,” said Bennett.

Stiffman and Rozanski

As it would turn out, both Stiffman and Rozanski are originally from Baltimore.

“I sent him a note when the announcement was made that he was coming to St. Louis. I welcomed him as a fellow Baltimore native and expressed the hope that we could meet soon,” remembers Stiffman. “He responded warmly and we talked on the phone when he arrived. He mentioned that certain Baltimore delicacies were not available outside of Baltimore.”

A true Baltimoreian, Stiffman just happened to have some of these delicacies in his freezer, and a dinner date was arranged.

“He did come and Arlene and I really, really liked him. He is down-to-earth, kind and has a warm personality,” said Stiffman.

Soon, the two began finding ways to work together. They partnered on a Zoom program for rabbis and Catholic seminarians on the anniversary of the Vatican Council’s statement on the Jews, “Nostra aetate.”

“I related how this changed Catholic-Jewish relations for the better. We deeply respect each other and can honestly discuss similarities and differences in our faith,” said Stiffman.

That deep respect and working chemistry led to the program their program Sunday, entitled “Good Neighbors: The Rabbi and the Archbishop in Dialogue and Friendship.” 

“Being Good Neighbors requires hard work, and starts with dialogue, friendship and openness,” said Bennett. “We want to invite the Jewish community to attend and join in this dialogue.”

That dialogue, according to Stiffman will emphasize the positive without neglecting the negative.

“People will be allowed to ask questions for a large part of the program, and we’ll be candid. But, I also hope people in attendance will perhaps leave with more knowledge of the other’s faith. Perhaps more of a motivation to work for the unity of people,” said Stiffman. “Religious leaders need to lead the way in bringing us together.”

Why being “Good Neighbors” is important

In today’s fragmented society, it is worth noting that religious affiliation is lessening. Both Stiffman and Rozanski recognize this and believe they have important insights and values that can help to keep our society together.

“When I was married two weeks after I graduated from Loyola, Catholic friends had to receive a dispensation to come to our wedding in our synagogue,” said Stiffman. “The world has changed drastically, but some forces are trying to divide people of different faiths and promote divisions among us. Our area and our state need to emphasize “Good” and “neighbors” if we are to survive as a country.

“Good Neighbors: The Rabbi and the Archbishop in Dialogue and Friendship,” with Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski, the Archbishop of the Diocese of St. Louis and Rabbi Emeritus Jeffrey Stiffman will take placeSunday, April 30 at 7 p.m. at Shaare Emeth, 11645 Ladue Road.

For more information or to register online to attend, or call 314-569-0010. This class is part of the Schneider Interfaith Forum made possible through the generosity of Harvey and Leanne Schneider.