The drafting of Nostra Aetate 4 is the peak of the
Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies’ efforts to raise the
consciousness of believers that the Church and Judaism are both rooted
in the history of salvation. Personally, I am grateful to have been
chosen to write the study of truths on which the Church’s life
– Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher, Founding Director
Established at Seton Hall on March 23, 1953 by Monsignor
John M. Oesterreicher, the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies is the
oldest institution in the world dedicated to Jewish-Christian Studies
and is the founder of the only Jewish-Christian Studies graduate
program in the United States.
A true visionary, Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher dedicated his life to the
service of God and to the ministry of reconciliation between Christians
and the Jewish people.
Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher (center, second row from top) at his 1927 ordination
Monsignor's untiring efforts began in Austria, where he was born in 1904. A Jewish convert to the Catholic faith, Father Oesterreicher was ordained to the priesthood in 1927 and devoted his early years in the priesthood to parish work, ecumenism and peace.
Monsignor's experiences in Vienna led him to vigorously and
publicly denounce Nazi persecution and Adolph Hitler’s glorification of
race and hatred for Jews in print through Die Erfüllung, a
journal he founded and edited from 1934-1938. Father Oesterreicher was
subjected to interrogation by the Nazis and considered an enemy of the
Reich for his views in 1938.
Father Oesterreicher eventually fled to Paris following
the annexation of Austria. Upon his arrival in Paris, he began
making weekly underground radio broadcasts that condemned Nazi tyranny
and called for Austrian resistance. Wanted by the Gestapo, Father
Oesterreicher left Paris the week the Nazi troops entered the city and
travelled circuitously through Spain and Portugal, finally arriving in
the United States via the SS Exeter November 12, 1940.
several parishes in New York City, Father Oesterreicher was invited to
Seton Hall University in March 1953 and became founding director of the
Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies.
1960s – 1970s
From the beginning of the Institute’s creation, Father Oesterreicher
continued to foster a positive understanding of Judaism and the Jewish
people among Christians through lectures in the United States and
Europe and through research, book and journal publications in English
and German, including those published in The Bridge, a series
of five volumes of scholarly research published by the Institute from
Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher (center) with Pope Saint John XXIII
Only seven years after founding the Institute in 1960, Father
Oesterreicher responded to Pope John XXIII’s call for an ecumenical
council by petitioning Augustin Cardinal Bea to probe the relation of
the Church to the Jewish people. Father Oesterreicher’s work resulted
in his becoming a principal architect of the "Statement on
the Church’s Bond to the Jewish People" within
Nostra Aetate, 4. This watershed document laid
the foundation for positive Jewish-Christian relations and influenced
the work of countless individuals as well as episcopal conferences and
bishops throughout the world.
Father Oesterreicher was subsequently
named an Honorary Prelate with the title, "Monsignor," in recognition of
In 1975, ten years after the close of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), Monsignor Oesterreicher was successful in launching the world’s first Jewish-Christian Studies Graduate Program at Seton Hall University in 1975. The new program was initially financed by Ms. H.
Suzanne Jobert, and in addition to Monsignor Oesterreicher, the
original founding full-time faculty members included Rabbi Asher Finkel, one of the first Orthodox rabbis to
teach religion at a Catholic university, and Lawrence E. Frizzell, Associate Professor in the
Department of Religion and current Director of both the Institute of
Judaeo-Christian Studies and the M.A. in Jewish-Christian Studies
1980s – 1990s
The 1980s and the 1990s continued to be a period of expansion for
the Institute as we increasingly provided scholarships to the growing
number of students enrolled in the M.A. program, progressively offered
lectures throughout the United States and Europe and regularly
published scholarly articles in various journals and in the Teshuvah Institute Papers, which the Institute founded at
Seton Hall University in 1970.
Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher
February 2, 1904 - April 18, 1993
Monsignor Oesterreicher actively pursued the challenges of
articulating the Church’s vision and devotedly continued his dialogue
between Catholics and Jews until his death on April 18, 1993 at the age
Monsignor’s peaceful pursuits and contribution to the
reconciliation of Catholics and Jews were so significant and
far-reaching, the Catholic nonprofit, Our Sunday Visitor,
named him one of eight extraordinary priests who influenced the world.
College of Arts and Sciences Dean Bernhard Scholz's following
proclamation on the occasion of Monsignor Oesterreicher’s fiftieth
ordination to the priesthood best sums up our director's extraordinary impact:
Rarely has a life over five decades been dedicated so
singlemindely to so necessary and noble a goal; and rare indeed must be
the man in the Church whose concerns and hopes became, within his
lifetime, the policies of popes and a general council of the
2000 – Present
The Rev. Dr. Lawrence E. Frizzell (left) with Pope Saint John Paul II
The Reverend Dr. Lawrence E. Frizzell, Monsignor Oesterreicher’s
colleague and successor, has faithfully carried out the mission of the
Institute since 1993.
Father Frizzell's dedication to his vocation and to the
ministry of reconciliation between Christians and the Jewish people
prompted Pope Benedict XVI to appoint him as
Consultor to the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews
in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 2008. Pope Francis renewed Father Frizzell's appointment in 2014 for another period of five years.
Father Frizzell’s guidance, the Institute continues to make a
significant local, regional and global impact in our world. As we
celebrate our 62nd anniversary, we progressively look forward to
advancing and strengthening Jewish-Christian relations among a new
generation of scholars, theologians, educators and students who are
committed to promoting universal peace through their shared values,
practices and traditions.