The Nun in the Synagogue

Judeocentric Catholicism in Israel

By (author) Emma ODonnell Polyakov

Hardback - £59.95

Publication date:

11 September 2020

Length of book:

242 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271087252

The Nun in the Synagogue documents the religious and cultural phenomenon of Judeocentric Catholicism that arose in the wake of the Holocaust, fueled by survivors who converted to Catholicism and immigrated to Israel as well as by Catholics determined to address the anti-Judaism inherent in the Church. Through an ethnographic study of selected nuns and monks, Emma O’Donnell Polyakov explores how this Judeocentric Catholic phenomenon began and continues to take shape in Israel.

This book is a case study in Catholic perceptions of Jews, Judaism, and the state of Israel during a time of rapidly changing theological and cultural contexts. In it, Polyakov listens to and analyzes the stories of individuals living on the border between Christian and Jewish identity—including Jewish converts to Catholicism who continue to harbor a strong sense of Jewish identity and philosemitic Catholics who attend synagogue services every Shabbat. Polyakov traces the societal, theological, and personal influences that have given rise to this phenomenon and presents a balanced analysis that addresses the hermeneutical problems of interpreting Jews through Christian frameworks. Ultimately, she argues that, despite its problems, this movement signals a pluralistic evolution of Catholic understandings of Judaism and may prove to be a harbinger of future directions in Jewish-Christian relations.

Highly original and methodologically sophisticated, The Nun in the Synagogue is a captivating exploration of biographical narratives and reflections on faith, conversion, Holocaust trauma, Zionism, and religious identity that lays the groundwork for future research in the field.

“A fascinating, intelligent, and sensitive presentation of Judeocentric views shared by Roman Catholic priests, nuns, and monks living in the State of Israel. Necessary reading for those interested in Jewish-Catholic relations, ethnography, and the intertwined phenomena of antisemitism and philosemitism.”

—Amy-Jill Levine, author of The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus