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Klenicki, Leon


KLENICKI, LEON (1930– ), rabbi and interfaith leader. Klenicki was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and attended the University of Buenos Aires. He received his B.A. from the University of Cincinnati in 1963 and his M.H.L. and ordination from the *Hebrew Union College in 1967. In 1992, huc-jir awarded him an honorary Ph.D. Immediately after ordination, he returned to Buenos Aires to serve as director of the Latin American Office of the *World Union for Progressive Judaism. In 1969, he was appointed rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El in Buenos Aires. While in Argentina, Klenicki edited and published Spanish and Hebrew versions of a new Reform *siddur, a Passover *Haggadah and (together with Roberto Graetz) a High Holiday *mahzor. He also launched a life-long career in interfaith relations when he addressed the first Latin American meeting of Jews and Catholics in Bogotá, Colombia. This historic conclave, organized by the *Anti-Defamation League and celam (Latin American Episcopal Conference) and held during the visit of Pope Paul vi to the continent, paved the way for future dialogue and interreligious work. Klenicki was authorized by celam and the Argentine Council of Jews and Christians to undertake a study of catechisms and Catholic religious texts, the first of its kind to be done in South America. His final recommendations were presented to the Bishops Conference in Argentina for a revision of the depiction of Jews and Judaism in Catholic texts. He traveled to Rome on behalf of the Council of Jews and Christians for study sessions at the Vatican. He also served as an advisor on interfaith affairs for the daia, the central Jewish organization in Argentina.

In 1973, Klenicki moved to the national headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League in New York City as head of its Jewish-Catholic Relations Department. In 1984, he became director of adl's Department of Interfaith Affairs and the organization's co-representative to the Vatican, holding both these positions until his retirement in 2001 and his elevation to director emeritus, Interfaith Affairs. While at adl he initiated programs with Christian organizations, seminaries and churches to revise and improve the depiction of Jews in their teaching, publications, preaching and liturgy, and lectured throughout the world. He also advised adl on programs and activities involving Jewish-Christian relations in Latin America. Publications he initiated and edited during his tenure at adl include: The Passover Celebration, a Passover Haggadah for an interfaith service published by adl and the Archdiocese of Chicago, the text of which has been translated into Portuguese and Spanish; Face to Face: An Interreligious Bulletin; Du'Siach, a rabbinical interreligious bulletin; In Dialogue, Interfaith Focus; and Nuestro Encuentro, a Spanish-language bulletin directed at the Hispanic community in the United States.

In 2002, Klenicki was appointed the first Hugo Gryn Fellow at The Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations, Cambridge University, England, where he lectured and taught. Concurrently, he was selected as a scholar-at-large at the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute and was a visiting professor of Jewish Theology at Leuven Catholic University in Belgium. He has also taught at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, n.y., and was appointed by the government of Argentina as a member scholar of ceana, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Commission that investigated Nazi activities in Argentina from 1933 to 1945. He was a founding member of the Interfaith Theological Forum, established at the Pope John Paul ii Center in Washington d.c. in 2004. In 2001, the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee honored him for his "outstanding contributions to the work of reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people."

Klenicki has written or edited many published works on Jewish religious thought and interreligious dialogue. Among the most notable are A Dictionary of the Christian-Jewish Dialogue (co-edited with Geoffrey Wigoder, 2004); In Our Time: The Flowering of Jewish-Catholic Dialogue (with Dr. Eugene J. Fisher, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1990); A Challenge Long Delayed: The Diplomatic Exchange Between the Holy See and the State of Israel (1996, documenting the Vatican's historic recognition of Israel); Believing Today: Jew and Christian in Conversation (with Rev. Richard John Neuhaus and Father Peter Stravinskas, 1989); and Toward a Theological Encounter: Jewish Understandings of Christianity (1991).

[Bezalel Gordon]

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