Joseph Palmisano explores the interreligious significance of empathy for Jewish-Christian understanding. Drawing on the writings of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) and Edith Stein (1891-1942), he develops a phenomenological category of empathy defined as a way of "re-membering" oneself with the religious other. Palmisano follows Heschel's and Stein's personal and spiritual journeys through the darkest years of Nazi Germany. He shows that Heschel's call to Christian interlocutors for a return to God is an ecumenical call to humanity to embrace perceived others: a call to live life as a response to God's pathos. This call finds a prophetic answer in Edith Stein's witness of empathy with regard to the Holocaust. Stein, a Catholic, creates a dialectical bridge with the Jewish 'other,' neither distancing herself nor denying her Jewish roots. Stein's simultaneously Jewish and Christian fidelity is a model for interreligious relations. It is also a challenge to Catholics to remember their religion's Jewish heritage through new categories of witnessing and belonging with others.
Beyond the Walls is a critical contribution to the fostering of interreligious understanding, offering both a model of the ideal Jewish-Christian relationship in Heschel and Stein and criteria with which to evaluate contemporary initiatives and controversies concerning interreligious dialogue.