Mark Drogin was born in Los Angeles in 1945. His family had a strong Jewish identity but were not religious. In 1969, Mark married Janis Engel who was also Jewish. Even though Mark and Janis were not practicing Jews, they were married by a rabbi at her family’s Jewish Temple. They joined a group of hippies who did not use drugs and were looking for some meaning in life.
This small group examined all the different religions they could find and were confronted with this question: What is the difference between Jesus Christ and Buddha? The answer turned them toward Christ when they realized that Jesus came to give meaning to suffering; Buddha and other religions seemed to deny — or at least avoid — suffering, and saw no meaning or value in suffering. In contrast, Jesus came to suffer; He gave meaning to human suffering. In fact, he is called the Suffering Servant of Isaiah.
Recognizing that Jesus Christ was unique among all religious leaders was a major turning point, but it still took another two or three years to find “the Church” that Jesus said He would build on Peter. The Catholic Church was the last place the group expected to find it, but gradually the Holy Spirit kept moving them closer to the Bishop of Rome. In 1974 Mark and Janis were baptized in the Catholic Church and had their marriage blessed. Janis took Elasah (a Hebrew name meaning “made by God”) for her baptismal name. They had five children at the time and their marriage was blessed with seven more after they came into the Church. Now they have a dozen grandchildren.
From the first recognition of the uniqueness of the Suffering of Servant of Isaiah, it was obvious to Mark and Elasah that Jesus of Nazareth was Jewish and fulfilled all the Jewish prophecies about the Messiah, that this son of Joseph was the Messiah of Israel. However, it was years before they realized that the majority of Christians and Catholics are not aware of Jesus’ Jewish identity. In Mark’s apostolic work for the Church, this awareness of the Jewish roots of the Church has become the central pastoral issue. There are many Magisterial documents affirming the fundamental importance of the Church’s relation to and growth from Judaism.
The Drogins met Fr. Arthur Klyber, a Jewish priest, 27 years ago — the same year they became Catholics. Fr. Klyber was born to Orthodox Jewish parents in 1900 in New York City. While serving in the U.S. Navy, he was baptized a Catholic. Five years later, Klyber was in a Redemptorist Seminary and was ordained in 1932. Fr. Klyber worked throughout his priesthood to educate Catholics about Judaism and to help inquiring Jews learn about Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. With all other Jews who become Catholics, Father Klyber constantly professed that he never left Judaism. [Note: following Cardinal Lustiger, the Archbishop of Paris, we do not apply the phrase "fulfilled (or completed) Jew" to ourselves. We are all pilgrims and only in Jesus are any of us "complete" or "fulfilled."]
In 1976, Fr. Klyber asked Mark and Elasah to continue the work he had been doing for nearly 50 years. Mark and Elasah were honored and gratefully said yes. The three formed Remnant of Israel, a non-profit corporation. Although Fr. Klyber remained active into his 90s, the apostolate was gradually turned over to Mark who has been the executive director now for nearly ten years. In addition to its pastoral and educational efforts, Remnant of Israel has published several books about Judaism and the Church. In 1998 Mark started a new publication called Hear, O Israel! — A Journal of Dialogue for Reconciliation to promote Catholic-Jewish understanding.
With most of their children grown, Mark and Elasah recently moved to Irving, Texas, because Mark felt called to study scripture and theology at the University of Dallas in Irving. Through his work in Catholic-Jewish relations and with the Church’s growth in understanding of our Jewish roots, Mark saw a wonderful opportunity to expand the work of Remnant of Israel with the help of further study at the University of Dallas.
Mark has grown into a deep devotion to St. Joseph in the last several years, often pointing out that Joseph is from the Tribe of Judah and the Holy Family is a Jewish family. More importantly, through devotion to St. Joseph, one learns to trust in divine providence. Mark and Elasah are trying to learn to do this as they continue seeking to do His Will and to remain open to the awesome surprises God puts in our lives.
At this point in his studies, Mark is examining the expectations of Israel 2000 years ago regarding the One Who Is To Come. The theological dialogue inside the Church and between the Church and Judaism centers around this question leading to the question asked by Jesus Himself: “Who do you say that I AM?” Going forward from the Great Jubilee, our Holy Father seems to be calling all people of faith to seek answers to these questions that were foremost 2000 years ago. This approach leads to a deeper understanding of the Gospel, which in turn helps us to proclaim the Gospel in the third millennium.
You can email Mark here.