New Institute to Open Jewish-Christian Dialog
An Israeli institute in Jerusalem has received a $2.2 million grant in Jewish Theology from a U.S-based philanthropic organization. The Herzl Institute is a new research facility focusing on the development of Jewish thought and will use the money for the purpose of teaching Jewish religious texts to both Christians and Jews. The alliance reflects a new and exciting relationship developing between Christians and Jews the likes of which has never really been seen before.
As Yoram Hazony, the president of Herzl, says, “[It] is not the old kind of interfaith dialogue where Christians talked about their Messiah and Jews talked about their Messiah and everybody agrees to disagree.” Rather, this new partnership is one where Christians are willing to look at Judaism and its texts through Jewish eyes with Jewish lecturers. Hazony believes that for a long time people were not interested in hearing what Jews have to say, but times are finally changing.
I think this is a good sign and a great first step. We have learned in class that the Old Testament has laid an indespensible foundation for Christians’ faith and is essential for understanding the meaning of the New Testament. As for the rest of the Jewish texts, our textbook mentions that historically Christians have paid little attention to the various apocryphal books, but I would say that there is still lots to learn from them as well.
The two religions have a lot in common, but are also very distinct traditions. The textbook brings up some interesting points about the unique connection between Christians and Jews, stating “For Jews, Christianity is a systematic distortion of Jewish religion that creates something almost totally unrecognizable.” It also quotes Eliezer Segal, who notes that “Judaism can exist without Christianity but Christianity is totally dependent on Judaism for its basic frame of reference.” I think this is why Herzl’s initiative would benefit both faiths in a way that would respect their complicated relationship – Christians could learn more about their Hebraic roots and Jews could have a chance to share their stories and knowledge. They have much to offer each other, and this trade-off seems like a very good place to start.