Saturday, May 31, 2008

'Rescuing God from Extremism:': First Orthodox Jewish Center to Dialogue with Christians Opens in Israel

'Rescuing God from Extremism:': First Orthodox Jewish Center to Dialogue with Christians Opens in Israel

EFRAT, Israel, May 28 /Christian Newswire/ -- For the first time in the history of Jewish-Christian relations, an Orthodox Jewish institution has opened its doors to theological dialogue and fellowship with Christians. The Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation (CJCUC) is located in Efrat, Israel, and its mission is rooted in Isaiah 1:18: "Come, let us reason together." It will open officially on June 1. "We are certain that through these dialogues we will find more that unites us than divides us," said the Center's founder, Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Shlomo Riskin. CJCUC is currently building a facility for 36 lodging rooms, classrooms and a conference center for 350 people.

When asked why now, Rabbi Riskin responded, "A sea change has occurred since the Shoah (Holocaust). Most churches now teach that G-d remains faithful to His covenant with the Jewish people, and that the Biblical promise is continually being reaffirmed by the Jewish return to its homeland in Zion." CJCUC will highlight the theological and historical significance of the Land of Israel and how the core Judeo-Christian values of sanctity of human life, peace and human dignity can impact 21st century culture and conflict.

CJCUC is already hosting Christian groups for all-day seminars, which include tours of biblical sites such as nearby Jerusalem, the Path of the Patriarchs and the Herodian wells. Among the subjects that the seminar series includes are Jewish-Christian Relations; the Theology of Biblical Holidays; Covenant & Mission; The Ten Commandments; Satan, Evil & Free Will; Judaism and the Ministry of Jesus; and Human Life Created in the Image of God. Beginning in the 2008-2009 academic year, CJCUC center will also run educational seminars for students and faculty of Catholic and Protestant seminaries in the United States, Canada and Europe. It has appointed North American and European directors to coordinate relations with religious leaders on these continents.

Rabbi Riskin insists that the theology of incarnation separates Christianity from Judaism, but "this should not take away the need to build upon what we have in common." He will ensure that the dialogue is dedicated to mutual respect for each other's theological convictions while rejecting any compromise of religious belief out of deference to the other. The dialogue will also be free of any attempts at conversion.

CJCUC is creating a theological think tank of international scholars and theologians whose tasks will be to clarify areas of Jewish and Christian theological agreement and disagreement, as well as identify areas of fruitful cooperation. According to the Rabbi, "Their research will break new ground to realize the Center's goal of making religion an instrument of peace for Israel and all countries of the world." The topics will focus on past and present Jewish-Christian Relations, Covenant, Salvation, Biblical Hermeneutics, Religion and Violence, Ethical Monotheism and Messianism.

"We are in a clash of civilizations," says Rabbi Riskin. "While faith requires that we wait for the divine answers, we dare not leave all to God." He added that a partnership between Jews and Christians is needed to begin a healing process in order to become God's agents to spread the message of a God of love and peace to the world. "Both Judaism and Christianity have profound messages for the world and each must speak to humanity and to each other. Sober religion, famous for its love of the familiar, may well be tempted to say, 'It's all too hard,' and to retreat into a shell. But there is the danger: Our shell may become a death knell," declares the Rabbi. "We must rescue God from extremism."

FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact CJCUC's media department at 201 282 8082, its website at or email at

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