Interfaith Dialogue Leader Says Christians Must Understand Israel’s Role

The failure of Christians to understand the significance of the attack on Israel and what Israel means to the Jewish people proves that Christians and Jews are still separated “by a great abyss of lack of knowledge and misunderstanding,” clergymen of this area were told today by a rabbi who has played a prominent role in interfaith dialogue.

Addressing clergymen of Wilmington and vicinity at a special session of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Rabbinical Association of Delaware, Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum noted that “substantial progress” had been made in the past five years in overcoming “mythologies and stereotypes” that Jews and Christians held about each other.

But the national director of the American Jewish Committee’s Interreligious Affairs Department stressed that “while Diaspora issues such as anti-Semitism, Christian theological stereotypes of Jews and Judaism and the theological meaning of rabbinic Judaism and of the synagogue have dominated Jewish-Christian dialogues up to this point, the recent crisis that Jews and Christians have passed through convinces me that no future dialogue will take place without Jews insisting upon the confrontation on the part of Christians of the profound historical, religious, cultural and liturgical meaning of the land of Israel and of Jerusalem to the Jewish people.”

Rabbi Tanenbaum pointed out that “the profound disparity in their respective responses during the days in which the Jewish community was threatened with extinction reveals that Christians and Jews are still separated by a great abyss of lack of knowledge and misunderstanding.”

Rabbi Tanenbaum told Jews they should not be embittered over the failure and consider Jewish-Christian dialogue futile. He stressed that “today, in our dialogues, the Jews must provide for their Christian brothers some historical and theological background regarding the mystique of Jewish inter-dependence and the historical, cultural and religious bonds that deeply condition the Jewish people’s relationship with Israel.”

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