Christians & Jews-Faith to Faith: Tragic History, Promising Present, Fragile Futureby James Rudin
In time for Pope Francis's new initiatives. We now have the potential to end two thousand years of hostility—will we succeed? New in paperback!
With keen wisdom and a masterful understanding of history, Rabbi James Rudin, an acclaimed authority in the field of Jewish-Christian relations, provides the context necessary for Christians and/strong>
In time for Pope Francis's new initiatives. We now have the potential to end two thousand years of hostility—will we succeed? New in paperback!
With keen wisdom and a masterful understanding of history, Rabbi James Rudin, an acclaimed authority in the field of Jewish-Christian relations, provides the context necessary for Christians and Jews to recognize the critical challenges posed by the past—and the future—of their two religions.
Spanning twenty centuries of controversy, horror and promise, Rudin’s narrative examines:
The sources of both conflict and commonality between the two religions
The need to address and redress past wrongs
The agenda required to create a shared future free of bigotry
It includes proven approaches for successful interreligious dialogues, including tips on session organization, project ideas and a discussion guide to enhance Christians’ and Jews’ knowledge of each other.
"Rabbi Rudin has written the best guide to Jewish-Christian dialogue that I have ever seen. Popular but sophisticated, sobering but hopeful, it provides a searching analysis of the vocabulary and history of Christian-Jewish relations, reminding us why these relations are so difficult and why they are so important."
—Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president, Union for Reform Judaism
“Offers us all a Jewish 'take' on our times, allowing us to see and hear the news with the eyes and ears of Jews. Here also is a clear-eyed understanding for both Christians and Jews of the evils of establishment, religion and state coupled together, predicated upon replacing suspicion with respect and apathy with empathy. Urgently needed!”
—The Rev. Dr. James M. Dunn, professor of Christianity and public policy, Divinity School at Wake Forest University
“Does not dodge any of the painful issues.... [A] rewarding, always stimulating book.”
—Peter Steinfels, co-director, Fordham University Center on Religion and Culture; former New York Times religion correspondent and columnist
“This is a must-have for anyone interested in the vital story of Christian-Jewish relations. Rabbi Rudin’s polished prose and sharp observations guide the reader on a stimulating journey through time, and provide invaluable insights into the future of one of the world’s most complicated religious relationships. Indispensable for academics, interfaith activists and general readers interested in religion and its impact on world history.”
—Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, director, Department of Interfaith Affairs, Anti-Defamation League
“A vibrant, timely study by one of America’s distinguished leaders and shrewd analysts of the Jewish-Christian encounter. Rudin succeeds brilliantly in laying bare the past and illuminating the present so Jews and Christians may wisely and respectfully press forward to model a more authentic relationship for the good of the other and the future of all humanity.”
—Marvin R. Wilson, PhD, Ockenga Professor of Biblical Studies, Gordon College
“Absolutely the most convenient panoramic analysis of the Jewish-Christian retrospect and prospect I’ve seen.… A masterpiece by the Jewish dean and most seasoned veteran of Jewish-Christian deliberations … penetratingly clear and accessible for all readers.… A clarion call lest gains of recent decades lapse or even dissipate.”
—Rabbi Michael J. Cook, PhD, Bronstein Professor of Judeo-Christian Studies, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati; author, Modern Jews Engage the New Testament: Enhancing Jewish Well-Being in a Christian Environment
“A comprehensive overview of a half century of Christian-Jewish relations. Rudin brings his long central involvement in the Christian-Jewish dialogue to bear in insightful ways on the major theological and political issues central to that conversation.”
—John T. Pawlikowski, OSM, PhD, director, Catholic-Jewish Studies Program, Catholic Theological Union (Chicago)
“This thorough, engaging and accessible [resource] on Jewish-Christian relations examines the complex history of two formidable faith communities and makes concrete suggestions for action. Rudin’s rich experience in Jewish-Christian dialogue is apparent from beginning to end.”
—Rabbi David A. Teutsch, PhD, Wiener Professor of Contemporary Jewish Civilization; former president, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
“Rabbi Rudin has brought his wealth of experience and uncommon wisdom to shed light on the complex world of interreligious relations. Important and useful.”
—Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, American Jewish Committee
Rabbi Rudin's career concentration on Christian-Jewish rapprochement enables him to write a crystal clear primer on the bones of contention from which anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism were constructed. If you want to know why, as Rudin puts it, 'Old Testament' is not a term of endearment; how the Pauline epistles fueled Christian disdain for Judaism and Jews; the difference between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism; and why the only Holocaust is the Nazi extermination campaign, consult this book. Besides answering such questions, Rudin discusses what the land of Israel means to Jews and Christians, what Jerusalem signifies to Muslims as well as to Jews and to Christians, and, superbly, the implications and effects of Christian mission, witness, and conversion upon Jews. Rudin draws extensively from the historical and religious records of both Jews and Christians, and the bibliography of further reading is impressive enough to damp down objections that this is mere potted, partisan history. Concluding chapters counseling readers on starting and conducting Jewish-Christian dialogue neatly complement the exposition.
As a staff member of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) for over thirty years, Rabbi James Rudin has been a prominent warrior in the struggle for constructive relations between Christians and Jews. His role as AJC's director of interreligious affairs allowed him to participate in eleven meetings with Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Now settled in Sanibel, Rabbi Rudin remains active as an author and columnist, while serving as AJC's senior interreligious advisor. His new book is another step in his long career as an advocate and agent for principles and actions that will build understanding, respect, and enthusiastic cooperation.
The subtitle says it all: "Tragic History, Promising Present, Fragile Future." Rabbi Rudin is frank and unapologetic as he probes the history of conflict between Christians and Jews. Indeed, "conflict" is too mild a term for many phases and issues in that history. A primary issue grows out of the early Christians’ decision to adopt one the several names of the Israelite people (the list includes “Jews” and “Hebrews”) for themselves. Calling themselves the “New Israel,” followers of Jesus felt that their new faith community superseded that of the Jewish people and that the coming of Jesus invalided the Israelites’ covenant with God.
This replacement positioning is reinforced by the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament,” constructions that Rabbi Rudin feels are unsuitable for either tradition, but demeaning to Judaism. Its message is in parallel with that of the dismissive evangelistic notion of Jews being somehow incomplete because of their failure to accept Christ. The labeling of Jews as Christ-killers is an obvious roadblock to any pursuit of constructive relationships between the faiths.
Building interrelationships is not a homogenizing process, but rather one that allows for respectful particularity. Rabbi Rudin is dismayed by feel-good jargon like “Judeo-Christian heritage,” which suggests that we are all the same. He prefers formulations like “Jewish and Christian traditions.” We need to understand and respect differences, not pretend that they don’t exist. In remarkably efficient and clearly crafted chapters, Rabbi Rudin puts in context several other concerns. These include the long institutionalization of Christian anti-Semitism, the need for the Shoah to be seen as a unique historical tragedy and the term Holocaust to escape the fate of becoming a lower-cased generic term, and the need to understand the intrinsic relationship between the Jewish people and the modern state of Israel.
In remarkably efficient and clearly crafted chapters, Rabbi Rudin puts in context several other concerns. These include the long institutionalization of Christian anti-Semitism, the need for the Shoah to be seen as a unique historical tragedy and the term Holocaust to escape the fate of becoming a lower-cased generic term, and the need to understand the intrinsic relationship between the Jewish people and the modern state of Israel.
I do not wish to give the impression that this book is a rehashing of grievances. It is much more than that: at once more profound and more practical.
Christians & JewsFaith to Faith is a guidebook for effective, respectful and even celebratory interreligious relations. Rabbi Rudin underscores the enormous positive steps that have been taken within the last half-century. He stresses the need for true understanding through committed listening and honest dialogue that is not merely polite or politically correct. He insists that the positive path of recent decades cannot be taken for granted as the future path without continued hard work. Patience and urgency must be held in fruitful balance.
The author argues that working toward constructive relationships is a necessity, and that the complication of engaging the Islamic community into the process of interreligious relationship building is an enormous one.
In his last two chapters, and in several appendices that include a discussion guide and a resource bibliography, Rabbi Rudin offers the nuts and bolts of program design and implementation for professional and lay community leaders. He wants us to get moving, to recognize that, “It is no longer enough for faith communities to simply live side by side in a kind of de facto coexistence.”
Rabbi Rudin believes that the tragic past is not irreversible, and that effective dialogue can give our communities a “spiritual mooring” so that “people who believe differently can reside together in peace.”
“A theological girding of religious pluralism,” he writes, “will guarantee its permanence and will replace the facile sense of toleration that currently exists among religious groups.” Let us hope so.
Conversely, Rudin discusses recent actions taken by the Catholic Church and some Protestants to make amends. Most notable was Nostra Aetate, the declaration by the Second Vatican Council in 1965 repudiating the deicide charge against Jews. Other advancements were the proclamations of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI stating that God's covenant with the Jews is irrevocable and that anti-Semitism is a sin. Catholics were urged to improve relations with Jews, our "elder brothers." Nevertheless, Jewish suffering over the centuries clearly outweighs Christian reconciliation.
The last chapter offers suggestions for organizing interfaith programs and joint educational and social action projects. Most importantly, dialogues should lead to mutual respect and not have hidden agendas (such as conversion).
The book is well organized, easy to read, and has an extensive bibliography. Surprisingly, there is no introduction. Rudin never explains why he wrote the book and what he hopes the book will accomplish. I hope this omission is remedied in later editions of the book. Recommended for center and synagogue libraries.
"Christians and Jews." Those three words alone recall unimaginable human suffering, yet contain reassuring potential for deep common cause. No other two religions have quite the same shared stake in the Almighty, nor in the murderous hatred that can envelop siblings.
The last century holds the markers of that polarity: images of the ShoahChristian Germany's deliberate attempt to eliminate Jewsand images of a pope, who described Christians and Jews as brothers in faith, visiting a synagogue and inserting a prayer in the Western Wall.
For reassurance that the rawest hurts can heal we have Rabbi James Rudin's Christians & Jews, and Cokie and Steve Roberts’ Our Haggadah. Both witness the fact that the healing takes place not in pulpit discourses about love but in the real work of humans gathered faith-to-faith and face -to-face.
Rudin is singularly qualified to assemble an overview of Christian and Jewish relations. He has been a personal witness to so much that has occurred in interreligious matters since the late 1960s. That’s when he began working with the American Jewish Committee, as its national interreligious affairs director, a role he continues to fill in a modified way since his retirement in 2000.
He has written a great deal and is highly knowledgeable. He knows St. John Chrysostom’s "Eight Homilies Against the Jews," which provided grist for the Nazis and a theological underpinning for the charge of deicide. He is equally conversant with Nostra Aetate, the 1965 Second Vatican Council document in which the church’s bishops “overwhelmingly repudiated the teaching of Jewish 'guilt’ for the death of Jesus and implicitly reputed the deicide charge that Jews were 'Christ killers.’ ”
Nostra Aetate was hardly a foregone conclusion. It met resistance from conservative and Middle Eastern bishops. Rudin credits two Americans at the council, Cardinals Richard Cushing of Boston and Francis Spellman of New York, with pushing the document over the top. “They threw their influence, charisma and leadership into the Vatican council deliberations by urging their fellow bishops to adopt strong positive statements on the church’s relationship to Jews,” writes Rudin.
The sweep of Rudin’s work is as impressive as it is tightly and accessibly told. Rudin, however, is wary of claiming success in Christian-Jewish relations. He notes that Pope Benedict XVI revived a version of the pre-Vatican II Good Friday prayer. The latest version, while eliminating the most offensive language, returns to a plea for the conversion of Jews (“that they acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior of all men”) as an alternative to a post-Vatican II prayer that asks of God that “the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption.” He notes Benedict’s reinstatement of a previously excommunicated bishop who was then discovered to be a Holocaust denier.
If interfaith relations are a sincere courtship, it’s not so different from people who fall in love first and figure out the religious entanglements later. Welcome to an increasingly plural world.
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Meet the Author
Rabbi James Rudin, an international leader in interreligious relations, was a member of the American Jewish Committee's (AJC) professional staff for thirty-two years, where he served as interreligious affairs director. He is currently the AJC's senior interreligious adviser. Rabbi Rudin participated in eleven meetings with Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. He is a prolific author and a columnist for the Religion News Service, a syndicate of Newhouse Newspaper, and has published articles in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Century, National Catholic Reporter and Christianity Today. Among his books is Israel for Christians: Understanding Modern Israel. Rabbi Rudin is a frequent guest on television and radio programs.
Rabbi James Rudin is available to speak on the following topics:
Christians and Jews: The Unfinished Agenda
A Jewish Perspective on Jesus
Myths and Realities about Jews and Evangelicals
The Religious Right's Plans for the Rest of Us
The Different Meanings of the Term "Israel" for Christians and Jews
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