Christians, Jews explore commonalities

By | May 26, 2010

The main objective of the series, titled “Common Origins, Distinct Paths: Jews and Christians in Conversation,” was to engage the northeast Wisconsin community in interfaith communication and the overall response from those in attendance — Catholic diocesan leaders and Levine — was good.

“I was extremely pleased with the weekend’s events,” Levine said. “Everyone was very receptive and seemed to have wonderful energy. They asked questions after the presentations and continued to talk afterward.”

Fr. Guy Blair, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Green Bay, agreed.

“You mentioned this weekend, Dr. Levine, that we often remember the bad stuff, but together we definitely will remember the good stuff and that is you,” he said at the closing of the weekend’s events. “You are a blessing.”

Levine, who describes herself as a “Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Christian divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt,” spoke at six different presentations throughout the weekend series, which was co-sponsored by more than a dozen churches, synagogues and groups throughout northeast Wisconsin.

Levine’s sessions included services at Congregation Cnesses Israel and First United, as well as presentations on Scripture and Jewish-Christian relations.

“We are all part of the same community — just different branches,” Levine said. “We seek authority from the same book.”

The closing presentation was focused on the future of Jewish-Christian relations in the Green Bay area.

According to Levine, there are five main steps and/or tips to bridging interfaith communication. They include:

• Enter an interfaith conversation on equal footing. “Don’t apologize for sins of the past, the point isn’t to blame,” Levine said.

• Understand each other by listening through each other’s ears. “If we know about both our commonalities and our differences, we will be better able to understand our own traditions,” Levine said. “Look at and monitor other religions’ magazines, newspapers and children’s books. We might learn something.”

• The Middle East, communication is a must. “There is no easy solution, but we need to be able to talk about it,” Levine said.

• Jews for Jesus. “Who are they are how do we deal with them. To push them away destroys families,” Levine said. She compared these to the Mormons of the Christian faith.

• Be aware of each other’s liturgies and their interpretation of Scriptures — furthering the need, Levine said, to hear through each other’s ears to better understand each other.

“Christians picture a Jew in the pew next to you or Jews, picture a Christian next to you,” Levine said. “Would anything be offensive to them?”

Those involved, along with Levine, know that this is just the beginning and only scratched the surface of interfaith communication. But the interest and the drive to continue is there.

Plans are in the works for a dialogue next fall with a variety of Protestant clergy focusing on Pope Benedict XVI’s writings on Christianity and the crisis of cultures.

According to Fr. Jim Massart, who serves as diocesan ecumenical and interfaith liaison, the weekend was a success.

“Events like these can only strengthen our respect for each other,” Fr. Massart said.

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