Unique interfaith dialogue at Beth Am


On Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, Congregation Beth Am in Longwood will host a unique interfaith dialogue—The Jewish Jesus in Text and Context—in collaboration with 10 ministers and leaders of diverse faith communities. Starting at 2 p.m. in the Congregation Beth Am Social Hall, 3899 Sand Lake Road, Longwood Rabbi Rick Sherwin will moderate an extensive Question and Answer session responding to a video presentation by Dr. Amy-Jill Levine.

Dr. Levine is professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter professor of New Testament Studies and professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School and College of Arts and Sciences. In 2011, Professor Levine became affiliated professor at the Woolf Institute: Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations at Cambridge, UK. A self-described “Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Christian divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt,” Professor Levine combines historical-critical rigor, literary-critical sensitivity, and a frequent dash of humor with a commitment to eliminating anti-Jewish, sexist, and homophobic theologies.

Rabbi Rick commented, “In my introductory discussions with the ministers, I expressed the need of Christians and Jews to know each other better. Learning to see through each other’s eyes is paramount to common respect and cooperation. The Jewish community needs to see the message of the New Testament beyond the call for belief in Jesus as the Christ, and the Christian community needs to see Jesus as a religious, practicing Jew.”

In support of this essential dialogue, Rabbi Rick referenced the Talmud (Eruvin 13b): For three years there was a dispute between the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai, the former asserting, “The practice is in agreement with our views,” and the latter contending, “The practice is in agreement with our views.” Then a Voice from Heaven, announced, Eilu v’eilu divrei Elohim Hayim, “Both faces of religious disagreement reflect the Word of the Living God.” Nevertheless, the perspective of Hillel shall prevail. “If bother perspectives are correct,” say the Rabbinic Sages, “then how can one view be selected over the other?” The answer is that the School of Hillel listened carefully to the reasoning of the School of Shammai, articulated his argument, and only then presented his own.

What constitutes a valid reflection of God is the response that one acts kindly and respectfully toward the other. They study their views and reexamine their own, and cultivate the ability to articulate the views of those who disagree. The phrase eilu v’eilu emphasizes the incompleteness of any single opinion. The v’, which means “and,” is essential, uniting and complementing the two perspectives without compromising the integrity of either. 

As with all Continuing Adult Education Programming at Beth Am, there is no charge to attend; and all members of our community, Jew and non-Jew, are encouraged to attend and participate in this rare discussion. For more information on the education opportunities at Congregation Beth Am refer to the synagogue’s web site at http://www.CongBethAm.org.


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