Jewish Pluralism & Peoplehood

A biblical model of reconciliation can help bring Jews and Christians together.

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Is it so that our Father in heaven has only one blessing for one child and none for all the other children of God--even those who, in good faith, consciously intended to join Abraham's family covenant? Is there not a precedent for reconciliation and sharing the blessing that after many years of distance and alienation, Isaac and Ishmael came together to honor their com­mon father, Abraham (see Genesis 25:9; see also verses 10-18)?

The children of the two sons remained distinct families, pursuing their own histories; yet at the same time, in honoring their common father, did the brothers not rec­ognize themselves as branches of one family? Can this account in Genesis not serve as model and precedent for linking Jews and Christians today in a bond of family?

A Post-Script

The author adds the following as a footnote:

Even as I write, I acknowledge that the sweeping nature of the proposals for transforming the relationship between Jews and Christians will be difficult for traditional Jews to consider. In my Own Orthodox community, in particular, the question will be raised: By what authority are these suggestions made?

The primary validation, I believe, is derived from the overriding moral and theological necessity to respond to the Holocaust and the recognition that the Shoah is a revelational event. This response is driven by and directly connected to the recognition of the image of God in Christians (and others).

I have followed the logic of these responses and I take the responsibility upon myself. Nevertheless, for those for whom some great tree is needed to hang such ideas on, I call attention to [the 14th-century sage] Menachem HaMeiri's broad-scale views declaring that Christians (and Muslims) are a "people bound by religion, which removes their religion from the category of idolatry and places them fully within the universe of moral obligation of Jews."...

Meiri's willingness to apply the halakhic--Jewish law--guidelines to behavior by bringing Christians inside the mutual obligation universe is based on his philosophical analysis of the various religions' status; this aspect of his approach is particularly important as a precedent.)

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Rabbi Irving Greenberg

Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg was the president of Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation and founding president of CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. He also is the author of For the Sake of Heaven and Earth: The New Encounter Between Judaism and Christianity (2004, Jewish Publication Society).