“A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalms 133:1-3)
A new groundbreaking petition signed by leading Orthodox rabbis calls for furthering the fraternal partnership between Jewish and Christian leaders.
The petition, titled “To Do the Will of Our Father in Heaven: Toward Partnership between Jews and Christians,” is the brainchild of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC).
The petition has already been signed by over 25 prominent Orthodox rabbis in Israel, the United States and Europe with the intention of gathering together the entire Orthodox world in furthering Judeo-Christian relations.
While not the first initiative of its kind, the petition is proving historic. “The real importance of this Orthodox statement is that it calls for fraternal partnership between Jewish and Christian religious leaders, while also acknowledging the positive theological status of the Christian faith. Jews and Christians must be in the forefront of teaching basic moral values to the world,” said Riskin in a statement released by the CJCUC.
Citing Jewish sources such as Maimonides, Yehudah Halevi and Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, the signatories of the petition “acknowledge that Christianity is neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations.”
Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn, Academic Director of the CJCUC, explained that the petition is an “unprecedented” major step forward in the “toxic history” between Jews and Christians. “Jewish thinkers have previously crafted statements like Dabru Emet in 2000 on Jewish-Christian relations and theology, but few Orthodox rabbis could go along with those theological and practical claims in light of their understanding of Jewish tradition,” he stated.
“This proclamation’s breakthrough is that influential Orthodox rabbis across all centers of Jewish life have finally acknowledged that Christianity and Judaism are no longer engaged in a theological duel to the death and that Christianity and Judaism have much in common spiritually and practically. Given our toxic history, this is unprecedented in Orthodoxy.”
Rabbi Irving Greenberg, one of the world’s most active Orthodox theologian in Jewish-Christian dialogue and covenantal theology, stated, “We understand that there is room in traditional Judaism to see Christianity as part of God’s covenantal plan for humanity, as a development out of Judaism that was willed by God.”
Adding to this sentiment, Jerusalem-based rabbi, Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, stated, “We need to work together to meet our common challenges: the assault of radical secularism, religious extremism and moral relativism on the heritage and dignity of humankind.”
The timing of the petition falls out close to the 50th anniversary of the release of the Nostra Aetate, a declaration released by the Catholic Church that many understand as countering centuries of anti-Semitic attitudes and understandings within the Church.
The petition by the CJCUC is the first time a group of Orthodox rabbis have issued a public statement advocating for full partnership with Christians appreciating the religious value of Christianity since the Nostra Aetate was promulgated in 1965 under Pope Paul VI. The CJCUC’s rabbinical statement is not directly connected to the Nostra Aetate, but both documents are part of a historical process seeks to reconcile Judaism and Christianity.