The Jewish-Christian Journey: An Inclusive Interfaith Worship Experience by Rabbi Dr. Jay H.


There are many species of life which, threatened by an aggressor stronger than themselves, will crawl into a shell as a means of defense. Minority entities in an inimical surrounding will often isolate themselves from the host population and intensify their own cultural identities. This defensive posture has characterized our community for the major portion of Jewish existence. When, as in the Hellenistic period, the surroundings were more amicable, a portion of the Jewish population (despite the opposition of Orthodox zealots) joined in the athletic games and other activities of the overall population. Such circumstances, initiated by the American and French Revolutions, provoked a new liberalism of spirit in this nation and Western Europe. It was in such an atmosphere that Reform Judaism was born and flourished. Rules of dress and diet which prompted estrangement from non-Jews were abandoned. Liturgical portions that spoke of abandoning lands of adoption and returning to the Holy Land were deleted. Emphasis upon antiquated ritual practices were rejected in favor of ethical teachings shared with other faiths, thereby drawing our population closer to that of other denominations. It is unfortunate, in my perspective and that of ACJ, that in the absence of external threat, leaders of Reform Judaism (perhaps in response to the “threat” of assimilation) have chosen to assume the defensive posture, reaffirming: ethnicity, nationalism, ritualism, separatism. Interaction with Non-Jewish Clergy Interaction with non-Jewish clergy has helped me to recognize a similar split within the Protestant community. There is a right-wing element that stresses the mysteries of the divine birth and resurrection. This group feels itself uniquely favored by God and identifies others, including liberal Christians, as marked for damnation. Ecumenical endeavors with this group bear little fruit. Fortunately, there is a parallel Protestant community which draws inspiration from the words of Jesus, and identifies descriptions of his divinity and resurrection as referencing the teachings rather than the individual. It is the “word” which is immortal. I am comfortable with this point of view. Jesus lived and died as a Jew: he had nothing to do with mysteries attributed to him by later writers. His words and his life experience parallel those of other rabbis in his generation. Jesus did no break with Jewish law but offered a liberal and compassionate interpretation of the law. Discussing this similarity of perspectives with a minister friend, we both recognized the similarity of our points of view. I, of course, have a feeling of kinship with fellow Jews which he lacks. The image of Jesus plays a unique

But these differences are minor in comparison to views that we share: the same understanding of God. portions of the Beatitudes and other prayers with which Jews in attendance were comfortable.. It would be encouraging to learn if like efforts are being initiated in communities other than our own. meaningful and of course. the same sense of historic continuity. It is not my desire to initiate a schism in the Reform movement.e. It occurred to us that we should be able to devise a common liturgy that would satisfy the needs of both groups and provide an opportunity in Door County. All agreed that it was a worthwhile experience and we have arranged for a second meeting at the same time. We have done so.. Large increases in Temple membership suggest that the newer interpretation of Reform. He then read and led discussion of a portion of the New Testament in which Jesus spoke of the Prodigal Son and the reconciliation with his father. The service opened and closed with hymns that were devoid of Christological reference (A good resource for these is the old Union Hymnal). concluding with the silent prayer and “May the words .“. only by those familiar with the traditions. I have chosen to recount this experiment in the hope that other groups in other communities may chose to do the same. We read the daily evening service. I followed this with a short reading from the Torah and discussion of this with the congregation. But this message is addressed to the minority population which. inclusive. and discovered the service to be warm. It is not necessary for the service to be led by clergy. i. is finding its own spiritual needs unmet. same restaurant.role in his devotional life. while continuing to support the synagogue and its endeavors. more ritual. We are hoping in time to set a regular schedule for these services. more emphasis upon Israel is meeting the needs of a significant percentage of Reform Jews. Ten adults were in attendance. My friend continued with passages like the Lord’s Prayer (all of its phrases derived from the Hebrew liturgy). beginning with Borchu (the call to worship). I led the first portion of the service using the old Union Prayer Book. the same ethical posture. There is a traditional teaching that all things created for the sake of heaven will in the long run endure. same place. We followed the service with supper together at one table in a nearby restaurant.   . Wisconsin (where no synagogue exists) for an interfaith worship opportunity. not in mine. Participants were invited to bring friends who might be interested.