Modern challenges and the future trajectory of a 2,000 year-old-conflict were the subject of two lectures given last week by Faydra L. Shapiro, executive director of the Israel center for Jewish-Christian Relations.
Shapiro the discussed Jewish-Christian relations as part of the Gershom Lecture Series. The Gershom Lecture series began in 2014 to explore Jewish-Christian relations and are funded by a gift from Messianic Rabbi G. Robert Chenoweth.
During her first speech, “The Next Fifty Years: What Might a (More) Mature Model of Jewish-Christian Relations Look Like,” Shapiro encouraged listeners to broaden the Jewish-Christian dialogue.
“I know several Jewish organizations whose claim to be deeply involved in Jewish-Christian relations really means they are engaged with and interested in only one kind of Christian,” Shapiro said. “That is, the kind of Christian who is perceived to be on our side.”
Shapiro advocated for the expansion of the Jewish-Christian dialogue to include groups that may not support all actions of Israel.
“A more developed model of Jewish-Christian relations would contain room for principled disagreement about Israel,” Shapiro said. “A particular attitude towards Israel should not be a criterion of participation in the Jewish-Christian encounter.”
Junior Jerry Hewitt, a Christian studies major, said he gained an appreciation for the complexity of Jewish-Christian relations from Shapiro’s speech.
“Israel isn’t just a nation, but a group of people, just like we are,” Hewitt said. “We have a lot of differences but we have a similar background and an intertwined tradition.”
Prior to this week’s lectures, Shapiro had been a featured speaker during the winter break tour of Israel sponsored by Passages. Matt Sauer ‘16, currently an admissions counselor and a graduate of Hillsdale College, heard her speak during that trip two years ago.
“In Israel, Shapiro’s speech was very general and all about making the most of our experience in another country,” Sauer said. “This speech was about now that we are back in our own country, how are we going to apply what we learned to this future Jewish-Christian dialogue.”
Shapiro’s second speech, “The Unique Challenges and Possibilities of Jewish-Christian Relations in Israel,” explored how the unique Jewish majority in Israel made Jewish-Christian relations different from Jewish-Christian relations in other parts of the West.
“It is said that the test of a democracy is the vigor with which it protects the rights of its minorities,” Shapiro said. “For the first time, Jews are responsible for minorities in the Jewish State. Some of them are Christian.”
Shapiro said this reversal of the traditional power dynamics that have existed in most of the West creates issues only found in Israel.
“We Jews have our own Jewish fundamentalists who would like to see a more ‘Jewish’ Jewish State,” Shapiro said. “The question is not about them. The question is how the Jewish State pursues its responsibility for upholding the religious rights and freedoms of Christians.”
During the question and answer session following the speech, a student in the audience asked Shapiro what the final goal or purpose of having a Jewish-Christian dialogue was.
“There is no one simple goal,” Shapiro said. “It is simply our responsibility as part of our continued participation in the West to have Jewish-Christian dialogue.”