CJCUC Christian Academic Mission Transforms Thinking about Israel and the Jewish People
“Christians have been raised to view Christianity as a replacement for Judaism, which leads to a dismissal of Judaism or worse, to antisemitism,” explains Rabbi Pesach Wolicki, Director of the Hertog Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC) at Ohr Torah Stone. “Moreover, they don’t understand why, if the Jewish People were rejected, we need a State of Israel.”
A recent trip to Israel run by CJCUC for a group of Bible and Theology professors from leading Christian universities across North America turned this perspective on its head. The professors spent a week visiting Biblical sites and exploring Jewish and Christian connections to Israel and to one another.
The mission was led by Rabbi Wolicki together with Pastor Gerald McDermott, a respected academic who teaches at Jerusalem Seminary and Reformed Episcopal Seminary, and has authored many of the books included on the syllabi these professors use in their classes. Together, the two successfully framed conversations from both the Jewish and Christian perspectives.
A Positive View of Judaism and Israel
While the majority of Christians tourists in Israel tend only to visit the Christian sites, on this trip the group visited Biblical sites important to Christians and Jews as well as other varied landmarks such as battle sites from the Yom Kippur war and the Western Wall on a Friday night. The goal was to give them a taste of Jewish life and positive perspective on Israel for them to share, in turn, with their students.
“I can confidently say these American professors saw things about the Bible and Israel that will forever shape their perspectives on both,” said Pastor McDermott.
Building Mutual Understanding, Rethinking Perspectives
“This trip was about so much more than sightseeing; it was an exercise in mutual understanding,” confirmed Dr. Rafael Bello, a professor at Oklahoma Baptist University. “I learned about the plight of the Jewish people. Empathy, conversation and cooperation were the marks of the experience. I hope many more scholars will have the opportunity to participate.”
Dr. Jordan Jones, a professor at Regent University, also shared his tremendous gratitude for the opportunity to participate and learn. “Jews and Christians have more in common than they realize, such as their reverence for the God of Israel, their love for the Hebrew Scriptures, and their many shared values. This tour has been particularly eye opening regarding the extent of antisemitism through the millennia and into the present. It is essential for Christians to acknowledge this painful history and to work toward building bridges with Jewish communities the world over,” Jones maintained. “This bridge-building effort is especially important in Israel, where violent acts from neighboring nations persist to this day. Christians and Jews can unite for a better future for Israel.”
According to Wolicki, paricipants in the mission were chosen based on the influence they would have on their students across North America. “By encouraging the professors to grapple with their relationship to Judaism and Israel and to rethink how they teach about Judaism and Israel to their students, we hope to impact the perspectives and messages of thousands of future Christian leaders,” he said.