In January of 2008, a historical moment took place when Ohr Torah Stone, under the leadership of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, established the first Orthodox Jewish institution dedicated to religious dialogue, mutual understanding and active cooperation with Christians, the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC). Since its founding CJCUC has moved to the forefront of theological advancements in the Jewish-Christian relationship. It has also changed the paradigm by engaging tens of thousands of Christians through Bible studies, promoting a Jewish theology with a positive understanding of Christianity and Christians, organizing faith-based events that bring Jews and Christians together, and coordinating humanitarian aid for Christians facing financial hardship in the birthplace of Christianity and other areas in the Middle East.
CJCUC has published three academic works in the field of Jewish-Christian relations, Covenant & Hope: Jewish and Christian Reflections, Plowshares into Swords: Reflections on Violence and Religion, and Returning to Zion: Christian and Jewish Perspectives. These academic works were produced with our organizational partner – The Witherspoon Institute, an independent research center in Princeton, New Jersey. The team of contributors include: the late Dr. Robert Jensen (The Witherspoon Institute), the late Dr. Michael Wychogrod (Yeshiva University), Dr. Russell Ronald Reno (editor of First Things), Dr. Miroslav Volf (Yale Divinity School), Dr. Christopher Leighton (Johns Hopkins University), Dr. William Cavanaugh (DePaul University), Dr. Craig Blasing (Executive Vice President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), Dr.Peter Ochs (University of Virginia), and Dr. Gerald McDermott (Beeson Divinity).
In 2011, CJCUC published an organizational statement of Jewish Understanding of Christians and Christianity. Then in 2015, CJCUC facilitated the first Orthodox Rabbinic Statement on Christianity in, which more than 75 Orthodox Rabbis have signed.
Engagement of Rabbinic leadership
Building on our past work, CJCUC has now set its sights on fostering relationships of cooperation and friendship between Jewish and Christian leaders at the local level. Using the extensive Ohr Torah Stone network, we will be educating Jewish community leaders, both rabbinic and lay, regarding the importance of Jewish-Christian relations. We will work with these leaders and our Christian contacts to build local relationships. We see local cooperation between Jewish and Christian leaders as a goal that will yield positive results for both communities.
Hebraic Roots Bible Studies
CJCUC sees the Bible as the cornerstone for the spiritual relationship between Jews and Christians. Both Judaism and Christianity revere and consider the Hebrew Bible as authoritative text and agree that understanding the Hebrew of the Bible is important to its exegesis. Furthermore, both Jews and Christians view these canonized texts as the basis of a Godly life. Moreover, inasmuch as the Hebrew Bible was the only existing canonized text during the time of Christianity’s founding, an understanding of the Jewish interpretative process of the Hebrew Bible is essential to understanding the early roots of Christian faith.
Cognizant of how both Jews and Christians interpret the Bible, the CJCUC staff began to develop an unprecedented Hebrew Bible text study that maintained the integrity of Jewish interpretative tradition without making a Christian feel like they are compromising on their hermeneutic principles. CJCUC hosts over 7,000 Christians in Israel annually and the CJCUC staff has been invited to teach in hundreds of churches and Christian seminaries worldwide.
Blessing Bethlehem is the first Orthodox Jewish initiative to help the impoverished Christian Arab community living in the birthplace of Christianity by raising support and providing weekly food deliveries to hundreds of Christian families. Due to poor economic conditions and an inadequate social welfare system, thousands of Christians struggle to find employment and to put food on their tables in Bethlehem.
When three Coptic churches were bombed on Easter Sunday 2017 in Egypt, CJCUC organized a team to help the victims of terror by providing them with food packages. We also raised monies to purchase a metal detector for one of the churches.
Day to Praise
During Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) 2014, CJCUC conducted a Psalm 113-118 (Hallel) worship service in an Orthodox synagogue. Hundreds of Christians attended the celebration. This led to the launch of the Day to Praise initiative, inviting Christians from around the world to recite this series of psalms on Israel’s Independence Day. Since that time, CJCUC conducts a Hallel celebration for Christians in Israel. Tens of thousands of Christians have participated in this initiative by conducting their own local Day to Praise service in conjunction with this event.
CJCUC published a devotional commentary on these psalms in 2017 entitled Cup of Salvation, by Rabbi Pesach Wolicki. We also created a bi-weekly podcast produced by JewishCoffeHouse.com. Some churches are now using the devotional as part of their weekly Bible study.
Christian Leadership Missions
Over the years, CJCUC has been instrumental in leading groups of Christian leaders from around the world on trips to Israel. In the past, we have partnered with the World Jewish Congress to bring young Catholic priests from Latin America to Israel so they can learn the fundamentals of Jewish-Catholic relations in the birthplace of our respective faith communities. CJCUC is instrumental in developing initiatives in which Christian millennials have an opportunity to visit Israel to understand the Jewish people and the real Israel as well as combat the Boycott, Divest & Sanctions (BDS) movement on American and European campuses.
In recent years CJCUC has led multiple missions to Israel for Christian professors of Bible and theology. We have also led numerous groups of leaders of the United Methodist church.