The Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Co-Operation, an organization from Israel made up of Israeli Orthodox Rabbis including a member of the Chief Rabbinate, as well as rabbis from elsewhere, released a statement in December of 2015 which says that Christianity is part of the divine plan, and is not a mistake or aberration. Christianity and Christians are seen as necessary tools to spread the underlying moral messages and teachings of the Torah to the world. As Judaism is not a missionary faith (although there is some evidence that it once was to a certain degree) trying to spread its message by personal contact and/or trying to find ways in which the message can be proclaimed in other areas of the world was important. Accepting that the Christians derive their message from the Torah and the Judaism(s) of the time of Jesus, shows that the Jews recognize the special connection between the two groups.
The center describes itself as being founded:
…on the proposition that each of our great faith communities, rooted in a shared Bible, which we both accept as the eternal word of G-d, must begin a theological dialogue. The discourse that takes place encompasses a mutual respect of each other’s faith and defies any goal of converting one to the faith of the other. It also rejects the necessity of one compromising his or her theological truths in deference to the other…
In many ways this statement as well as the Center itself is a response to Vatican II and its move towards dialogue. It recognizes that there have been significant changes in Catholic and Protestant views towards Judaism since that Vatican Council.
The authors state that Jews and Christians are brothers-in-arms rather than enemies, and that “in separating Judaism and Christianity, G-d willed a separation between partners with significant theological differences, not a separation between enemies.” Trying to go beyond the theological differences-while not ignoring them but saying they are not up for debate-allows for the recognition that as Maimonides and other rabbis have held, that Christians “have accepted the Jewish Bible of the Old Testament as a book of Divine revelation. They profess their belief in the G-d of Heaven and Earth as proclaimed in the Bible, and they acknowledge the sovereignty of Divine Providence” (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch).
Finding ways in which Jews and Christians can work together on issues such as the environment, religious liberty and others should continue to be an area of interest for members of both traditions. While there are some Orthodox rabbis who hold that interfaith dialogue is forbidden on the grounds that it could give the impression that non-negotiable elements of Jewish law or belief might be changed as a result, it is a welcome move in the right direction towards further mutual understanding. Promoting understanding and peace is a bedrock tenet of both Judaism and Christianity, and as both understand their roles to be trying to repair and prepare the world for the time when all people will live in peace. Statements of brotherhood and a willingness to work together, despite the very long history of acrimony, should only continue into the future that both religions are involved in shaping.
Image Source: Zardosz via Wikimedia Commons