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Learning New Ideas in Allentown, PA.

Recently, I attended a wonderful conference of like-minded people. The annual conference of the Council of Centers on Jewish Christian Relations was held in Allentown, PA. There, scholars and clergy dedicated to the idea of promoting Jewish Christian relations came together for  speeches and dialogues. For me, as the Founder of the Jewish Christian Discovery Center (JCDC) it was a wonderful and enlightening experience. Allow me to share with you a few of the high points that I took away from this gathering.

One of the scholars spoke about his study of Pirke Avot (An early rabbinic collection of life-lessons), I refer to this document in my book as well. I think this is an important point that needs to be constantly made: We can all learn from each other’s traditions. After all, if Judaism is the parent faith of Christianity and Islam as well, there will be elements of faith that link the traditions together over the millennia. The speaker shared that his faith had been strengthened by this study of Jewish sources.  It is truly an amazing experience, to have Jews and Christians come together and study various elements of their faith. An awareness occurs as people realize that their beliefs can be understood in vastly different ways by people of honorable and spiritual intentions.

A major point that was made by a number of speakers was one that I think needs to be repeated in loud voices around the world: Jews and Christians are covenanted people. This is of enormous significance. It means that Christianity does not replace Judaism, but rather that Christianity is a representation of a holy connection with God as is Judaism and one could argue, other faiths as well. For so long, countless conversations have focused on which faith has the primary relationship with the Almighty. It seems appropriate to say that God is certainly capable of having different believers at the same time. By beginning to articulate an idea of differing covenants we open ourselves to a totally different spiritual world-view. In this perspective, we are all indeed creations of God, equally blessed and equally in a relationship. One of the main principles that I express in my book, now being published, is that we are all spiritual siblings. 

A final fascinating aspect of this conference was to hear from various Church leaders. In this instance,  Catholic and Lutheran clergy shared that many prayers are being rewritten to change the focus away from anything close to anti-Semitism to one that embraces the faith without the intention to denigrate Judaism. This is especially true when the liturgy revolves around the Passion of Jesus and Easter centered prayers. It is so essential that all people of faith review their liturgy and ask themselves if the prayers seem to be degrading or discriminatory to another faith. 

In the end, this conference was quite worthwhile.  It is so very important to realize that there are many committed people around the country and world who are advocating a positive, equality-based religious view. How wonderful our world would be if this ideology prevailed as the norm.

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