The Jewish or Christian 'Other' in Teaching and Preaching

At ICCJ's invitation more than 50 international experts and delegates from ICCJ member organizations gathered online at two days in February for a consultation on the topic "The Jewish or Christian 'Other' in Teaching and Preaching". Read here some reflections and impressions of participants.

 Introduction to the consultation's theme by ICCJ President Liliane Apotheker [PDF-file]

  Some Reflections on the ICCJ 2022 Consultation by ICCJ Honorary President Philip A. Cunningham [PDF-file]

Personal Impressions (presented in alphabetical order of the authors):


1. Liliane Apotheker (France):

These are my personal impressions as a Jewish person in dialogue with Christians.
This consultation has definitely been a major learning experience for me, new concepts and new metaphors have emerged that I find very helpful.

  • The idea of a new grammar for Jewish Christian dialogue as recommended by Prof. Gregor Maria Hoff during his keynote lecture can, I believe, help us identify what needs to be refined in our thinking and in our use of vocabulary. Dialogue evolves constantly, even while being practiced, and our words require constant (re)definition by both partners as they are used;
  • The metaphor of a “computer virus”, pointing to the constant Jewish presence in Christian thinking and writing from the earliest days, as suggested by Prof. Jesper Svartvik in one of the online working sessions, is very painful. Nevertheless it does help us understand why and how Judaism seems to be always there as a point of comparison and one that has always had to be surpassed;
  • Antagonism between Christians and Jews has permeated common language and popular culture. It surrounds us in many more ways than we know. How to counteract this remains an open question, and one that is not trivial given the consequences;
  • In my introduction to the theme of the consultation, I said that we are Jews because we are not Christians and Christians because we are not Jews, or as Prof. Phil Cunningham’s coins it “our oppositional imagination”. What I said was a generalization, albeit one that captures something real. There is an immense richness when we engage with each other without that oppositional mindset; it is our sacred obligation to make that richness emerge fully by fully embracing the holiness of the other. We can and should do that not just by seeking commonalities but also by acknowledging all the differences;
  • In our increasingly secular world, holiness is what is most at risk of diminishing. I believe that a respectful dialogue between Christians and Jews can counter that efficiently and even restore the credibility of our religious communities;
  • Different approaches must be used for different avenues of dialogue. At the grassroots level, Christians expect reciprocity from Jews, sometimes paying no heed to the fundamental asymmetry between us. Jews often remain indifferent to Christians -not on a personal but on a theological level - ignoring the need to reciprocate and thus withholding their commitment. These attitudes have to be recognized and addressed specifically. Dialogue develops at a different pace depending on how conservative or liberal people are. Awareness and understanding of this may help us adapt our outreach and eventually increase the numbers of people who see how valuable our work is.


2. Pavol Bargár (Czech Republic):

The consultation provided space for discussion on a topic that is relevant not only academically but also has a very practical bearing on daily life of faith communities. I appreciated the spirit of self-criticism and humility that the participants fostered when tackling the often difficult issues related to the theme of the consultation. Having said that, however, they did not fall prey to defensiveness and self-flagellation but sought to look for constructive proposals. The role of context and experience were acknowledged and appreciated for the reality of interreligious relations today. In addition, the significance was recognized of the resources that one emphasizes from one´s tradition as authoritative and relevant. In other words, the stories we tell about ourselves and others make a difference. In these stories, it was agreed among the participants, the (religious) other should not be a mere abstraction; she or he is, and should always remain, a real living person that one cannot manipulate for one´s own purposes. Furthermore, the other is hardly ever "other" in a single respect only; therefore, the theme of intersectionality featured repeatedly during the consultation. It remains a continuous task for all members of the ICCJ family - be they theologians, clergy, professionals or grassroots people - to reflect on the various aspects of the consultation theme and cultivate best practices in the homiletic and catechetical life of our communities that prevent "othering," while celebrating and benefitting from our mutual differences.


3. Martín de Salterain (Uruguay):

This was my first consultation, and I loved every bit of it. It was a stimulating and thought-provoking experience, which invited us all to keep pushing our reflections on these matters deeper. It is always satisfying how in ICCJ’s meetings you can find extremely fine experts sharing their knowledge and insight in a very casual and close manner. Everyone is allowed to chip in, and that’s what makes it so interesting. Friendship sets the tone of the conversation, and that general rule trickles down to everyone that participates in them, even if some don’t know each other personally (and even through Zoom!) That’s what allows one to feel safe enough to examine closely and honestly its own experience and tradition, and be able to question it in front of others without the fear of exposing too much or becoming too vulnerable. Those defensive calculations aren’t needed here.

But, apart from making it such a gratifying experience for those of us to have the privilege to take part in them, this combination of profound knowledge, honest openness and dear friendship is actually what pushes the global dialogue forward. The fraternal tone of this conversation doesn’t take away an ounce of its relevance and worldwide urgency. It’s a way of making history that feels like a family dinner.


4. Markus Himmelbauer (Austria):

I work as a minister in a Catholic parish in the Austrian mountains. For me, the ICCJ seminar was an excellent opportunity to deal with basic questions of Christian existence, which is otherwise not possible in everyday work. I felt encouraged in receiving impulses and ideas from colleagues around the world with whom I had been in contact many years ago and with whom I still walk on the common path of Christian-Jewish encounters. The theme of attentively perceiving the presence of the other could be continued in an examination of Christian art. Many negative depictions of Judaism in churches continue to have an effect over the centuries (Ecclesia and Synagoga and much more!), but there are also new approaches to overcoming the aggressiveness against and devaluation of Judaism. This imagery supports an outdated theology of contempt, but could also be an opportunity to develop new emotions of solidarity and connectedness through new images. Dealing with Christian-Jewish relations in this in-depth dimension and at this high level is a minority program - probably in both religions. It builds me up to be part of this circle. I feel intellectually and spiritually gifted.



Please note:
The views, opinions, and conclusions expressed by the author(s) of this article do not necessarily represent the views of the ICCJ, its Executive Board, or its national member organizations.