Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the leading rabbis of the 20th century, wrote the following regarding Jewish-Christian relations: "We must insist upon loyalty to the unique and holy treasures of our own tradition and at the same time acknowledge that in this era religious diversity may be the providence of God.
"Respect for each other's commitment, respect for each other's faith, is more than a political and social imperative. It is born of the insight that God is greater than religion, that faith is deeper than dogma."
The work we do to create bridges of understanding between the Jewish and Christian communities is a reflection of Rabbi Heschel's belief religious diversity is the providence of God.
Rabbi Heschel was once asked if the world would in fact be a better place if there were only one religion, since then there would be neither religious arguments nor conflicts.
He replied no.
Imagine, he asked, if every if every painting in the Metropolitan Museum looked the same. It is ridiculous, but so is the idea there should only be one religion.
"As far as I can tell," Rabbi Heschel wrote, "I think it is God's will that there should be religious pluralism."
In response to the growing number of Christians and Jews interested in learning about each other's faith traditions and beliefs, Father Tom Zalewski and the Rev. Robert Sichta will join me in leading Bradenton's first Interfaith Symposium on three Tuesday evenings next month. The topics:
"God" at UCC Congregational Church on Feb. 3.
"Prejudice" at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Feb. 10.
"Sin and Death" at Temple Beth El on Feb. 17.
Following each 10-minute lectures, there will be ample time for questions and follow-up discussion.
Each session begins at 7:30 p.m. and everyone is warmly invited to attend.
Our goal in this symposium is to build a bridge of understanding and mutual respect through dialogue and personal interaction. At the conclusion of each session, it is our hope members of the three congregations will introduce themselves to each other and share their personal ideas and beliefs.
As Judaism is the tradition out of which Christianity emerged, understanding each faith's core beliefs will give greater insight into our own traditions.
In Hebrew we say "chazak chazak," which means let us be strong and let us strengthen each other. This unique Interfaith Symposium will strengthen the bonds of friendship and fellowship throughout Manatee County.
Rabbi Harold Caminker: 941-755-4900 (Temple), 941-806-9925 (cell), email@example.com (email). Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald, written by local clergy members.