July 20, 2013

Returning to Israel

Once again I am preparing to travel for Jerusalem for ten days of study with my Christian Leadership Initiative cohort.  It is a remarkable privilege to learn about Judaism from gifted Jewish scholars, many of whom are based at the Shalom Hartman Institute. Over the past year, we have extended our learning through monthly webinars, which has fostered a cumulative impact.

            Whereas the focus of last year’s study was deeply theological, probing the identity of the Sovereign of the Universe, this year will focus on Jewish peoplehood and Israel.  Of course, complex and practical issues about the land will be a part of this exploration.  This will be theological, also, as we reflect on covenant and the gift of a home place—both geographical and spiritual.
            Only in Israel are Jews not a religious minority, and even in their state, precariousness persists as they are surrounded by nations whose aims are often at cross-purposes to that of Israel.  Yet, as we review the biblical saga of Israel and her neighbors, this reality is not exactly new.  The recurring experiences of diaspora have challenged Israel’s intrinsic relation to the land.

            Our cohort comes from all over the US—from Seattle to New York City, from Pasadena to Atlanta, and a few of us folks in between.  These scholarly leaders have positions that can influence how Christians articulate their understanding and relationship to Judaism.  For me personally, I cannot read biblical texts in the same way as prior to this study; I simply cannot understand my Christian identity apart from kinship with Jewish faith.
            In addition to daily lectures and close reading of texts, we will have opportunity to visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, as well as other walking peregrinations around the Old City.  A much anticipated highlight will be celebrating Shabbat and home hospitality next Friday evening.
            I go with intentionality as a pilgrim, earnestly desiring to be transformed by new learning and thoughtful interactions.  I hope to return with new insight about teaching for interfaith competency, a much needed practice for religious leaders.  I will attempt to convey as much of my experience as possible through these postings.  I wish I could take all of you with me!

            Molly T. Marshall

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