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Christians and Jews Have Embarked On A Journey of Mutual Respect, Says Rabbi Rudin

Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
May-June 2000

Rabbi James Rudin has stepped down after 17 years as the American Jewish Committee's national interreligious affairs director. He sees the relationship between Jews and Christians as one that can only get stronger. "Christians and Jews have embarked on the long journey of mutual respect and understanding that must never be underestimated or taken for granted," he said. "The growing recognition by many Christians that their religion does not require the spiritual annihilation of Jews and the destruction of Judaism...is of historic importance because it repudiates the spiritual arrogance and religious competition that have bedeviled Christian- Jewish relations for two millennia."  

The Washington Jewish Week (May 25, 2000) reports that Rabbi Rudin believes the next chapter in Catholic-Jewish relations will be a discussion of theology. "Catholics want to know not only about Jewish history, but what we believe about prayer, afterlife, faith, the Messiah," he said. They want to "enlarge the dialogue" to, for instance, examine how the two groups interpret the same Bible in different ways. "The relationship is going to only get more enriched," Rudin stated.  

To those who argue that religion in American life has been declining, Rabbi Rudin states that, "There has never been a secular society, nor is there likely to be one in the immediate future. This is not a post-religious age; just the opposite is true."  

Interreligious relations in the next century will be different than in the past, he notes, because of the increasing diversity of religious life in the U.S.  

"We need to recognize the changes in American religious life," he said, pointing out that groups like Orthodox Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and especially Moslems must be included in any serious interreligious discussion. He pointed out that American society is "soaked with religiosity and religious symbols." He declared, "I want to strike from our vocabulary the words `tolerant' and `tolerance.' The new world is dialogue of the brave and honest about our own flaws, our own organizations and our own people."  

Rabbi Rudin, a former Air Force chaplain, will remain with the American Jewish Committee as senior interreligious adviser and also serve as a consultant to St. Leo University in Tampa, Florida, where he helped establish a center for Jewish-Catholic relations.  

The Rev. John Pawlikowski, a professor of social ethics at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and a leader in Catholic-Jewish relations, said that Rudin's legacy is "keeping interreligious dialogue firmly rooted in social commitment," by working together to address such issues as racism and human rights.

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