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US Christian leaders in Israel to study Judaism


The American Jewish Committee (AJC) and Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI), co-sponsors of the 13-month Christian Leadership Initiative (CLI), welcomed this week a cohort of prominent American Christian leaders to the Shalom Hartman Institute in Israel for an opportunity to gain a more profound understanding of Judaism and the Jewish people.

The Israel portion of the Christian Leadership Initiative, developed together by SHI and AJC and taught by leading Shalom Hartman faculty, focuses on the central ideas of Jewish ethics and faith, the diverse ideologies and practices of contemporary world Jewry, and the foundations of religious pluralism.

"CLI is an essential and unique program advancing interreligious relations," said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations. "It provides an open space for Christian leadership to experience and study Judaism and Israel from a Jewish perspective."

The 16 American Christian leaders currently participating in CLI have begun their studies in Israel on this summer’s theme, "God and Judaism." After returning to the US next week they will engage in monthly distance-learning sessions, studying classical Jewish texts with leading Israeli scholars. Finally, back in Israel in July 2013 for the concluding segment, they will spend an additional 10 days with Hartman Institute and AJC experts studying Jewish texts, focusing on Jewish concepts of community.

"Most Christian leaders rarely if ever have the opportunity to engage in sustained, intensive sacred text study taught by Jewish scholars with the goal of deepening their understanding of the Jewish people and the State of Israel," said Rabbi Dr. Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, vice president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and director of Rabbinic Leadership Programs.

Rev. Dr. Molly T. Marshall, president of the Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, said "CLI gives me the opportunity to study with high-level scholars. I was attracted to the program because of my interest in deepening interfaith relationships."
  
Rev. Dr. Radu Bordeianu, a professor of theology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, said he was taking part in the project to gain a better understanding of his own Christian roots and character.

Rev. Bill Borror, senior pastor at Media Presbyterian Church in Media, PA added: "This learning gives me a breadth of understanding and a connection to place and geopolitical realities. CLI is making me a better thinker, teacher, preacher, and pastor."

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