Newsletter September 2015

Israeli Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (center) donates first check to successful “Restoring Friendship” Campain June 25th, 2015. With him are prominent rabbis and interfaith leaders including Elijah’s Executive Director Alon Goshen-Gottstein (third from right), Rabbi Michael Melchior (second from right) and Rabbi David Rosen (second from left).

“Restoring Friendship”

Campaign to rebuild burnt Church is big success

After the arson attack on the Church of the Multiplication of Fish and Loaves (Tabgha), the Elijah Interfaith Institute, led by Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein, embarked on a campaign to rebuild the destroyed visitors’ centre and rebuild the friendship and goodwill that was damaged by the attack.

The project had several goals, all of which were met with success:

  1. Financial support for rebuilding the meeting center at Tabgha. The fundraising goal was met and will serve for that purpose.
  2. Giving voice to rabbinic voices that affirm a positive view of Christianity. Arsonists at Tabgha were informed by a view of Christianity as idolatry. The “Restoring Friendship” campaign was launched by a group of leading Israeli Orthodox rabbis. Their signing on to the project was a public show of a different view of Christianity. For a list of rabbis and the reasoning that led them to support the project, click here.
  3. Opening a public discussion on Christianity from a Jewish perspective. When Rabbis like the much esteemed Nachum Rabinowitz endorsed the project, this caused great surprise to many who were unaware of the range of Jewish views on Christianity. Lively debates opened on various internet sites and facebook pages on Jewish-Christian relations. The campaign thus constituted an occasion for public education. Multiple television and radio appearances featuring Alon Goshen-Gottstein, speaking on the campaign, provided the Israeli public with further opportunity to recognize that a Jewish view of Christianity can be the exact opposite of the one that led to the arson at Tabgha.
  4. The campaign also provided an opportunity for sending a message of friendship throughout the Catholic world. The campaign was featured on many major media outlets, general as well as Catholic.
For Huffington Post coverage click here
For a report on Zenit click here
For interview with Rabbi Alon on Zenit click here
  1. Finally, the campaign allowed over four hundred individuals and institutions to express their message of friendship to the community at Tabgha along with their disdain from crimes committed against Christians in the Holy Land. Jewish seminaries of all denominations – Reform, Conservative and Orthodox, contributed to the project and expressed their message of solidarity. The American Jewish Committee made a major contribution to the campaign. Rabbis and synagogues across the Jewish world signed on to the project. Many left messages of friendship and support on the campaign page. Reviewing these messages (in Hebrew and in English), one realizes the deep penetration of the campaign and the deep feelings it evoked.

Some of these messages are featured in this edition’s “Sharing Wisdom” section.

What Do You Think?

After Tabgha, what should we do next?

The “Restoring Friendship” is also an initiative designed to advance Jewish-Christian relations, as a response to the attack on Christians by Jewish extremists. We have been considering next steps for this initiative, and would like to invite readers of our newsletter to make suggestions of what they would consider appropriate next steps that can follow on the campaign and that can be accomplished with modest financial support. Kindly send any suggestions you may have to

Elijah at Parliament of World Religions

Elijah brings “Religious Genius” to Parliament 2015

All religions recognize there are outstanding individuals, whose spiritual insight, presence and power by far surpass those of others. These individuals help create, define, drive, reform and inspire their traditions. They are the models who provide the basis for emulation by others and they are the ideal of the tradition in its concrete manifestation, in the lives of humans. As regular readers of Sharing Wisdom know, the new category of “Religious Genius” has been developed  to describe these individuals and to raise awareness of the enormous contribution their lives and teachings have made and could continue to make towards a better world.

Elijah has just completed a very successful summer school program in Jerusalem devoted to “Religious Genius”, to be featured in the next issue of our newsletter. Following this success, we will be holding a similar training presenting the project to a wide audience at the Parliament of World Religions, to be held at Salt Lake City in October, with a focus on Al-Ghazali (Muslim) and Rabbi Kook (Jewish). Immediately following the Parliament, Elijah will conduct a 4-day training seminar for people interested in joining the project. We invite you to consider joining us. Register Now!


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