MINNEAPOLIS -- A noted rabbi said he likes to think of Jews as "a," not "the," chosen people, and a Protestant Bible scholar compared the relationship between Christians and Jews to that of Jacob and his brother Esau in talks at the 10th National Workshop on Christian-Jewish Relations here Nov. 8-11.
Rabbi Leon Klenicki, director of the Interfaith Affairs Department of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of B'nai B'rith, said of Judaism, "My way is not the only one. It is simply mine and my people's. It is a way built on thousands of years of history and tradition and on contemporary inner struggle and search."
The Reform rabbi said he believes "all people who live a religious life, who have chosen God, are in turn God's people. If we can accept one another's religious traditions, we will abolish much of the source of the evil that has infected the world. Will we not then be helping to make the promised Kingdom of God a reality?"
Dr. Donald Juel, associate professor of New Testament at Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., said Christians "insist that God's electing grace is encountered in Christ, in light of whose cross all prior conceptions of grace must be understood." But, he added, "that Christian notion requires the continued existence of Israel in a way Jewish views of election do not need the Christian church."
Dr. Juel predicted that "Christians and Jews, like the two children of Rebecca who have struggled since emerging from the womb of Israel's wife, will continue to live somewhat uneasily together within our common heritage until God chooses to make possible another, higher form of coexistence."
At another session the Rev. Paul M. van Buren, an Episcopal priest who is associated with the Shalom Hartman Center in Jerusalem, said that "most Christians have no particular interest in Jews or Judaism because for them Jesus was not and is not a Jew. As a bringer of universal salvation, how can he be anything so particular as a Jew?"
Similarly, Judith Hershcopf Banki of the American Jewish Committee in New York said that some Catholics in Poland have had a "terrible difficulty" in accepting Jesus as a Jew. She quoted one Polish woman as saying, "Maybe Jesus was a Jew, but Mary, never!"
Rabbi Eugene Borowitz of Hebrew Union College in New York said some Jews hold back from dialogue with Christians because they believe Christians hate Jews or because they don't see what "political" gains they can make through dialogue.
"We will have in all our faiths a continual tension between the mood of inclusion and the mood of exclusion," Rabbi Borowitz said. He said the continuing challenge will be "to find a way to be open to difference and yet steadfast in our faith."