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Podcast: Jon Levenson on the Danger and Opportunity of Jewish-Christian Dialogue

January 16, 2018 | By: Jon Levenson

Press play below to listen to the podcast, download it in the iTunes Store, or stream it via Stitcher.

Chapter 1: The Purpose of Interfaith Dialogue

Chapter 2: How Not to Conduct Jewish-Christian Dialogue

Chapter 3: Jews, Christians, and Israel

Chapter 4: Lowest Common Denominators

Nostra Aetate, the Catholic Church’s 1965 Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, was a watershed in the history of Jewish-Christian relations. It repudiated the slander of deicide and took a stand against anti-Semitism, and in so doing, opened the door to dialogue between Jews, Catholics, and Christians of many other denominations.

Several decades later, a group of over 170 Jewish scholars offered what some saw as a kind of Jewish response to the titanic shift brought about by Nostra Aetate. Dabru Emet, “Speak the Truth,” set out a set of principles regarding how Jews and Christians might relate to one another and build a foundation for interfaith cooperation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, not all Jewish scholars could get behind the statement. In “How Not to Conduct Jewish-Christian Dialogue,” published in Commentary, and “Judaism Addresses Christianity,” published in Jacob Neusner’s Religious Foundations of Western Civilization, Professor Jon Levenson of Harvard University raises serious concerns with the planks of Dabru Emet. If interfaith dialogue is to have real meaning, Levenson argues, it cannot paper over irreconcilable religious differences or flatten religious conviction in order to create a veneer of agreement.

In this podcast, Levenson sits down with Tikvah’s Alan Rubenstein to discuss the dangers and opportunities posed by Jewish-Christian dialogue. They explore the purpose of interfaith discourse, the importance of the theological disagreements between Jews and Christians, and the dangers of suppressing religious disagreement in the name of cooperation. Professor Levenson demonstrates how Jews can enthusiastically embrace the importance of religious dialogue with Christians while remaining true to what makes Jews different.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at the Abigail Adams Institute at Harvard University. Jon Levenson is a member of the Tikvah Summer Institute faculty. Click here to learn more about our Institutes and other summer programs.


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