Co-run with the American Jewish Committee, the program has made a considerable contribution to interfaith activity. Rabbi Bill Berk
, director of the Center for Rabbinic Leadership
, explained the program’s rationale as follows: "As religious people we are certain that our traditions have much to give us, weight to anchor us, inspiration to move us. Many of us intuit that at this stage of our development we really need each other – we need to learn from traditions other than our own."
Thus, for 10 days a select group of prominent U.S. Christian leaders
– academics and religious figures alike – came to Jerusalem to learn about Jewish faith, ethics, prayer and ritual from top Hartman Institute scholars. Even the traditional mode of Jewish study in partnership – havruta – was applied during their stay.
After intense daytime study, the group participated in numerous sessions for reflection and discussion; this proved a highly enriching addition to the program.
The program did not shy away from controversial issues and tackled the contentious Palestinian issue through the eyes of Dore Gold
, previously Israel’s ambassador to the UN and advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ziad Abu Zayyad, an important Palestinian figure and Jessica Montell from the human rights group B’tselem.
A full-day field trip, exploring Israel’s immigration story added much to the experience, as did participation in Friday night prayer services and Shabbat dinner.
This program, which continues through the year by distance learning and meets again next summer for a second seminar, is sure to grow and develop in the wake of the pilot’s success.