Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, 77, a champion of interfaith cooperation, will be in Raleigh on Sunday to give a talk and lead a workshop for Jewish and Christian clergy. Greenberg, the former chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and a longtime participant in interfaith dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, is the author of several books on Christian-Jewish relations. He will be the first scholar-in-residence at Yavneh, a new Jewish synagogue that meets in a Presbyterian church. Religion reporter Yonat Shimron talked to him from his home in New York.
Q: What will you be talking about to Jewish and Christian clergy?
In the last two decades I’ve worked on the idea that Judaism and Christianity, despite substantial differences and a history of conflict, are the two closest world religions. There’s a profound shared experience and core beliefs. That closeness implies that from a divine perspective, the two religions were meant to be partners in the world. For much of 2,000 years, they were at each other’s throats and Christianity suppressed and sought to dismiss Judaism as having been superseded by God. But now that we’ve had 50 or 60 years of serious dialogue and rethinking, this paves the way for a genuine partnership between the two.
Q: A lot of more recent interfaith dialogue has revolved around Islam. How does that figure into your thinking?
If Jews and Christians can overcome their very bitter and hostile history, it can become an important role model for all the flashpoints in the world, and in particular for Islam. Many of the problems in radical Islam are problems that Christianity and Judaism have in their traditions, too, in terms of texts that dismiss the other or justify wiping them out. But the two religions have, at least in the mainstream, overcome them, so they can be a role model for the rest of the world.