Dayton Christian Jewish Dialogue

Minutes of Meeting

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October 18, 1998

Location: Alumni Hall, University of Dayton

Meeting Topic: Discussion of Concepts in the Book, Machnaim, The Two Camps of God

Speaker: Dieter Walk

Hosts: Bob and Bette Jasko

PRESENT: Robin Smith, Co-chair; Arthur Auster, Connie Breen, Bert Buby, Phyllis Duckwall, Frances Gross, Agnes Hannahs, S. John Hoffman, Edith Holsinger, Bette Jasko, Bob Jasko, Jack Kelley, Jerry Kotler, Howard Levant, Moira Levant, Barbara Levine, John Magee, Bob Mass, Cecilia Moore, Eileen Moorman, Donald Ramsey, Ken Rosenzweig, Lou Vera, Dieter Walk, Suzie Walk, William Youngkin.

Robin called the meeting to order at about 8:00 PM. As the opening prayer, Bob Jasko asked those in attendance to sing together the song, Here I am, Lord. He noted that the words of the song are from the prophet, Isaiah, and passed out a song sheet to sing from. Bob said that by singing together, we (the Dialogue) celebrate the unity of the two camps of God. After the song was completed, Bob said that he and Bette have found a loving community in the Christian Jewish Dialogue. He observed that in Paul's Letter to Timothy, Paul talked about the Scriptures (meaning the Hebrew Scriptures; the Christian Scriptures had not yet been written).

Robin discussed the Edith Stein Guild which is dedicated to good relations between Jews and Christians. At Robin's request, materials were sent to Robin by the Guild. It was noted that Edith Stein was made a saint by the Catholic Church during the last week.

Robin also noted another important program to be held in Cincinnati, November 3 through November 5--Israel at Fifty. Speakers in this program include Dr. Eugene Fisher, Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations, United States Catholic Conference, and Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, President of Hebrew Union College. Robin distributed a flyer for the program and encouraged Dialogue members to attend. Information about the program can be obtained from the Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, telephone (513)421-3131, ext. 223. Robin opened a discussion of the Christmas/Channukah party to be held on December 13 at the home of Shirley Flacks.

Ken delivered three announcements. First, on September 26, he escorted ten German students to the Sabbath Saturday morning services at Beth Abraham Synagogue. These students are all pursuing Business Administration degrees at the University of Augsburg. As a part of the University of Dayton's exchange program with the University of Augsburg, the students have temporarily left their studies in Germany to come to study for one year at the University of Dayton and will receive a University of Dayton MBA Degree at the end of that time. Then they will return to Germany to complete their business studies. All the students are currently enrolled in Ken's Operational Systems class at the University of Dayton, which is co-taught with Prof. Robert Amsden. A few Jewish people sat with the German students to explain what was going on in the services and to answer the students' questions. These people included Dialogue members, Steve and Sophie Kahn and Felix Garfunkel, as well as nonmember Felix Weil. Most of these people are Jews of German extraction who survived the Holocaust. After the services, Rabbi Samuel Press, Rabbi of Beth Abraham Synagogue, and Renate Frydman, Director of the Dayton Holocaust Resource Center, talked with the students. The German students expressed great interest in learning more about Judaism as well as hearing the stories of Jewish Holocaust survivors.

Ken also announced that the Ecumenical Institute for Jewish-Christian Studies located in Southfield Michigan has a new Director--David Blewett. He replaces Dr. James R. Lyons who died recently. Dr. Lyons was the facilitator of the Dialogue retreat a few years ago. Ken also announced that the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton has added a prominent link to the Dialogue website. Ken will seek to obtain other new links to the Dialogue website so that the activities of the Dialogue get more exposure.

Reminiscent of Paul Flack's regular reports to the Dialogue on Israeli matters, Dieter delivered an Israel update. He noted that the Israelis are being pressured into a settlement. The environment at the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis in Maryland is not congenial. Dieter observed that the Israelis are being asked to give too much, while the Palestinians are not giving enough.

Jack Kelley delivered a few announcements. He noted that there is a new Papal encyclical on reason and faith. Jerry said there is an old Jewish tradition that when someone passes away, the appropriate thing is to learn something. As a consequence, Jerry will deliver a talk on this subject in memory of his parents. The talk about Studying Torah without the benefit of Midrash (stories which elaborate the text) will be at the Temple Israel Brotherhood Brunch Series next Sunday. Robin then introduced Dieter.

Dieter Walk's Presentation

Dieter thanked the Dialogue for inviting him to speak. He began with some leadoff comments. Dieter is delighted that people of all three denominations (Jewish, Catholic, Protestant) have endorsed the book.1 These endorsements are printed on the back cover. This is important to Dieter because he intended it not to be just one group's perspective. Dieter admitted that he has had mixed responses to the book. Some Christians have been offended by some of the ideas in the book. He has had some pastors read it. Moshe Kempinsky, an Israeli owner of the Shorashim Shop in Jerusalem, is selling Dieter's book. Moshe engages Christian tour groups in conversation and when they come to an impasse, he recommends Dieter's book. Dieter admits there was some risk in publishing this book. Dieter is saying there are two camps of God, not two covenants with God. Dieter appreciates the fact that Jewish people have read his book, but the book is not directed at Jews. It is directed at Christians and encourages them to gain a better understanding of Jews and Judaism. Dieter wrote the book because he wants to do something that makes a difference. It is incumbent on us to reverse the history of bad relations between Jews and Christians. Since we all carry baggage with us from what we have been taught in Sunday school, etc., we Christians often approach Jews with a bias, and some Christians believe that Judaism is not a legitimate religion. We forget that the Christian mandate is to bring people to God through the love of Christ. Dieter cited the wonderful story told to the Dialogue by Murray Weisman at the July meeting. Murray told about a Rabbi in Poland during the Holocaust who went to the local town leader to ask for help in protecting the Jews. The town leader replied that if the Jews acted more Christian, they would not have so many problems. The Rabbi replied that if the town leader acted more Christian, the Jews would not have so many problems.

Discussion Period

Bert said he liked the way Dieter writes and as a Marianist appreciates Dieter's sensitive presentation of the overshadowing of Mary by the Holy Spirit. Howard Levant asked what about the book offended some of the Christians. Dieter replied that in the book he states that Rosenzweig comments that Jews do not have to go through Jesus because they are already with God the Father. This is offensive to some Christians. John Hoffman also asked about what kind of controversy the book generated. In the book, Dieter used the scriptural reference to 70 as being representative of all the nations of the world. He said that God is very inclusive and wants a family of man that is not limited to one group. Arthur also noted the number 70 was special in that there were 70 members of the Sanhedrin. Robin asked how there can be two camps but only one covenant. In response to Robin's question, Dieter tried to explain that people have made it two camps. Gods plan is a continuous process. He did not start over with Jesus. From the beginning of the world, God has had one plan: to bring all His people into relationship with Him. People tend to emphasize the divisive issues, rather than emphasizing the things they agree on. That is why there are so many splinter groups (denominations). Dieter wants us to get beyond the differences. Jerry asked whether Dieter's model allows for the inclusion of Islam. Dieter noted that Islam is a different strain, and he would not include it in the same strain as Judaism and Christianity. However, within every faith group, there are some people who truly love God and whose hearts are right with God. He believes there are Hindus, Hare Krishnas, etc., who will get into heaven. Arthur noted that in Islam, Christ is a prophet. However, Arthur observed that when one goes below the surface, there are real differences. Dieter likes to be careful in enlarging the model. Robin raised the issue of the recent play in New York which portrayed Jesus as gay. Dieter said he and several Christian denominations welcome homosexuals into the Church body when they renounce their objectionable behavior. Dieter noted that we all have faults but if our heart is right, God will understand. Robin acknowledged the existence of two camps, but pointed out that Dieter writes in his book that God does not want there to be two camps. Dieter said that unfortunate misunderstandings developed in the early years of Christianity between Jews and Christians. Each camp has entrenched itself into its own sacred areas. Fences and borders exclude people. Robin asked whether we can come together in one camp. Dieter said, absolutely. Jack noted that the issue of one covenant or two is heavily debated among Christian theologians.

Dieter said that, unfortunately, most Christians have no idea that Jesus was Jewish. Howard Levant said that his understanding is that the trouble started in the third century with Augustine. There was some discussion of Marcion (who rejected the Hebrew Scriptures) and was later himself rejected by the Church as a heretic. Bert observed that none of the fathers of the Church wanted to do away with the first covenant with the Jews. Dieter said that the Greek word in the New Testament means "renewed" or "refreshed," not new. Arthur asked what is the Greek word for renewed. Dieter replied that it is Kaine (renewed) instead of Neo (new) which is the word used in the New Testament, portraying Renewed Testament or covenant. Bert confirmed the Greek reference. This meaning reduces the tensions between Judaism and Christianity. Bob Mass talked about some of the sources of separation. Jerry noted that Paul Van Buren has a thesis that is parallel with Dieter's. However, Van Buren starts off with a premise that cannot be denied: no one can know the mind of God. Van Buren then accepts the notion that there are two covenants. Jerry asked what is the most difficult thing that a parent has to do. The answer is to make all his or her children feel loved equally. Jerry noted that the most common metaphor for God is father. This metaphor represents the way we should be looking at God. God has to treat different covenental relationships with different peoples equally.

Dieter responded to Jerry's comment about two covenants with the question, what do you do about idolatry? Jerry said he thinks he has solved that problem. Jerry noted the Noahite Covenant proposes that people can deal with people who have, as a basis, the seven Noahite characteristics. Dieter noted that when the children cause an adulterous relationship, they have caused a separation from (their father) God. Eileen commented that Dieter is too upset with the concept of idolatry; she would be more tolerant of it. Dieter replied that Abraham recognized that idols were just made-up Gods. Eileen commented that Judaism grew out of a culture of idolatry and paganism. God has always spoken to the people. Eileen noted there is room for idolatry in her community of God. John Patterson talked about God's using Abraham to bring the message of God to the world.

Arthur agreed with Dieter's position that there is a single covenant, as opposed to Jerry's position that there are two covenants. Jerry noted the point that he wants to make is that Dieter's model makes Dieter the definer of the legitimacy of another religion. Van Buren's model avoids this problem. Dieter replied that God is bigger than any one of us, so He will be the final judge. Bill noted that Jesus said that whoever is not against us is for us. Bill said that people from various groups can get into heaven. Idolatry does not have to do with the name of God; rather it is the quality of the relationship with the unknowable. Edith asked what right we have to judge the behavior of homosexuals. Dieter said he can judge people's behavior, although he may not be able to judge their hearts. Dieter said it is Gods judgment that homosexual behavior is an abomination. Eileen noted that both Edith and Dieter are talking about ethics, in which area human beings have the obligation to judge; however, they should be very careful in their judgments. Bill noted that God gave us a confusing message on homosexuality. John asked what the Jews thought about the book. Jerry replied with Dieter's statement that it was not written for Jews. Eileen disagreed somewhat, saying that Jewish people might find some meaning in the book. Jerry noted his Jewish friend from New York referred to the Jewish People as Am Segulah, a treasured nation. This reflects a certain diminishment of other nations and religions. However, Jerry disagrees and has no trouble with multiple covenants. John asked whether there could have been multiple legitimate paths even in the time of Jesus. Jerry said that one important source of the division between Judaism and Christianity was the Greek mythology and philosophy that was incorporated into Christianity. Arthur noted the very many strands even within Judaism; however, all Jews are of one religion. Moira told about a Christian friend who read the Bible and only got as far as the creation story, saying this is not my god. Dieter noted that his dad thought of God through most of his life as a revenging god. Bert observed that 90% of the Christian Scriptures are commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures. Lou stated that she has heard Irving Greenberg talk about the covenant, saying that Jesus's role was to bring the Jewish covenant to the gentiles. Lou noted that the Vatican has chosen not to deal with the two covenant theory because it would open up the question of the legitimacy of all world religions. Lou likes the two covenant theory because it fits together with the concept of the Cosmic Christ. This concept in turn includes the Omega Point. The discussion concluded at 9:45 PM.

At this point Lou encouraged the Dialogue members and guests to attend the talks by Dr. Eugene Fisher, November 3-5, in connection with the Israel at 50 program . She said that Dr. Fisher is a wonderful speaker.

Respectfully submitted,

Ken Rosenzweig, Secretary

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1 Dieter Walk, Machnaim: The Two Camps of God, Chicago, Morris Publishing, Kearney, NE, 1997, 69 pages.