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Hands across the aisles

Interfaith Insights
Interfaith Insights
Unknown Israel 2007

Why is it important for Jewish and Christian feminists to understand each other? Three reasons come to mind:

1) We share historical and religious roots. Christianity sprang forth from Judaism as well as we share almost 2000 years of biblical history in common. In addition, we hold the same Hebrew Bible sacred.

Through Jewish work on the sacred texts, Jewish feminists can offer Christian feminists valuable insights on how to deal with the unquestionable patriarchy we see reflected in those texts. Jewish feminists can also broaden our hermeneutic understandings. Their methods of interpretation, such as the use of rabbinical dialects and midrash can deepen our insight into biblical texts and how to apply them today.

2) Both Jewish and Christian feminists believe in justice and they both protest antisemitism wherever it happens. No doubt, in principle, we stand firmly against discrimination of Jewish people. However, for some, it is more difficult to discern theological anti-Judaism. With Jesus so central to Christian biblical feminism, it is easy for us to contrast Jesus with the Pharisees of his day. Unfortunately, as a result of the choices made by the Pharisees of Jesus' day, some people make assumptions about the entire ancient Jewish culture as unrelievedly patriarchal.

How easily our ignorance of Judaism can lead to discrimination. Christianity, at least in name, has been the dominant religious and cultural expression in the Western world since Jesus. Part of the cost of such dominance is a history of brutal persecution of Jews, in the name of a (misinterpreted) judgmental and exclusive Christ.

We must denounce and disassociate ourselves from such triumphalist Christianity. It has no part in the servant-hood and radical inclusiveness that Jesus' life demonstrated. We need rather to stand in solidarity with its victims. Otherwise, we participate in the same kind of "Christian-dominant" oppression that we feminists complain about in regards to male domination. It is morally dangerous to be part of a majority and not even be aware of the minorities we oppress in our midst.

3) Politically, we in the U.S. are inseparably involved in the future of Israel. Israel would find it difficult to exist in its present form without vast amounts of U.S. aid. As a result of U.S. aid, Western feminists and other justice-oriented Jews are alarmed by the oppression and torture some Israelis are inflicting upon Palestinians. Because of this present day oppression, Christian feminists need to support the Jewish feminists groups who work for Jewish justice among the Palestinian people.

The feminist movement has forced many Christians to broaden our understanding of justice and deepen our relationships with many people from different cultures and religious backgrounds. In the process, it has also broadened and deepened our own faith. However, the challenge is still very present for many of our Christian and Jewish sisters to reach out and grasp the extended hands across the aisles. It is my hope that for many, out of faith and love grounded in a lively hope, this will change.

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