Three rabbinical students at HUC-JIR/New York – Jonathan Prosnit, Jennifer Gertman, and Evan Schultz -- are participating in the Protestant-Jewish Seminarian Program on Israel and Israeli-Palestinian Relations. A joint project of the American Jewish Committee (NY) and Auburn Theological Seminary, the participating institutions include General Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, Jewish Theological Seminary, New York Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Union Theological Seminary.
In 2005, following the Presbyterian Church, USA’s activities toward divestment from Israel, a group of 50 Presbyterian and Jewish leaders began a dialogue sponsored by the American Jewish Committee (New York Chapter) and Auburn Theological Seminary. In addition to regular meetings in New York, the group went on a mission to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Inspired by the relationships that were formed through study and travel, the group decided to launch a program for Protestant and Jewish seminarians to have a forum to learn about each others’ approach to Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
The Protestant-Jewish Seminarian Program on Israel and Israeli-Palestinian Relations, being launched in 2009, will bring together twenty rabbinical students and Protestant seminarians to learn about each other’s communal, political, and theological perspectives on Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and the regional conflict. The goal of the program is to provide deep learning through which participants can begin to experience the region through each others’ eyes. The program is being funded and supported by various Presbyterian and Jewish sources.
The program has two parts: (1) study/dialogue and (2) a travel encounter in Israel and the Palestinian Territories in May / June 2009 of approximately 8 days. Both parts of the program are required for all participants. The study dialogue will include three major learning sessions in the Winter / Spring 2009 (to be scheduled by participants and leaders). The study sessions will focus on the following three topics: a) theological approaches to Israel, including land, covenant and peoplehood; b) the role of history, both ancient and modern, including the Holocaust; and c) morality, human rights, and justice issues. Study sessions will include a shared meal, presentations by major scholars, small group learning, and discussion.
The trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories, to be scheduled in May / June 2009, will include additional learning opportunities and a chance to experience the region, both the State of Israel and the West Bank, through each others’ eyes and through the eyes of local leaders. Participants in the program will be asked to develop various follow up activities (such as sermons, teachings, or community action) at their seminary or in their religious community relating to the experience of the program.
Rabbi Renni Altman, Associate Dean and Director of the Rabbinical Program at HUC-JIR/New York, said, “It is our expectation that this ground-breaking endeavor, bringing Jewish and Protestant seminarian students together for dialogue and study and culminating in a joint mission to Israel, will foster greater understanding between these future religious leaders about the significance of Israel for the Jewish people and will give new insights for all into the struggle for peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians. We applaud the foresight of Auburn Theological Seminary and the American Jewish Committee in creating this program as a positive step towards understanding following the activities of the Presbyterian Church, USA toward divestment from Israel in 2005. HUC-JIR fully supports and encourages opportunities for our students to engage in dialogue with seminarians of other faiths as a significant part of their rabbinical education. It builds bridges of understanding that our students will carry with them into the communities that they will serve as rabbis; at the same time, it also strengthens their own faith development. We are proud that three HUCJIR rabbinical students have been accepted into the program.”