By Patrick B. McGuigan
During a visit to Oklahoma, Israeli Rabbi Shlomo Riskin unveiled plans for historic curricula detailing advancements over the last 50 years in Jewish-Christian relations and understanding the Christians who live in the land of Israel.
David Nekrutman, executive director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation (CJCUC), told CapitolBeatOK the organization is working with the government of Israel to develop a pilot program within the high school system to have Israeli Jewish students understand the Catholic Church’s “theological turnaround toward the Synagogue: and what has been done in the half century of positive developments between both faith communities.
This comes at a time when “Nostra Aetate” is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The document, forged during the Second Vatican Council held during the pontificate of John XXIII, led among other things to Pope John Paul II’s establishment of official ties between the Vatican and Israel in the 1990s.
The last three popes have each visited Israel upon their beginning years of their papacy. John Paul II memorably began referring to Jews as “elders brothers” to Christians in general, and Roman Catholics in particular.
Nekrutman accompanied Rabbi Shlomo Riskin on a visit to Oklahoma City this week. He told CapitolBeatOK that both Lazar Berman and Murray Watson, a renowned Catholic educator, assisted CJCUC in curriculum development.
As chaplain of the day for the state Legislature, on Tuesday (Feb. 17), Rabbi Riskin prayed for lawmakers and citizens in the Sooner State, which he described as “a dear friend to the Nation of Israel.” Riskin prayed at the start of the legislative day at the request of State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Oklahoma City, a leader of the bipartisan Native American Legislative Caucus, as well as a long-standing advocate for strong ties between the United States and Israel.
Gary and Connie Bachman of Zion’s Gate International, supported Riskin’s visit, and accompanied him during his visit to the metropolitan area.
Riskin met with Christian pastors at a luncheon, and then addressed an evening meeting at the Chabad Jewish Community Center in north Oklahoma City, addressing the topic of “Israel, the Universe and You.”
Opposition to Iran’s nuclear weapons program was a recurring focus in all of Riskin’s comments during his visit to the state.
The rabbi, whom Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has designated “Ambassador for Jewish-Christian Relations,” called on “our Muslim brethren, children of our common father, Abraham,” to speak out against Islamic extremism, manifested recently in deadly terrorist attacks on European Jews and the decapitations of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya.
NOTE: As a guest of Zion’s Gate International, an Oklahoma City Christian organization, McGuigan visited Rabbi Riskin’s congregation in Efrat, Israel in fall 2013.