Yad B’Yad Featured Israeli Leader
By Cynthia McLean
The Ohr Torah Stone’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation was founded by Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Israel, Dr. Shlomo Riskin, whose outstanding contributions to Israel and to world Jewry have made him one of the leading voices of today’s Modern Orthodox Jewish world.
Riskin is especially renowned for his bridge-building efforts between various segments of society. For the first time in sacred history, a city rabbi of the State of Israel, member of the chief rabbinate of Israel, is reciprocating back to the Christians who have a heart for Israel and the Jewish people, by initiating a Center of Relational Dialogue in order to clarify the theological and faith areas in which we agree and in which we disagree in order to cement our common goals of Religion for Peace and security for the embattled State of Israel.
Yad B’ Yad (Hebrew for Hand in Hand) is a group of Albuquerque Christians and Jews who gather together to build relationships of trust through education and dialogue with the same vision of the aforementioned Israeli organization.
During her most recent visit to Israel Susie Sandager, who was instrumental in founding Yad B’ Yad, shared with David Nekrutman, executive director for Ohr Torah Stone, about the community Albuquerque’s Christians and Jews are building and her excitement to learn about this progressive development through the Centers efforts. It was agreed that Nekrutman would come to Albuquerque to speak to the Yad B’ Yad audience on October 17.
Prior to Nekrutman taking the floor at the Sunday afternoon meeting, the audience was honored to hear Rabbi Howard Kosovske, interim rabbi at Congregation Albert, speak about the importance of dialogue being a “two way street” between Jew and Christian.
His past and present efforts aimed at fostering positive relations with Christians are forward thinking but based on his deep faith. “By Gods spirit it will be done; groups like this make it happen,” Kosovske said.
Nekrutman acknowledged he’s ever cognizant that he is not the first one to step out into the territory of Jews reaching out to understand Christians saying, “Others have led the way.”
He explained there are Christians who have rejected Replacement Theology, asked for forgiveness for past anti-Semitism, and affirm that God’s covenant with Israel is eternal. Even during the height of the intifada Christians made their way to Israel and declared, “We are with you!”
“Yet, for many in the Jewish community the 2,000 years of painful memories prevents any move to accept Christian gestures of goodwill,” Nekrutman stated. “Should we not accept the extended hand of friendship? Certainly! A dialogue and fellowship between us can only pave the way for better relationships and understanding. Both Judaism and Christianity have profound messages for the world. Each must speak to humanity and to each other.”
Nekrutman added that current times are fueled with anti-Israel sentiment and it is critical that we grow a new generation informed about why we walk together in faith, and how supporting Israel is central to our shared covenant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
“It is my honor to come to the state of New Mexico and talk about this historical moment andshow my appreciation for Christian support of Israel,” he said. From The Land of Israel to Albuquerque he carried the welcomed message of unity among what he called “a new faith family.” “We are living in a period where a change of heart is occurring before our eyes,” he continued.
The Center in Israel has 13 campuses and continues to expand into other areas of Israel to connect Christians, Jews and Arabs as well.
“This is amazing because many in the orthodoxrabbinic world did not consider it acceptable to enter into religious or theological dialogue with Christians. It is also the first Jewish-Christian relational organization based on a yeshiva campus,” Nekrutman explained.
As director, Nekrutman fosters relationships between members of the Orthodox Jewish community and the Christian denominations worldwide. His professional career ranges from the Consulate General of Israel in New York, where he served as the Director of Interfaith and Community Relations.
After making aliyah in 2005, he was instrumental in the successful launching of The Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, The Israel Experience, The Christian Jerusalem Day Banquet, and The Watchman on the Wall program resulting in millions of Christians praying and supporting Israel and the Jewish people. He currently resides in Netanya with his family.
For more information about the work and opportunities of Ohr Torah Stone Center visit www.cjcnc.com.