The Common Good
September-October 2001

Developing Holy Envy

by Molly Marsh | September-October 2001

Jews and Christians is a great example of how magnificent television can be.

Jews and Christians is a great example of how magnificent television can be. Based on the book

Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith, by Marvin Wilson, filmmakers Gerald Krell and Meyer Odze have created a stunning documentary that makes great strides toward educating Jews and Christians about each other. As one professor notes, in the words of Jewish scholar Martin Buber, "We share a book. And that's no small thing."

No small thing, indeed. Krell and Odze's approach is to look at what is common to Judaism and Christianity-God's divinity, the belief that God is not distant from us, the importance of forgiveness, reconciliation, and prayer, among other concepts-without minimizing the differences. They carry this out in interviews with Christian and Jewish scholars and practitioners, visits to Christian and Jewish holy sites, and examinations of Yom Kippur and Easter services, circumcision rituals, baptism, and the Eucharist.

Interfaith efforts all over the country are spotlighted in the most encouraging part of the documentary. At New York's Solomon Schechter High School, Father Guy Massey talks with Jewish students about their perceptions of Catholicism and how they believe Catholics and other Christians view Jews. Rabbi Howard Cove, in turn, speaks with Catholic high school students in Philadelphia about their understanding of Judaism. Similar conversations take place in churches, synagogues, and various community groups.

"The real trick [to religious understanding] is what I call ‘Holy Envy,'" said Krister Stendahl, professor emeritus at Harvard Divinity School. "There is something in the other that is beautiful, that even tells you something about God. But it ain't yours; it's different.... We are different, and we should celebrate that diversity."

Molly Marsh is an assistant editor of Sojourners. Jews and Christians will air on PBS this fall. Check local listings.

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