Scholar Discusses Jesus and Judaism

November 8, 2003

Elizabeth Singreen, <i>Hullabaloo</i> staff writer

Addressing topics ranging from religious harmony to social reform, Vanderbilt University Professor Amy-Jill Levin, a scholar on religion, gender and sexuality, came to Tulane to speak about interfaith relations Oct. 30. Focusing specifically on Christianity and Judaism, Levin described the two faiths as "quarreling siblings" not being able to comprehend the other nor agree, despite their being from the same ancestor.

"Both are children of Abraham but don't want to acknowledge each other," Levin said. To solve this, Levin challenged the audience to see one another in different lights, such as encouraging people of the Jewish faith to look at the Old Testament of the Bible the way Christians do. She further encouraged both Jews and Christians to take time to learn about each other's cultures and religions. "The purpose of interfaith duality is not to come to a consensus, but to come to understanding," Levin said. "Don't sacrifice your own traditions on the altar of interfaith dialogue."

Levin also addressed social issues involving both religions. She praised the Vatican for their support of the Jewish faith, but criticized the United States' allowance of mandatory recital of the Lord's Prayer in public schools until 1980 and what she viewed as Reformation leader Martin Luther's anti-Semitism. Levin offered suggestion of social reform by planning a national Jewish Day and gifts of land to the Palestinians.

This, she said, would help ease the past historical transgressions against those of a Jewish faith. Some students in attendance enjoyed Levin's speech. Matthew Arcenec, School of Engineering junior, noted Levin's qualifications and intentions to bring harmony to those of both Jewish and Christian faiths.

"She's very well qualified and she really thinks it's important for Jews and Christians to understand each other, and her background supports that," Arcenec said. "By learning differences, it also makes you understand what you believe and what you except, and allows you to practice your beliefs so it's not just a title."

Others did not enjoy the Levin event. Newcomb College sophomore Erin Hershey thought Levin's speech was filled with inconsistencies. "Overall, her speech was problematic," Hershey said, citing her perception that Levin combined different dogmas from multiple religions. "Her personal explanation of salvation was a form of universalisms for three patriarchal religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam ' and each has claims of exclusivity on where one will spend their eternity," Hershey said. Chris Brady, Jewish studies professor introduced Levin.

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