Judaism is the root of the world’s two largest religions. Yet few of these adherents know much about this ancient faith. Many Christians do not know the Jewish view of Jesus, and few Muslims know the role Judaism played in the origins of Islam. There are also nonreligious Jews who know little about the theology and the underpinnings of their own religion.
Dunwoody’s Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA) announced that its Lisa F. Brill Institute for Jewish Learning is registering students for its 2013-2014 classes on Judaism. These classes are open to the community and cover a range of topics, which include an introduction to Judaism, conflict between Jews and Muslims and the fundamentals of Judaism for Jews.
“People of all ages and denominations are looking to study and debate Jewish topics, from the core values of Judaism, life cycle observances and holidays, to debating Jewish identity in America, to exploring the American experience for immigrants.” said Dr. Shelley Buxbaum, director of the Brill Institute.
Several classes in this series will explore the long relationship between Judaism and Islam and serve possibly as a means to bridge the sea of misunderstanding that has developed between these two faiths.
Through the centuries, Jews and Muslims “have had a close but difficult relationship,” explained Ira Rifkin, an author and national correspondent for Religion News Service. Tension between the two faiths originated in seventh century Saudi Arabia when Jews rejected the Prophet Muhammad’s claims that God chose him as his final messenger.
According to Rifkin, two issues divide Jews and Muslims today. First is the dispute over land and the existence of the state of Israel in a location that is sacred to Muslims. The second issue is Islam’s theological claim that it has replaced Judaism (and Christianity) as God’s preferred religion because Jews have transgressed God’s laws.
Knowledge of Judaism is becoming a key feature of many in the Christian community. One cannot escape the fact that Jesus, his disciples and the early church were Jews, before the faith became a predominantly gentile religion.
In fact, a growing contemporary Hebrew Roots movement advocates a return and adherence to what some Christians understand to be the first century religion that Jesus and his disciples taught. Courses like those offered by the Brill Institute can offer a better understanding of the culture, history, religion and political background of that era.
Those Christians who seek to reconnect with the past believe that without a clear understanding of Judaism, pastors cannot understand the teachings of the Apostle Paul and the New Testament. Underlying the movement is a belief that Christianity has lost its way from the true teachings and Jewish concepts of the Bible. Greek and Roman philosophies, the movement claims, have infiltrated Christianity and ultimately corrupted modern Christianity with paganism.
Some classes address the desire of Jews to explore and become more knowledgeable about Judaism. There is a long tradition of Jewish education about Judaism that goes back to biblical times. Jewish parents are obliged by the scriptures to provide for the instruction of their children.
Deuteronomy encourages Jews to study their history: “Remember the days of old, consider the years of ages past; ask your father, he will inform you, your elders, they will tell you.” (Deut 32:7). Moreover, there is a mandate in Judaism to develop what is called “Jewish learning” into a lifestyle.
“The MJCCA’s Brill Institute allowed me to continue my Jewish education but from an adult perspective. †My life experiences allowed me to view information that I learned as a child differently as an adult,” said Amy Rosenberg, a former Brill Institute student. “The classes exposed me to many different views of Judaic study, based on interactions with my instructor and classmates. It was something that I did for myself that has been a positive influence on my entire family life.”†
Whether Jewish, Muslim or Christian, “There is truly something for everyone – whether you are just beginning to explore Judaism, or simply want to deepen your knowledge, we have a class for you,” Buxbaum added.
For a complete schedule of classes or to register, visit www.atlantajcc.org.
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