This week the Presidents of CCJ, the leaders of the major Jewish and Christian communities in the UK, started a pilgrimage together. Not physically together, of course; each will use a period of daily exercise to visit the ‘frontline’ of the Covid-19 crisis: a hospital, school, care home, or any place where people are putting themselves at risk. The pilgrimage hit the national press, with coverage in the Guardian, and more to come; you can see the first clips below.
What struck me about our first pilgrimages was the ordinariness of the hospital entrances at which the CCJ Presidents prayed. Rt Revd Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, offered a prayer outside a hospital near his home, which he visited often as a minister. Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism UK, gave thanks outside several hospitals, including one where his children were born, and prayed that a ‘deepened awareness of one another and a deepened loving kindness’ would be ‘part of our new normal’. As the government considers easing lockdown measures, the ‘new normal’ is on all our minds. What will ordinary life feel like and look like in the months to come? What will it be like to return to it?
Rabbi Lord Sacks, in a talk he gave on Yom HaShoah last month, discussed how the word for ‘crisis’ in Hebrew is ‘mashber’, a word which is also used for ‘birthing stool’ in rabbinical literature. A crisis, that is, is also a time of birth. The Targum, the ancient Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, sometimes puns on this by translating the related word ‘mishbar’, breaker or wave, as ‘birthing stool’, as in 2 Sam 22:5.
We hope the current crisis, painful as it is, can be a time of new life and rebirth; a ‘new normal’ that is compassionate, generous, and innovative. There are signs of this already. It is inspiring to hear about churches and synagogues experimenting with services online and food delivery schemes on the ground. It is heartening to see CCJ branches taking advantage of Zoom, and members’ availability, and trying out different ways of meeting online. Our Yad Vashem alumni, Israel-Palestine trip alumni and Student Leaders are all meeting online, as well, in some cases in greater numbers than ever before. Next week we look forward to an event for over 60 rabbis and clergy about pastoral care and ritual innovation in lockdown. And we are now able to easily trial a new resource on Jewish-Christian dialogue with students from around the country. Please see below for more national and local events.
A crisis can indeed be a time of new birth. The hospitals that care for the sick and dying are also the places where children are coming into the world. May the current crisis also be a time of renewal, the birth of a caring and compassionate ‘new normal’, indeed.
Hoping that you enjoy a restful weekend,
The Revd Dr Nathan Eddy
Pictured: The Rt Revd Colin Sinclair and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg at CCJ's HMD reception in January (photographed before social distancing).
This week we were delighted to launch our Presidents' "Pilgrimages". Over the coming weeks our Presidents will use their daily exercise to thank key workers at their places of work and to express Jewish and Christian prayerful solidarity. This week Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism, and the Rt Revd Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, walked and ran to hospitals near their homes in London and Edinburgh.
In the coming weeks they will be "joined" in their virtual pilgrimages by Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop Justin Welby, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Revd Dr Hugh Osgood, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Archbishop Nikitas, and Rabbi Charley Baginsky.
In sharing these videos we pray: 'Though at this time physical distancing keeps us apart, we remain close together in prayer and loving kindness.'
You can watch Rabbi Wittenberg's "pilgrimage" here.
Pictured: The Rt Revd Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland outside the Astley Ainslie Hospital, Edinburgh.
International Day of Families – a reflection
'We ourselves need to see, and then enable others to see, that migrants and refugees are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved' – Pope Francis
For many, the Covid-19 pandemic has made us reflect on the things in life which are important. Separation from our families makes us wonder when we will see them again. Yet amid the uncertainty and fear, there is a sense of hope that one day soon things will gradually begin to get better.
For us, being apart from our loved ones is only temporary. It is a measure to protect us, with the promise of reunification once the danger has passed. But so many refugees have no such promise. And they do not have a government to protect them.
Jewish and Christian charities, activists and politicians are among those leading the way in trying to secure safe and legal routes for people to reunite with their families. Currently, the Dublin Regulations provide a right in EU Law for asylum seekers arriving in Europe to join their families in the UK. Yet despite consistent advocacy by faith groups and human rights organisations, the government is yet to establish an effective mechanism for family reunification after the Brexit transition period ends.
We have all been inspired by Lord Dubs’ tireless campaigning on safe passage to the UK for unaccompanied child refugees. The amazing impact of his endeavours was evident in recent scenes of people being rescued from dangerous and overcrowded camps on Greek islands to join their families here.
Without full legal protection, thousands of unaccompanied children will go on risking their lives and making dangerous journeys to reunite with their families. Pope Francis has called on us to think of refugees as our own separated brothers and sisters. I took part in World Youth Day when he invited young Catholics to contemplate the Lampedusa cross, made from a boat which was wrecked and sunk as hundreds of refugees tried to reach safety in Europe. So many of us were reminded of that moment over the past few days as desperate women, men and children were rescued from the English Channel.
On the International Day of Families, we will all be thinking of our parents, siblings, children, cousins, aunts, and uncles who we cannot be with. But we should also remember that this pain is being felt everyday by so many refugees around the world. Let us use this moment as an opportunity to stand in solidarity with them. We must hold our government to account and ensure that family reunification is an absolute priority. Because everyone deserves a safe way to reach their family again.
Natalia Siemens is a Public Affairs Officer at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference as part of the Faith in Politics Internship scheme for recently graduated Catholics.
Pictured: The Lampedusa Cross
Your Window View
Many thanks to Sue Rowe for sending us this photo.
We have a lovely spring garden. Here’s the maple, azalea and crab apple tree! And some washing on the line...
Innovation and Imagination in Isolation: Jewish and Christian Clergy Responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic
We know that Christian and Jewish clergy facing immense challenges at this time: with your communities, your families and with dramatic changes in ritual and practice. The Council of Christians and Jews provides a unique space for rabbis and clergy to engage on those issues most important to rabbis and clergy, and this has never been more important than during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is the time for us to reach out, support and learn from one another.
The pandemic has also drastically changed the way Jewish and Christian faith leaders perform services. Questions have been decided at breakneck speed in order to deliver key services: from funerals and pastoral care to online worship and community projects. These changes could inform the ways rabbis and clergy operate for a long time. What can we learn from this?
On 20th May at 14:00, you are invited to join us for a unique event where we will hear from pastoral leaders and academics, and reflect together on the creative ways Jewish and Christian communities are responding to these unprecedented times.
The first part of this online event will be chaired by The Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield and Chair of CCJ, followed by introductory remarks from CCJ trustee Rabbi David Mason, Rabbi, Muswell Hill Synagogue and Revd Val Reid, Minister, Christchurch Methodist and United Reformed Church, Hitchin, following which there will be a broader conversation about pastoral needs and responses.
The second part of the discussion will be more focused on changes in ritual and practice chaired by Revd Dr Nathan Eddy, Deputy Director, CCJ, and guest speakers Dr Alana Vincent, Associate Professor of Jewish Philosophy, Religion and Imagination, University of Chester and Dr Josh Edelman, Senior Lecturer, Drama and Contemporary Performance, Manchester Metropolitan University who are currently working on a research project that relates directly to documenting these changes.
Due to limited space, this event is on a first-come, first-served basis.
To register, please contact Nathan Eddy Zoom details will be sent out closer to the event.
Pictured: CCJ's Rabbi Clergy Conference 2018
Hebrew by Ear: A Taster in Biblical Hebrew
Looking for a fun and inductive introduction to Biblical Hebrew this month? Join CCJ members and friends from across the country in a unique course which integrates Biblical Hebrew basics with some Modern Hebrew phrases and songs. The course is designed as a 'taster' for those may who want to commit to a longer course together, and will cover the alphabet, syllables, and noun formation, giving you confidence to begin reading.
Instructor Revd Dr Nathan Eddy has taught beginning Hebrew at St Mellitus College, London, in the classics summer school at UCL and King's College, and to Jewish and Christian private students, and enjoys opening up the world of Hebrew for first-time students. This course will also feature a live presentation via Zoom by Dr Lily Kahn, lecturer at UCL, on 'Hebrew through the centuries'. Dr Kahn's Introductory Course in Biblical Hebrew (Routledge, 2014) informs this course but is not necessary to buy for this taster series.
Thursdays, 10-11 a.m., on 28 May, 4 June, 11 June, 18 June.
To register for the course, please email Nathan Eddy by Monday 25 May
Applications open for 2020-21 Campus Leadership Programme
CCJ is recruiting Student Leaders to create interfaith projects which meet the needs of their universities. Through the programme students develop the leadership skills needed to be interfaith leaders at their universities and beyond. This year the programme will begin remotely with online interfaith training in September, and will support students to create interfaith initiatives which respond to new ways of doing university.
For more information on the programme and how to apply, please contact Campus Leadership Manager Katharine Crew
Applications for 2020 Yad Vashem Seminar extended until
The application window for CCJ’s annual seminar at the International School of Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem has been extended until 1 June. The seminar—which will take place Monday 12 to Thursday 22 October 2020—is open to ordained Christian clergy and lay church leaders. Now in its 14th year, the seminar is a unique opportunity for church leaders to learn about the Holocaust, pre-war Jewish European life, and post-Holocaust theology from the world’s leading experts. In doing so, participants will become part of our active network of over 250 "alumni" across the UK, committed to passing on Holocaust learning in their churches and communities, championing Christian-Jewish relations, and challenging antisemitism.
For more information on the programme and how to apply, please contact Senior Programme Manager, Rob Thompson, at email@example.com
Following our successful Zoom session with Nathan Eddy, Birmingham CCJ is offering two online meetings focussing on Abraham. Rabbi Margaret Jacobi will look at Jewish interpretations of Genesis 18, and Father Allen Morris will explore Christian readings of Genesis 22. The sessions will last an hour, and there will be plenty of time for discussion. The details are:
Tuesday 26 May 19.30: ‘Abraham - Welcoming Strangers, Challenging God’ (Genesis 18) with Rabbi Margaret Jacobi.
Tuesday 9 June 19.30: ‘Reading Isaac, Seeing Christ’ (Genesis 22) with Father Allen Morris.
Contact the Birmingham Branch for further details.