Pope Benedict met with prominent Israeli Rabbi Shlomo Riskin on Jan. 12, who updated the pontiff on the efforts of the Jewish community to support local Christians in the face of mounting tensions with Islamic militants.
Riskin, chief Rabbi of Efrat and chancellor of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, briefed the Pope in a recent audience on the work the organization is doing in Israel.
“We are taking Your Holiness’ call to stand in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters in Israel and advocating on their behalf,” Riskin said.
Riskin added that local members of the Jewish faith are looking for ways to alleviate poverty within the Christian community, as well as “opportunities to dialogue on those areas where we must cooperate.”
These areas, he underscored, include “our united faith in a God of love, compassion, morality and peace rather than a God of will, power and Jihad.”
Rabbi Riskin also explained to Pope Benedict the opportunities the organization provides for Christians visiting Israel to learn more about the Jewish foundations of the Christian faith.
According to Rabbi Riskin, Pope Benedict affirmed his remarks and responded, “we need to work together.”
After the audience, the Center's Executive Director David Nekrutman spoke about the group's focus in 2011 to address the needs of the Christian community in Israel.
“For the first time in history Jews as a majority are coming face to face with religious minorities. It is Judaism’s obligation to adhere to the biblical mandate: You shall love the stranger in your land.”
Nekrutman also noted that each religious and ethnic community in Israel has different needs, saying, “we cannot just lump everyone into one melting pot.”
He stressed the organization's desire to become a trusted partner in dialogue with local Christians, explaining that to achieve this end, they first “must address their individual concerns.”