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Rabbi Who?

Yellow Crucifixion (1943), Marc Chagall

A prominent rabbi in Israel has landed in hot water with his Orthodox colleagues for referring to the historical Jesus, admiringly, as a "model rabbi."

Relevant Links
Rabbi Arouses Orthodox Ire over “Rabbi Jesus”  Raphael Ahren, Haaretz. Fending off scathing criticism, Rabbi Riskin asserts his words were manipulated and emphasizes the “fundamental differences” between Judaism and Christianity.
Neither Hitler's Pope nor a Righteous Gentile  Robert Wistrich, Ottawa Citizen. For Pius XII, a polished diplomat and a passionate Germanophile, the mass murder of Jews was low on the list of priorities.
Jesus in the Talmud  David Novak, New Republic. Peter Schafer’s examination of anti-Christian passages in classical Jewish sources is rigorous, candid, and, perhaps unexpectedly, hopeful.
Reclaiming Jesus  Matthew Hoffman, From Rebel to Rabbi. How some seminal Jewish figures reworked the image of the founder of Christianity into their personal visions of Jewish modernism.

This is not the first time that the American-born Shlomo Riskin, a long-time supporter of enhancing women's roles in Orthodoxy, has shown himself willing to push the religious envelope. Though he quickly qualified his reported remarks, this latest contretemps highlights not only internal debates within the rabbinic fraternity but also, more intriguingly, the changing shape of Jesus in the mind and imagination of contemporary Jews.

On both sides, indeed, the dramatic diminishment over recent decades in official Christian anti-Semitism—notwithstanding the current Pope's move to canonize his wartime predecessor Pius XII—has allowed for greater freedom to discuss the complex history of Jews' relationship to the Church and to Jesus. Two years ago, the Christian scholar Peter Schafer published a provocative study of the place of Jesus in the Talmud—a charged and sensitive subject; in the same year, the young Jewish scholar Matthew Hoffman brought out a volume on the appeal of Jesus to Eastern European Jews like the artist Marc Chagall and the Yiddish poet Jacob Glatstein.

American Jewish theologians, too, have found Jesus "good to think with" as they struggle to render their tradition and commitments meaningful to today's Jews.

Yet whether Jesus will ever be welcomed home one day as the ultimate Prodigal Son is, in the apt talmudic phrase, a matter for the messiah to decide.

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Inheriting Abraham