As a Jewish woman living in Israel, I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised to see absurd, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories immediately emerge on social media blaming France’s Jews for the inferno that nearly destroyed the historic Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday.
This is the challenge of being Jewish in a world that has too often hated Jews. Anti-Semitism is the world’s most ancient form of hatred, from Pharaoh’s army to the armed anti-Semite who attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October and killed 11 Jews gathered in prayer.
The truth is that I felt a bit of my own soul burning when I watched fire consume the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral. This awful feeling came not simply from the cultural loss of France’s iconic 12th century cathedral, but from the growing friendship I have with Christians around the world.
Jews and Christians ought to be considered natural friends, yet for centuries of Jewish and Christian history, it would have been totally unimaginable that such friendship would be as common as it is today.
My late father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, was disinvited from his own synagogue when he began to extend an olive branch to Christians 40 years ago after he left the Anti-Defamation League to form the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
Many Jews didn’t trust Christians for a reason. Christians were often oblivious to the fact that Jews around the world heard anti-Semitic undertones in the way Christians referred to the Pharisees and Sadducees and other Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time.
Many Jews thought Christians had forgotten that Jesus was himself a Jew and that their Old Testament is actually the Hebrew Bible.
Fortunately, those days are increasingly behind us. On Friday Jews and Christians around the world will have their collective eyes set on Heaven as Jews begin Passover at sundown and the majority of the world’s Christians celebrate Good Friday.
After all, Jesus’ last supper was actually a Passover Seder, the meal meant to re-enact the harrowing moment in Jewish history when Moses led the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt to a new life in the Promised Land.
And it is on Passover that Jews and Christians tell their own stories of God’s redemption. On Friday while Christians celebrate the preamble to Easter, Jews will celebrate the preamble to the Promised Land. We will move from remembering bondage to celebrating freedom, from slavery to liberation, from hopelessness to hope, from tears of sorrow to tears of celebration.
While our religions are different and our views of Jesus divergent, we will come together this weekend as fellow children of God in admiration for His gifts to us.
Passover is the time when we tell the story of God’s kindness to the next generation. As the Bible says: “You should teach your children diligently to love God and to remember that one time we ourselves were slaves in Egypt, and today, praise God, we are free.”
As we Jews prepare to celebrate God’s deliverance through the Passover Seder, we ought to remember that our Christian friends are celebrating Easter, and putting their love for God on grand display in countless churches in every corner of our planet. At many of these services, our Christian friends will be praying for the safety and peace of Israel.
It’s good for the world that Jews and Christians increasingly no longer view one another as “the other” but as two sides of the same coin, united in our passion for the truth of God’s Word in the Torah, for healing our broken world, and in solidarity with the state of Israel.
God is working miracles and truly bringing His children together by giving us divine understanding of what He wants
The Christian culture that once gave wind to the fires of anti-Semitism stands now unwavering for the Jewish people. Here in Israel it is evident that for the first time in history, we have friends that stick to us as close as a brother.
This Passover, I offer God gratitude for the Christian friends of the world’s Jews. Finally, we’re not alone.