It’s wasn’t the kind of Washington crowd where you’d expect to see a kippah. Yet there was Shaya Ben Yehuda, director of the International Relations Department for Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, at a gathering composed almost entirely of evangelical Christians.
Ben Yehuda had come to the Hamilton Crowne Plaza Hotel on Aug. 18 to sign a declaration of cooperation with the Museum of the Bible, slated to open near the National Mall next year, and to launch a three-day conference for graduates of Yad Vashem’s Christian Leadership Seminar.
Ben Yehuda spoke of Jews’ need for allies in the fight against the “current wave” of anti-Semitism.
He said a common Jewish-Christian heritage “was destroyed over a period of 2,000 years and the outcome was the terrible period of the Holocaust.”
He also made a case for the rationale behind Yad Vashem’s partnership with the museum — controversial because the museum’s chief backer, Steve Green, is president of Hobby Lobby and an evangelical Christian.
“When I ask myself, ‘Why the Museum of the Bible,’ there is no Christianity without the Bible, and there is no Bible without Judaism. We need you,” Ben Yehuda said, and was met with a chorus of amens when he paraphrased God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis: “Those who bless us will be blessed, and those who curse us will be cursed.”
Cary Summers, president of the Museum of the Bible, spoke about the museum’s initiatives in Israel, including a partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority, a high school Bible course and a scholarship for Christians seeking to study in Israel.
“Let’s tear down the walls between Jews and Christians,” Summers said.
The declaration of cooperation reaffirmed the idea of Jewish-Christian reconciliation:
“Yad Vashem and the Museum of the Bible join hands in the eternal obligation of commemorating the Shoah and its victims, and educating the Christian world. Together in cooperation we commit to educating and protecting the basic moral values of humanity.”
Later, audience members viewed a museum exhibition, “Stories of Medieval Jewish Persecution and Diaspora.” Its artifacts included the Codex Valmadonna I, the only surviving Hebrew text from England dated before the expulsion of the Jews in 1290.