Leaders explore similarities in religious values

The Rev. Debra Asis of the Episcopal Church of the Apostles (left) and Rabbi Helen Cohn of Congregation M’kor Hayim discuss Christian and Jewish values at a forum held Jan. 26 at Tucson Hebrew Academy. (Photo courtesy Congregation M’kor Hayim)

If you were asked to name the “top 5” Jewish values, what would you say? Tikkun olam? Education? Tzedakah?  Community? What if you were Christian?  What would your “top 5” be? Are Jewish and Christian values essentially the same, or are they different?

Rabbi Helen Cohn of Congregation M’kor Hayim and the Rev. Debra Asis of the Episcopal Church of the Apostles began to address these questions in a dialogue on Saturday, Jan. 26, at Tucson Hebrew Academy, where M’kor Hayim holds its services. A question-and-answer session with the audience followed their talk.

They will continue the conversation on Sunday, April 7 from 10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. at Apostles, which is located at 12111 N. La Cholla Blvd. The event is open to all.

“The underlying theology and ritual structure of Judaism and Christianity are clearly different,” Cohn says. “Initially Christianity drew on Jewish texts and practices, but it has evolved over the past 2,000 years into a new, and in some respects contradictory, religious practice.

“However, it is clear that our two religions also share certain basic aspects, especially in terms of values with which to live. The better we understand our similarities and differences, the better neighbors and allies we can be,” she says.

“Christianity makes no sense apart from our Hebrew/Jewish roots,” Asis says. “From the beginning the Abrahamic traditions understand humankind to be good, ‘And God saw all that was made and it was very good’ (Genesis 1.31), therefore humanity and all of creation are meant to flourish for the glory of God. This shared ideal or value informs our thinking about what is right or wrong. The Ten Commandments are standards of conduct that apply this value. Christians look to Jesus, who summarizes the Law saying, “Love God and love your neighbor,” and who demonstrates the way to bring about flourishing for the glory of God by feeding the hungry, healing the sick, welcoming the stranger and restoring peace.

“Unfortunately, many of the loudest voices claiming Christianity today are angry and often associated with exclusionary hate groups,” Asis adds. “Likewise, much ‘Christian religious language’ born of the early fourth century has been used and misused to propagate division and justify violence. This voice opposes the early Jesus movement and Christianity as I experience it in the Episcopal tradition. I believe the invitation to people of all faiths today is to return to our values and ideals, reflect on what is right or wrong, commit to act for the glory of God and the greater good, and humbly admit, we may be wrong.”

For more information, call M’kor Hayim at 904-1881 or the Episcopal Church of the Apostles at (480) 695- 5921.