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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)


SCoJeC welcomes publication of
Jewish-Christian Glossary as fresh start
to relations with Church of Scotland

25 May 2023

SCoJeC welcomes publication of Jewish-Christian Glossary as fresh start to relations with Church of Scotland

SCoJeC has warmly welcomed the adoption by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland of a ground-breaking Jewish-Christian Glossary, compiled by a group of Orthodox Rabbis and Church of Scotland ministers, that looks at the understanding of key terms such as “chosen people”, “covenant”, and “Israel” from Jewish and Christian perspectives, and seeks to address the break-down in relations that resulted from the publication ten years ago of a report entitled The Inheritance of Abraham?

Exactly ten years after the original document was adopted by the 2013 Assembly, the 2023 Assembly gave the Chief Rabbi, Sir Ephraim Mirvis, a prolonged standing ovation after he spoke about the “sacred journey together … a brave journey, a wonderful journey” that had led to the writing of the Glossary.  He added that the new document,

"moved away from mantra of “Let’s concentrate on what we share in common. We concentrated on what divides us, the elephant in the room … that led to the nadir in our relationship. This is what we call machloket l’shem shamayim, dispute for the sake of Heaven; we tackle the ball not the person, respect other person, and tackle issues and engage with issue with warmth and friendship.

I come as a friend and appreciate warmth of your collegiality. Let us therefore utilise partnership together and walk in faith and friendship from now on to enrich our troubled world."

Responding to the Chief Rabbi, the newly elected Moderator, the Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, who ironically had presided over the preparation of the 2013 report as Convener of the Church and Society Council, said: 

"Chief Rabbi, friend. I have rarely if ever heard such inspiring words. Friendship is a blessing without measure. We crave your blessings and prayers and assure you of ours."

SCoJeC welcomes publication of Jewish-Christian Glossary as fresh start to relations with Church of Scotland

Earlier, she had opened the day’s proceedings with the text of the Shema, the central statement of Jewish belief, “Here O Israel, the Lrd is your Gd, the Lrd alone” (Deut, 6:4), and spoke about the injunction of the Hebrew prophet Micah, “the Lrd has told you what is good, and what he requires of you: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your Gd”.  She welcomed the Chief Rabbi, and spoke of the "empowering, challenging, path to dialogue – chosen new ways to bring ourselves closer, to sit side by side, to discuss not only what unites us but engage honestly with what potentially divides. The Glossary is a brave outworking of love – a blessing for the nation."

Introducing the Glossary to the Assembly, the Very Rev Dr Susan Brown said that the idea behind it was not to give definitive answers but to strengthen understanding between the two groups. She commented that “the words with which we have begun our explorations are but a tiny drop in the ocean of all the words and ideas it would be good for us to explore together … It is a start, a significant start.

Commenting on the Glossary, SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski said,

"We must all hope and pray that the publication of this new document sees the beginning of a new relationship of friendship and engagement between our two faith communities in Scotland. The year-long effort that went into its production and the warmth of the welcome the Assembly gave the Chief Rabbi are themselves testament to that.

It was good to see in particular the frank recognition in the Glossary of the "unconscious supersessionism within mainstream Christian understandings" and the acknowledgement that the 2013 document was "a direct example of supersessionist thinking", and also the realisation that "speaking truth to power" looks very different from the perspective of a small minority engaging the national church – the Kirk is the "power" in Scotland, and indeed also in the context of Middle-East history.

The challenge now, as many said at the Assembly, is to build on this new foundation. We have made a start by inviting the previous Moderator and the Principal Clerk to share a Shabbat dinner in our largest synagogue, and we hope shortly to launch a programme of joint discussions of the topics raised in the Glossary."

Click here to watch a video of General Assembly discussion of the Jewish-Christian Glossary, including the address from the Chief Rabbi,
and click here to watch a video of the opening prayers, including the
Moderator's statement of the Shema


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