Jon Dal Din reviews a new book on Jewish-Christian dialogue by Silvina Chemen and Francisco Canzani.
[New City Magazine – March 2016]
This new book on Jewish-Christian dialogue could not have come out at a better time. Its publication coincides with the release of two new declarations on Jewish-Christian relations. One from the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, titled, ‘The Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable’, the other, described as a ‘Gift to the Nations’, was issued by a group of orthodox rabbis calling on Jews and Christians to overcome historic fears in order to establish a ‘relationship of trust and respect’.
A relationship of trust and respect is exactly what the authors of ‘A Dialogue of Life’ have achieved in their meetings and conversations over many years of encounter. Silvina Chemen, rabbi at the Congregation of Beth El in Buenos Aires and Francisco Canzani, a lay committed Christian, have written this book together, in some places as one voice, in others as separate voices, where it was necessary to present a distinctive Jewish or Christian point of view.
Although the book shares experiences and wisdom on Jewish-Christian relations, lived by the authors together over many years, it is equally suitable as a manual on dialogue in general, in the home, in the workplace, in the parish, between churches and between faiths. It describes in great detail the steps necessary to enter into meaningful dialogue with any person, whether from another faith or not. I do not think there are many books on the market which describe this dialogic process so clearly.
The book draws you intimately into the life and traditions of a Jew and a Christian, who have been getting to know each other over a long period of time. Together and separately they explore a wide variety of themes and obstacles to dialogue. They stress that dialogue happens among human beings not institutions because ‘understanding the other takes a lot of time and a safe space’. They emphasize that ‘Dialogue is a long journey that cannot be imposed or decreed but comes from people prepared to waste time with each other without immediate returns’.
It is worth reading and meditating on this book, not just in order to gain an insight into the minds of a Jew and a Christian and their lived experiences of dialogue, but also as a means of entering into and sustaining meaningful and long term relations with the other, whoever the other may be.