What happens when a Christian minister and an Orthodox Jew wrestle with the most sensitive subjects, while 100,000 people eavesdrop? They discover that their faith traditions have a lot in common.
“We don’t shy away from our fundamental differences, but it’s always with respect and the quest for understanding,” said Israel’s Harold Berman, the teacher in the radio show “The Teacher and the Preacher,” available via livestream.
Though they almost never see each other — co-host Pastor Dave McGarrah lives in Idaho — they recently had a rare opportunity to interact face to face. “We really try to see things through the other one’s eyes,” said Berman, a writer and former executive director of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts. “The surprising thing is how when you go through this process week after week, you ... actually strengthen your own beliefs.”
Much of what they shared with the audience on Feb. 11 in Jerusalem reflects the spirit of the show. Each week for nearly three years, they’ve explored everything from free will to moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. One topic comes up quite a bit: the Bible. When people of different faiths read the same words, they often interpret them very differently.
When discussion turned to the messiah, for instance, the pastor cited shared biblical sources, which he insisted meant that the redeemer had already arrived. Berman said Jewish readers interpret the same verses as indicating that the time has not yet come for this redemption.
Jonathan Segal, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., now living in Efrat, said, “It was heartening to hear a dialogue between Christian and Jew without any hidden agenda. The only agenda I could see is to really listen and try to understand the other religion’s side while still expressing your own beliefs.”
McGarrah agreed, saying, “Ours is a new kind of religious dialogue based on authentic understanding and mutual respect.”
“The distance we’re bridging isn’t just the miles; it’s generations of misunderstanding and fear, skepticism and hostility that we’re working to overcome,” said Berman. “In our dialogue, no one is trying to convert anyone else.”
McGarrah noted that many of the show’s listeners have never had a substantive conversation with a Jewish person. “But today this is changing.”
The co-hosts plan to lead a “Teacher and Preacher” Israel tour in October, inviting Jews and Christians to travel the country together. JN