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The Importance of Unity Amongst Christians and Jews

Director of Interfaith Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Co-founder and a featured writer on Cross-Currents, an online journal of Orthodox Jewish thought

A founding trustee of the Association for Jewish Outreach Programs

Summa cum laude graduate of Queens College

Received rabbinical ordination from Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim in New York

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a global human rights organization that confronts anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism. The center defends the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaches the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations. However, the center isn’t only focused on the rights of the Jewish community. One of the most important functions of the Simon Wiesenthal Center is promoting human rights. For instance, The Simon Wiesenthal center was one of the most important advocates for persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria.  Rabbi Adlerstein said, “When there was lack of concern, education, and awareness, the Simon Wiesenthal Center stepped in that gap.” The center also educates national and international audiences through film.

As Director of Interfaith Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Adlerstein is involved in bringing together opposing groups and teaching them to cooperate. He has brought together rival gangs, opposing religious groups, and even contending racial and ethnic groups.  He says when people from different belief systems cooperate, everyone benefits.

One of the most powerful interfaith relationships is the connection that exists between Christians and Jews. “This friendship runs both directions,” said Rabbi Adlerstein.  He says Christians around the world are the “best friends” of Israel and act as a “firewall” against the growing anti-Semitism in the world. In turn, Jewish people can help the Christian community flourish in the face of America’s changing attitude toward religion. “Christians have become the ‘new Jews.’ They are the most persecuted population in the world,” said Rabbi Adlerstein. “They are a cultural minority for the first time since the Mayflower hit the rock,” he said. “However there, is one group that has managed to survive and thrive as a cultural minority - orthodox Jews.” He believes Jews can help Christians understand how to navigate the changing times.

Rabbi Adlerstein believes the human right of practice and expression of religion has been forgotten and that governments should be held accountable for their religious populations.  “The threat is the entire culture - the egocentricity, the living for the moment and the dismissal of anything that is old, including scripture itself.”

Rabbi Adlerstein says, “Chanukah has as much to do with "freedom" as Christmas is about shopping. The battle at the time was an ideological one. On the one side was a Hellenist culture that elevated the rational mind above all else, and hence knew no boundaries. The other side doggedly believed that a G-d created things, and that Man had to live within the framework that He designed.

Christopher Hitchins (the famous promoter of atheism) argued that Chanukah ought to be a universal day of mourning. If a band of upstart Jews had not taken on the Syrian-Greeks, there would have been no other model that survived other than the Hellenist-Rationalist one. The Jewish community would have disappeared as a distinct entity; Joseph, Mary and Jesus would never have been born, and the world would have been spared its single greatest disaster - Christianity.  (No kidding!)”

Guest Name / Person Interviewed or Featured in Article or Video: 
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein
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