The Birth of a Slogan: Building Bridges Where History Builds Walls

January 9, 2018

For me, much of life is a dance between intuition and analysis. And in dancing, someone takes the lead. In my case, intuition is usually the one.

Here's three examples of intuition taking the lead. Perhaps you will see yourself in this account too. I hope so.

The first occasion, how I chose my dissertation subject. I was browsing books in a Jewish bookstore in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles, and a man came in with a plastic seder plate, and asked the proprietor, "Rabbi?  Is this plate kosher" (because it was plastic). The Rabbi said, "Yes," but in my mind I realized that this is precisely the kind of question people asked priests in the Older Testament. This pointed me in the direction of my dissertation, "The Rabbi as a Surrogate Priest."

The second occasion, how I chose the name of this organization--or perhaps more, how the name chose me.  I had a lunch appointment with a thirty-something intermarried Jewish guy in which I was discussing where I see myself situated in terms of the various publics I serve. He was urging me to make sure I served intermarrieds: no surprise. Fine. We finished lunch, and then I walked the long corridor toward the back of the restaurant on the way to the parking lot. And as I walked, it dropped into my mind. Unbidden. Unforced. Unexpected. "Interfaithfulness." That was to be the name of my non-profit because after all, we at Interfaithfulness spend our days speaking to people where Christians and Jews intersect each other and the More Jewish Jesus. We encourage both Jewish and Christians to be faithful to their traditions and faithful to each other. That's where the fullness is found. Interfaithfulness. In case you think I am crazy, perhaps you are right: but I thought this unexpected flash of insight was a God thing. Still do.

The third occasion, how I found a suitable explanation for what we do at Interfaithfulness. This happened last week. I was sitting here at my computer, where I spend lots of time, minding my own business, or perhaps on Facebook minding someone else's. Suddenly this phrase dropped into my mind: "building bridges where history built walls." Bam!  Unbidden. Unexpected. Unanticipated. I put it on my Facebook page and many people responded positively, that it says very much what am about and what I advocate. And so it is.

So this, slightly modified, has become the new "catch phrase," subtext, or even mission statement of Interfaithfulness: "Interfaithfulness: Building bridges where history builds walls."

We are still at the intersection of the Christian and Jewish worlds, where they intersect with the More Jewish Jesus. But what do we do there?  We seek to recognize, respect,  and reconsider the barriers that exist, the walls, some of them stained with tears and blood, some built out of truths ignored, out of lies, fears, misunderstandings, misrepresentations, you name it. Naming all those walls, even seeing them,  is a long and complicated affair, and something best left for other blog posts to follow this one.

But meanwhile, we dare to call others to join with us in building new bridges of understanding and respect between Jews and Christians, most often within the same family or friendship circles. To paraphrase the song, "We get by with a little help, (actually a lot of help), from our Friend," the More Jewish Jesus.

Building bridges between people and each other, and even better, building bridges between people and God. That's what we do.

If you want to read a book about flashes of insight and the good they can do you, try William Duggan's The Seventh Sense: How Flashes of Insight Change Your Life. 

And if you're encountering walls and want some help building a bridge, here we are.

Interfaithfulness: Building bridges where history builds walls.

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