A discussion on Christianity took place this past Sunday in Jerusalem, but interestingly enough, none of the participants were adherents of the Christian religion. The meetup, titled “10 Things We Didn’t Know About – Christianity,” was held in Jerusalem at the home of Robby Berman, the founder and director of the Halachic Organ Donor Society. It was the first event of a lecture series that he is hosting.
Berman chose Christianity as the first topic in the series, as it was on his list of things he wanted to know more about. “I have friends who are Christian and I wanted to learn more about their faith,” Berman told Breaking Israel News.
Learning with other non-experts, he said, made him feel more comfortable to ask very basic questions.
“Because it was an intimate setting, I felt completely comfortable asking a very, very basic question about Christianity that I would have felt embarrassed about asking a [more learned] guest speaker,” he explained. “No one made me feel badly for not knowing a basic fact about Christianity, so the atmosphere was very conducive for learning.”
According to Berman, this was the first event in a series of informal discussions he is hosting for which each guest is expected to come prepared with research to be presented on a compelling topic that they believe no other attendees know about.
“Other topics to follow will be Islam, Stock Market Investing, Electromagnetism, etc.,” said Berman.
Berman’s idea for the lecture series stemmed from his incurable curiosity. “I love learning about everything, but there are only so many hours in the day and only so many books to read in the week, so I think this idea of ‘crowdsourcing’ is pretty cool,” he said.
“I have a lot of friends who are smarter and more knowledgeable in different areas of life, so I wanted to get them in a room together and see if I we could pool our knowledge.”
For Sunday’s event, Berman researched the Nicene Creed, a symbol used in Christian liturgy, and he compared the dogma and faith taught to Jewish children versus Christian children. Other topics that were presented included Replacement Theology, interpretation of texts in Christianity and Judaism, art in Israeli churches, the true meaning of Immaculate Conception, the crusades and development of church architecture.
The diversity of the speakers on Sunday, according to Berman, helped make the discussion not only interesting but a success. There were Israeli, French, Belgian, American and Swedish presenters. In the realm of professions, there was a tour guide, economics professor, a lawyer, a journalist and a doctor in sociology.
The attendees who were perhaps most prepared for the discussion were a Jewish convert from Christianity and another who is in the process of converting.
“I was especially interested to come across people who have been practicing Christians and are now Jewish, to see what they know, and what they are willing to share about Christianity,” said Iddo Cohen, one of the guests and presenters.
Cohen, a former tour guide and current civil lawyer in litigation and real estate, said that he learned about Christianity at the event from a variety of perspectives and topics, fulfilling his interest in religion and “the thoughts and beliefs behind them and their traditions.”
“I have specific interest in Christianity because it’s a religion that I see a lot in countries that I visit as well as places that I visit in Israel,” he told Breaking Israel News.
“Christianity also has lots of different groups, such as Catholics, Protestants, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Copts, etc., that all have different traditions, religious rules and characterizations,” he continued. “That is what makes it even more complicated and interesting, especially in Jerusalem, where I get to see all their different churches and holidays. I’m always curious to learn about these groups and their traditions.”
Another one of the guests, Jezabel Cohen, told Breaking Israel News that she was “interested in the fusion between words and music in both Christianity and Judaism.” Jezabel, who immigrated to Israel from Argentina 23 years ago, holds a musicology and arts Bachelors Degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and is an amateur cellist player in the Hebrew University Orchestra.
Jezabel’s class in Jewish liturgy visited different synagogues around Jerusalem but never any of the city’s churches. Sunday’s event helped clear up some Christian concepts for her.
“The meeting helped me clarify some things that I thought incorrectly, for example the true meaning of Mary’s immaculate conception,” she said.
Not only Jezabel but everyone else experienced clarifications of their own, according to Berman.
“I think the evening was a great success, because I learned a lot, and I think everyone else did as well,” he said.