Theology Professor, an Orthodox Priest, Chosen for Religious Study Program in Israel
Dr. Bogdan Bucur, Duquesne University associate professor of theology specializing in the study of continuities between Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity, is one of only 18 scholars and religious leaders nationwide chosen to participate in the prestigious Christian Leadership Initiative (CLI), which included a 10-day trip in July to study in Jerusalem.
Organized and hosted by the Shalom Hartman Institute in collaboration with the American Jewish Committee, the CLI provides what Bucur called "an insider's perspective on Judaism" during the summer study. This year's sessions will be followed by monthly webinars, and Bucur will complete studies in Jerusalem next summer.
Bucur committed to the program last year, before shooting started between Gaza and Israel. The unrest, though, put social and political issues at the forefront of the sessions.
"There we were, in Jerusalem, studying Judaism and theorizing about aspects of Jewish identity over wine and finger food, while the Israeli army was raining fire and brimstone over Gaza, and hundreds of civilians-many of them children-were being killed. At the same time, I had recently learned that some distant Jewish relatives lived within range of Hamas missiles," said Bucur, an Orthodox priest in the Antiochian Archdiocese, which has jurisdiction over Syria, Lebanon and, generally, the Arabic world.
Bucur's grandmother, the daughter of a Jewish woman who converted to Christianity, had kept in touch with her cousins who now live in Israel.
"I'm trying to understand what's going on with as much empathy as possible," Bucur said. "At the same time, both sides depend on the public being on their side, and engage in subtle and not-so-subtle forms of manipulation."
The CLI participants were introduced to havruta, a teaching and learning method integral to rabbinic training. It is, essentially, a learning partnership between two students-havruta means friendship or companionship in Aramaic-in which the two struggle together, often disputing, to better understand the text. Bucur said he would like to bring this pedagogy to graduate seminars at Duquesne, helping learners to better understand their own cultural contexts and blind spots to issues.
While news reports focus on Muslim and Jewish differences, Bucur has a sense of anguish over the fate of Palestinian Christians and, more generally, Christians in the Middle East who have been forced to flee Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and are now driven from the Holy Land as the conflict continues between Israel and Palestinians.
"As a theologian I ask about resources in our various traditions that could help us alleviate the deep trauma, resentment and fear on both sides, and find ways of coexisting in freedom and dignity," Bucur said.