The bus was full of singing in 2008, as the interfaith group — including now-U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan — made its way down the winding road. Suddenly, the Sea of Galilee appeared in front of them.
“It’s big and it’s blue and you hear this ‘ahhhh’ throughout the bus,” recalled Rabbi Eli Havivi of Beth David Synagogue, who was helping to lead the tour of Christians and Jews through Israel.
“The Sea of Galilee is where I used to take my kids to go to the beach,” Havivi said about the largest freshwater lake in Israel. “That’s what it was for me. For (the Christians on the trip), it was something totally different. It was where Jesus walked.”
Experiences like that — and the conversations that follow — make interfaith programs at Beth David and Temple Emanuel, the city’s other Jewish synagogue, popular.
This weekend, husband and wife Bible scholars — he’s a Christian, she’s a Jew and they both have doctorates — will lead a discussion at Beth David on how people of both traditions view the Bible.
Sunday’s discussion featuring Andrew and Amanda Mbuvi, who joined the congregation as a family, will take place during the synagogue’s annual used book sale weekend. The sale annually draws hundreds of people and includes thousands of books, CDs and DVDs.
Amanda Mbuvi, who has taught at Guilford College and Elon University, hopes to help people understand the differences between the faith traditions, develop a greater appreciation for the diversity within traditions, and perhaps better appreciate the texts that Jews and Christians share. It is through the Jewish faith that Christianity finds its roots.
The Mbuvis don’t want to lecture, but to encourage people to draw on their own experiences.
“We want to begin to draw people into the conversation, right in the room,” said Amanda Mbuvi, who has taught at Guilford College and Elon University. Her husband, Andrew, teaches at Shaw University.
Such conversation builds community, said Havivi, who just finished a monthly year-long readings of the New Testament at the synagogue. The yearlong sessions were open to the public and drew an interfaith crowd, including Christian ministers.
Many of the Jews attending the group setting were reading the New Testament for the first time. It helped them to feel close to Christianity or their Christian neighbors, Havivi said. Jews affiliate with the Old Testament, while the life of Christ is the thread through the New Testament.
Havivi said interfaith gatherings generally allow people to walk away a little more knowledgeable.
For example, the book of Matthew in the New Testament speaks of how not one “jot” or one “tittle” will disappear until God’s law is achieved.
“We have jots and tittles,” Havivi said, referencing Hebrew markings in the sacred Torah, also known as the Five Books of Moses.
Havivi has committed to a monthly reading of the Quran, the holy book for Muslims, which he expects will take the next year and a half.
Contact Nancy McLaughlin at (336) 373-7049.