25th Anniversary

Celebrating 25 years of asking unsettling questions and challenging truths

In the beginning … it all looked straightforward. An interfaith coalition of corporate, community, and religious leaders from Baltimore had just hosted 1,200 people for The 9th National Workshop on Christian-Jewish Relations, and their spirits were soaring. Hadn’t they just tackled some of the most vexing issues on the planet? In their collective euphoria, they devised a plan. They would capture the momentum from the Workshop, create a temporary institute to educate local clergy, and then—after three years, mission completed—they would disband.

“We had such grand and lofty and noble intentions,” recalls ICJS Executive Director Christopher Leighton, “but we didn’t thoroughly grasp the complexity of what we were facing. When the mission is as daunting and as ambitious as overcoming a legacy of 2,000 years of misunderstandings, distortions, and hostility, it requires a fair amount of chutzpah to take on a challenge of this magnitude. The kind of naïveté required to say, ‘Well, we’ll change the religious climate in three years,’ even though it took us thousands of years to get into this pickle, is a source of some humor for us.”

Now, 25 years after the 1987 plan was conceived, a strong, vibrant Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies is still educating; still asking the tough, often unanswerable questions; still illuminating the exhilarating, treacherous, necessary path forward.