Bordeianu Finds Inspiration in Jerusalem’s Christian Leadership Initiative

Associate Professor of Theology Rev. Radu Bordeianu has a deep-rooted interest in ecumenism—the movement to unite all Christians—that imbues all he does. His work in this area, especially with a local Christian-Jewish dialogue he co-convened, resulted in his selection as a fellow in the Christian Leadership Initiative (CLI), an experience that has had a great impact on his work at Duquesne and on his own spiritual life.

A partnership of the American Jewish Committee and the Shalom Hartman Institute in Israel, the CLI is a comprehensive two-year study program that unites an ecumenical group of U.S. religious leaders with renowned Jewish scholars in Israel. The program, which begins and ends with a two-week immersive study experience in Jerusalem, aims to teach fellows about Judaism through Jewish studies.

“The 16 Christian leaders in our cohort went to Jerusalem, and there we studied from 9 a.m. until 9:30 or 10 p.m.,” Bordeianu said. “The program was extremely full. Much of the time, it was just reading and studying with Jewish professors—studying the Jewish scriptures, rabbinic literature and the contemporary political situation of Israel.”

Unlike Christians, who often study the bible alone or in large groups, Jewish scholars practice a form of study called “havruta,” which means “friendship,” in which two people study together. “It’s based on the Jewish understanding that you cannot read a text alone,” Bordeianu said. “When you focus on a text with a friend and read it out loud, you have a chance to discover the meaning of the text much more than if it is being lectured to you.”

Bordeianu’s havruta experience was so meaningful to him that he’s brought it back to Duquesne and implemented it in his classrooms. Not only does it help the students understand and appreciate the text, but it also underscores the fact that biblical text can be interpreted many ways.

“The whole idea that there is only one truth and that it’s a simple one disappears,” he said. “Of course there are things that are very, very clear: there is only one God. But when it comes to various situations in life or readings in scriptures or attitudes toward God, there are a multitude of valid answers.”

Bordeianu’s experience also dovetailed with a book he’s writing that investigates experiential understandings of the church—from the bottom up. “For me, seeing how Judaism struggles with its reality as expressed through the scriptures throughout centuries and as explained by today’s rabbis was eye-opening, because you’re dealing with the reality of the people of Israel that is right there, not with an idealized Israel.”

The CLI also had a deep impact on Bordeianu’s life that goes well beyond his teaching and research.

“Knowing the historical Jesus better and his historical context gave me a different appreciation for not only who Jesus was, but also the way he has been seen and interpreted throughout the centuries, and also the influence of culture on the faith and the way in which we presented Jesus,” Bordeianu said.