RABBI DAVID Hartman was one of the great figures of contemporary Jewish life. The founder of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and a prophet of religious tolerance, the self-described Jewish kid from Brooklyn had a huge impact on his generation, both in Israel, where he lived since 1971, and in the broader Jewish world. Less predictably, Hartman — who died last week at 81 — was a towering inspiration to me, a Catholic guy from Boston.
After World War II and the horrors of the Nazi death camps, Jews and Christians had to learn a new language if they were ever to communicate again. Remarkably enough, they found it. With every reason not to do so, leaders of the Jewish community, such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Marc Tanenbaum, entered into a daring conversation with Christian partners, like the Lutheran scholar Krister Stendahl and the Catholic theologian John Pawlikowski. The momentous and ongoing Jewish-Christian dialogue that such figures established is one of the most significant religious events in history, for it has led to the dismantling of ancient structures of Christian anti-Semitism. This movement away from hostility to deep mutuality provides the world with a model of reconciliation.