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March 2023

What is holy envy?

In this month’s ICJS Insights, you’ll encounter a term that might be unfamiliar: holy envy. At first blush, the term might sound dissonant: how can one of the seven deadly sins be holy?

But holy envy describes an openness to an unfamiliar religious tradition that we believe is essential to building the interreligious community. Krister Stendahl, a Harvard theologian and Lutheran bishop, coined the term during a press conference to assuage opposition in his community in Sweden to a new temple being built for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He responded with three simple rules for religious understanding:

  1. When trying to understand another religion, ask its adherents and not its enemies.
  2. Don't compare your best to their worst.
  3. Leave room for "holy envy"—a deep respect and admiration for some aspect of another religious tradition.

As the three Abrahamic faiths approach major holiday seasons—Ramadan for Muslims, Lent and Easter for Christians, and Passover for Jews—the confluence of religious observances provides us with a wonderful opportunity for interreligious engagement and learning, reflected in our video resource, Lived Diversity: Observing Easter, Passover, and Ramadan

And holy envy is also the theme of this month’s online event with author Maeera Shreiber, who has studied how contemporary writers explore their interreligious encounters in the Jewish-Christian borderzone.

May this be a profound time of spiritual reflection and enrichment—and holy envy.

Highlights in this Issue:


Holy Envy: Book discussion with Maeera Shreiber 

Author Maeera Shreiber contends that although recent decades have seen great strides in Christian-Jewish relations, many interreligious encounters have become rote and predictable. Demonstrating how such emotions as shame, envy, and desire can inform these encounters, Shreiber’s book Holy Envy: Writing in the Jewish Christian Borderzone charts a new way of thinking about interreligious relations. By focusing on modern and contemporary writers (novelists and poets) who traffic in the volatile space between Judaism and Christianity, the book calls attention to the creative implications of these intense encounters.

Thursday, March 23 
Online via Zoom
Noon–1:00 PM EST

Interreligious Environmentalism: Panel Discussion

As people of diverse religious and spiritual traditions, what are our responsibilities, connections, and obligations to environmental stewardship? What wisdom can we draw on from these traditions as we work to heal and preserve the earth? This event includes a discussion by panelists who approach environmentalism from a variety of angles, including advocacy, activism, mental health and theology.

Wednesday, April 19
Online via Zoom
Noon–1:00 PM EST


Messianic Judaism and Christian Zionism

A 3-week course with ICJS Protestant Scholar Matthew D. Taylor, Ph.D.

Judaism and Christianity have had a long and entwined history ever since the early Christian church emerged from first-century Judaism. Today some Christians also identify as being Jewish (a.k.a., Messianic Jews), and many Christians, known as Christian Zionists, support the modern state of Israel for theological reasons. This course will discuss the background and present-day complexities of these Christian identifications with (or attachments to) Judaism.

Tuesdays, May 2, 9, and 16, 2023
Online via Zoom
Repeated Afternoon and Evening Sessions
Noon–1:00 PM EST
7:00–8:30 PM EST

Strength Through Religious Difference: The string that ties us together 
By Tala Drammeh, ICJS Congregational Leaders Fellow 2022

Tala Drammeh understands his positionality as a Black man in the U.S. and how religion has impacted his own and the larger Black American experience. He says, "The history of Black persons in America cannot be discussed without acknowledging how faith traditions, such as Christianity and Islam, have fought for Black liberation.”

Interfaith Work Behind the Altar: Letting holy envy lead to deeper faith
Feature by Evana Upshaw, ICJS Communications Assistant 

Aaron Dunn is an alum of ICJS’ Emerging Religious Leaders Intensive and is a postulant for Holy Orders towards the priesthood for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Here, he reflects on how his experiences at a Jewish day school inspired him to explore his own faith further.


Video Resource | Lived Diversity: Observing Passover, Easter, and Ramadan

This 13-minute video produced by ICJS features our interreligious staff sharing about our own experiences of these three religious holidays. We’ve also created a Dialogue Facilitation Guide with questions for discussion and resources for further reading.


Staff Spotlight | Matt Taylor on Christian Nationalism

ICJS Protestant scholar Matthew D. Taylor has been amassing an impressive collection of news stories and podcasts on Christian nationalism, as we've collected here. Don't miss his interview with Jon Ward, national correspondent for Yahoo! News, as well as an episode of Ward's The Long Game podcast featuring Matt. His work is also featured in Rolling Stone, This Christian ‘Prophet’ Backed Trump in 2020. Now He Says God Favors DeSantis


Recap | Responding to Everyday Islamophobia and Antisemitism

What do Antisemitism and Islamophobia look like in everyday life? Can we recognize them? How do we respond when we see them? In this clip from our February event, ICJS scholar Ben Sax highlights the art of questioning as one way to respond to Antisemitism and Islamophobia.


Staff Pick | The Controversy over A.P. African American Studies

ICJS Teacher Fellowship alum Patrice Frasier, who taught a pilot version of the Advanced Placement course on African American Studies at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute last year, discusses the recent changes in the curriculum for the new course, following objections to the content from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Christine Gallagher, ICJS program director for teachers and schools, recommends this episode of Midday on WYPR for context on this issue from three educators.


About Us 

The Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies (ICJS) works to dismantle religious bias and bigotry to foster an interreligious society in which dialogue replaces division, friendship overcomes fear, and education eradicates ignorance. Through courses, fellowships, online events, and scholarship initiatives, ICJS builds learning communities where religious difference becomes a powerful force for good. ICJS is an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization.


Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies
956 Dulaney Valley Rd  | Baltimore, Maryland 21204
410.494.7161 | info@icjs.org | icjs.org

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