13-Part TV Series : Documentaries Trace Jewish-Christian Ties

A local Jewish group is working with the one of the world’s three largest Christian broadcasting television networks to produce a series of documentaries that examines the similarities between Christians and Jews in an effort to combat what organizers say is a growing tide of anti-Semitism.

The 13-part series, which will be shot in Israel and broadcast in May on Trinity Broadcast Network, or TBN, is one of the first cooperative efforts to trace the common history of Christians and Jews.

The series, tentatively titled “Treasures of the Jewish World,” is the brainchild of Opher Segal, a member of the Shalom Unit of B’nai B’rith, a Jewish fraternal organization that meets in the San Fernando Valley.

Segal said he hopes the series will help build bridges between the two groups by tracing the cultural and historical development of the Jews and showing how that history figures in the rise of Christianity.


Closer Ties

“We want to develop a closer tie to the Christian community,” he said. “We are trying to stop the hatred, the prejudice and the bigotry.”

The task is formidable: cutting across centuries of religious mistrust and misunderstanding on both sides. To combat that, the series, which is primarily targeted at a Christian audience, will shed a positive light on both religions by presenting historical information in such a way that it “promotes better understanding between Jews and Christians,” Segal said.

“The basic purpose is to use these programs as an educational tool to inform and to educate, as well as hopefully entertain,” said the series host, Roy Blizzard, who has a doctorate in Hebrew studies and who works with other scholars in a group called the Jerusalem School for the Study of the Synoptic Gospels. Blizzard added, “We want Christians to understand that the historical foundations of their faith are based in Judaism.”

The common link, Blizzard said, will be the Jewish heritage of Christ.

Santa Ana-based TBN, founded in 1973 by Paul and Jan Crouch, has 140 stations in the United States and 10 in foreign countries. It has an additional 8 1/2 million cable subscribers in this country with access to about 70% of U.S. households. About 26 denominations, including Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, United Methodist, Assemblies of God, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Church of God, Nazarene and others are represented in the network’s programming.

Matter of Perspective

“We believe that if we can place Jesus in his proper cultural and historical perspective as a Jew and as a rabbi who spoke Hebrew and used well-known rabbinical methods in his teachings, then we . . . can give Christians a more accurate Biblical picture of Jesus, as well as a better understanding of their faith,” Blizzard said.

He added: “In seeing him not as a Protestant or as a Catholic or the founder of a new movement, but to see him as a Jew, as a rabbi who is working within the framework of historical Judaism of his day, then hopefully we’ll be able to combat some of the misinformation that has been perpetuated on both sides.”

Segal said the series is being done partially in response to an increasingly popular school of thought in some Christian sectors that considers the church, in a Biblical sense, the true state of Israel. The theory holds that since Jews historically have rejected Christ, they lost their position as God’s “chosen” people. Proponents of this theory believe that modern Israel “is of no importance or consequence to God,” Blizzard said.

“We’re going to try to dispel those myths,” he said, adding that the series will feature segments that show that many of Christ’s followers were Jewish.

Material for the series, which is being funded by TBN and donations from the Jewish community, is being prepared by a panel of Jewish and Christian scholars. TBN will provide production crews and equipment, Segal said.

The Shalom Unit of B’nai B’rith is composed of Israeli emigres.