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February 10, 2009

Reviewing ‘My Jesus Year’ for Christianity Today

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/reviewing_my_jesus_year_for_christianity_today_20090210/

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Back in November I wrote two reviews of Benyamin Cohen’s “My Jesus Year.” The first, for The Jewish Journal, ran in the second week of the month and coincided with Cohen’s speaking at L.A.‘s Celebration of Jewish Books. The second review, for Christianity Today, disappeared for a few months but was published online today. It’s significantly different than the other review I wrote and talks more about my Jewish journey, which I had written about for The Journal right after Yom Kippur.

Here’s an excerpt that touches on my family’s Jewish history and why I joined The Journal, both themes I’ve blogged about before:

I had anticipated reading Cohen’s memoir since learning of it in the spring. I saw in its premise, and in Cohen’s portrait, a mirror image of myself. Bizarro Brad, if you will.

Borrowing a characteristically short phrase that Cohen repeats throughout his book: Let me explain.

Both my grandmothers were Jewish. So too was my paternal grandfather, from whom the name Greenberg comes. But my mom was confirmed Catholic and my dad never became bar mitzvahed. When I was young, my parents met at Protestantism, and I continue today to be a God-fearing, church-going Christian.

Last year, though, I joined The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, making the move from the Los Angeles Daily News with an impetus as personal as it was professional.

I had been fascinated since becoming a religion reporter a few years before with understanding my split identity: To the outside world, I was Jewish, but to anybody who knew me, I was Christian. I thought working in the Jewish community would help me sort myself out.

“Be careful, man,” a Daily News colleague told me. “That community will change you more than you’ll change them.”

I considered that an unfair warning. For one thing, I wasn’t looking to change anyone but myself. I’m not with Jews for Jesus; I’ve never felt called to evangelize Jacob’s children in particular. As a Christian, I would like to see the whole world come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, but evangelism wasn’t the job for which I was hired, and I considered using my employment to do so as professionally indefensible.

Instead, I saw the new gig as an opportunity to grow culturally as a Jew while strengthening my understanding of what it meant to be a Christian. I did this mostly in subtle ways: reporting on Christian Zionists and their close relationship with Jews, immersing myself in Jewish culture and history and learning to see the world through that lens, walking the Holy Land, watching Jon Stewart.

You can read the rest here.

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