Q. May a Jew enter a church or mosque?
A. Jewish sentiment is wary of entering a church or mosque. Our historical memory of being compelled to attend Christian sermons cannot be easily effaced. But it’s not just a matter of history but of ideology.
Whilst great scholars such as the Me’iri in the 13th century rule that Christianity is not in the category of idolatry, and it is widely recognised that the purer monotheism of Islam is theologically close to Judaism, rabbinic authorities take a negative view of entering the houses of worship of other faiths. Talmudic references to entering a church include AZ 20a/b and Arachin 14a. The Talmud does not refer to Islam, since Mohammed came on the scene later.
However, those who these days are prepared to enter a church or mosque without any intention of praying say they do so as a mark of good will and a commitment to good relations.
Rabbi Chayyim David Halevy, a chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, is reported as saying that the verse in Hallel about “those who fear the Lord” (Psalm 118:4) acclaiming God’s lovingkindness applies to present-day gentiles who seek friendship with Jews.