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Yeshiva University bridges Muslim/Jewish divide at new UAE conference

May 02, 2023

Muslim founders of a museum in the Persian Gulf state of the United Arab Emirates welcome a small group from the flagship Jewish Orthodox University of the United States in April 2021 around Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust remembrance day. The head of the school will deliver a keynote address at the Arab nation’s first Holocaust commemoration, before a group of Jewish scholars are invited to watch a letter from Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism letter. Visitors noticed that there was a mezuzah on the gatepost of the museum.

“When I told this story to my parents,” said Rabbi Stuart Halpern, “they said, ‘Is the Messiah behind you? Who could have imagined that we’d live to see a day like this?'”

The unexpected welcome culminated in a historic conference, which will be held at the same “Crossroads of Civilizations” museum in Dubai on Wednesday (May 3). Yeshiva University in New York and the Mohamed bin Zayed University for the Humanities in Abu Dhabi will participate in the inaugural “Interactive Philosophy, Shared Friendship” conference on the interplay of Islam and Judaism, with a focus on medieval scholar and physician Moses Maimonides.

“Given the complex historical relationship between Judaism and Islam, it is significant to have such joint action over a thousand and a half years or so, to say the least,” said Halpern, senior advisor to the provost and vice provost. Ye Shi Director of the Strauss Center at the University of Va.

Halpern coordinated the meeting with Ahmed Almansoori, a businessman, former government official and founder of the museum that hosts the only permanent Holocaust exhibit in an Arab country.

Five students from Yeshiva Stern College for Women – selected for their academic achievements in religion, philosophy and politics – will join three faculty members and two academics from YU and a student from bin Zayed University About twelve students. The first day of the academic session will end with a Kosher dinner. The next day, the YU contingent will make a quick trip to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, to visit the recently opened Abrahamic Family House, which houses a mosque, church and synagogue, and to participate in Israel’s Independence Day celebrations at the Israeli embassy.

“The fact that these partnerships are happening and involving the Israeli embassy is noteworthy because that would not have been possible 10 years ago. There is no relationship between governments,” said U.S. Institute of Peace visiting expert, former State Department Middle East and South/Central Asia Knox Thames, special adviser on religious minorities.

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