(Courtesy of YU) On Wednesday, May 3, Yeshiva University (YU) and the Mohammed Bin Zayed University for Humanities (MBZUH) held the first-ever joint conference between an American Jewish university and an Emirati university at the Crossroads of Civilization Museum (CCM) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The conference, at which approximately 100 were in attendance, strengthened academic partnerships between YU and UAE and promoted new opportunities for dialogue between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East.
In the wake of the historic Abraham Accords, Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University, delivered the keynote address at the April 2021 Holocaust Commemoration at the Museum, the first such event in an Arab country. Wednesday’s conference, presented in partnership with YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School, Rabbi Arthur Schneier Program for International Affairs and the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, sought to further strengthen ties between YU and the UAE’s Muslim community.
“Writing in Newsweek following the 2021 Holocaust Commemoration event, YU’s President Berman had noted that ‘The biblical brothers Isaac and Ishmael stand to embrace each other once more. This opportunity calls for attention and investments, in areas like education that humanize and enrich people’s understanding of one another,” said YU’s Rabbi Dr. Stuart Halpern, senior adviser to the provost and deputy director of the Straus Center, who coordinated the program with the museum’s founder, Ahmed Almansoori, a former member of the United Arab Emirates Federal National Council. “We are proud to be partnering with academic colleagues and both the Muslim and Jewish communities as we enrich each other through shared learning and strengthened friendship.”
Titled “Interacting Philosophies, Shared Friendships,” the program covered social dynamics, philosophical exchanges and mutual influence between Judaism and Islam, with a particular focus on the great medieval scholar Moses Maimonides. A kosher dinner was served, and local dignitaries, religious leaders, scholars and university students from YU and MBZUH were in attendance. The event also generated extensive positive media coverage, including from I24 TV News, Times of Israel, UAE Times and Religion News Service.
During the first session, the dean of Revel, Dr. Daniel Rynhold, discussed “Maimonides and the Parable of the Sultan’s Palace,” and MBZUH’s Dr. Ibrahim Burshashen spoke on “The Relationship Between Ibn Rushd and Ibn Maimon.” In the next session, MBZUH’s Dr. Haider Hussain discussed “The Role and Impact of Islamic Civilization on Jewish Philosophy, With Maimonides as an Example,” and Director of the YU Schneier Program for International Affairs Dr. Ronnie Perelis offered “A Cosmopolitan History of the Jewish-Muslim Encounter.” The final part of the program featured Dr. Shira Weiss, assistant director of the YU Rabbi Sacks Center for Leadership and Values, who discussed the influence of Ibn Rushd on the philosophy of Joseph Albo.
The next day, the YU scholars were led on a VIP tour of the Abrahamic Family House led by Rabbi-in-Residence Ben de Toledo, who spent a year studying at YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. The building, which houses a synagogue, church and mosque, recently opened, with YU alum Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, chief rabbi of its Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue, delivering the dedication. Following the tour, the YU scholars were guests of the Israeli ambassador to the UAE, Amir Hayek, as Israel’s Independence Day was celebrated in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
View the conference at: https://themuseum.ae/symposium_may3