Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies and director of the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue of The Jewish Theological Seminary, received the 2012 Goldziher Prize at an award dinner on Monday, October 15, at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts.
The Goldziher Prize, a $25,000 award given "to a scholar and/or activist for significant work in promoting Jewish-Muslim interfaith dialogue, mutual understanding, and deep respect," is administered by the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations at Merrimack College, a Catholic institution; the biennial award is funded by the William and Mary Greve Foundation.
Rabbi Visotzky's recent work in interreligious affairs included a trip in May to Oman to meet with Omani and Pakistani Muslim leaders, and a meeting in September with Egypt's President Mohamed Morsy. Earlier this month, he hosted a delegation of seven Saudi Arabian educators at JTS under the auspices of the US State Department; and later this month, he will participate in the Third Annual Workshop on "Judaism and Islam in America."
At the Goldziher Prize ceremony, Rabbi Visotzky said,
"Jews are enjoined to recite 100 blessings to give thanks to God each and every day. I am in the happy position of giving thanks to God, and to Merrimack College and the Greve Foundation, for affirming my work in Jewish-Muslim relations. And deepest thanks to JTS Chancellor Arnie Eisen. It is not just that Arnie supports my work of interreligious outreach—he stands beside me shoulder to shoulder doing the work.
"I have no illusions about why I am called to attend the many interreligious gatherings, and why I have the prestige—or perhaps the better word is clout—to effect progress in these settings. It is because I represent The Jewish Theological Seminary, the premiere institution of Jewish education in the Western Hemisphere and, for 125 years now, a leading light in the Jewish world. I truly cannot even begin to express my appreciation for the past 40 years I have spent there."
The event also featured Goldziher finalists Mr. Jacob Bender, an independent film director; Professor Aaron Hahn Tapper, chair of Judaic Studies at the University of San Francisco; and honored guest Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley, archbishop of Boston.