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Historic conference in Dubai with the participation of Jewish and Muslim scholars

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 further 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.

"We at Yeshiva University believe that shared scholarship is the road to strengthen friendships,” 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. “After YU’s President Dr. Ari Berman addressed the first Holocaust Commemoration ever in an Arab country in Dubai in April 2021 we were eager to connect with local academics students build collaborative relationships," Halpern explained.

Covering social dynamics, philosphoical exchanges and mutual influence

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 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 housed a synagogue, church and mosque which recently opened with YU alum Rabbi Yehuda Sarna as Chief Rabbi of its Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue delivering its dedication. Following the tour, the YU scholars were guests of Israeli ambassador to UAE Amir Hayek as Israel’s Independence Day was celebrated in Abu Dhabi.

The goal was to showcase how Judaism Islam served to inform each other's philosophy amidst a complex history,” Halpern said. He added that YU is “eager to develop continued shared programs," with MBZUH.

Halpern shared that there were also emotional moments during their visit. "One of our scholars recited the Shehechiyanu prayer, expressing our gratitude for having arrived at a day where Jews Muslims can have an evening of academic dialogue in an Arab country."

Zvika Klein