How does a rabbi get involved in dialogue with Muslims? On this blog, we often write about interfaith dialogue, for which personal contact is crucial, without talking much about the background of the personalities involved.
Given the constraints of journalism, that’s not surprising. But it does leave out some of the insights I gain from talking at length with rabbis and imams about themselves and their work.
One of these rabbis, Burton Visotzky of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, has now filled in part of this gap for me by giving a video interview to the Journal of Interreligious Dialogue. Vistozky is an occasional blogger for our GUESTVIEW series of outside contributions.
Starting with his initial work in Jewish-Christian dialogue, he explains how he got increasingly involved in contacts with Muslims — to the point of speaking at Friday prayers in New York’s Islamic Cultural Center, hosting its imam, Shamsi Ali, at the JTS synagogue and visiting Muslim countries for dialogue sessions there. He was in the first group of Jews invited to meet King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia when the monarch hosted an interfaith conference in Madrid in July 2008.
Here he is telling it in his own words:
Apart from nine scholarly books, Visotzky has also worked with Bill Moyers on the 10-hour PBS television series Genesis: A Living Conversation in 1996 and published a novel about Jewish-Muslim relations in 11th century Cairo, A Delightful Compendium of Consolation, in 2008.