Close on the heels of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Ohr Torah Stone (OTS), an international Modern Orthodox movement, launched a new program to foster interfaith dialogue, understanding and relationships between Jews and people of other faiths.
The program, Blickle Institute for Interfaith Dialogue, began October 26, 2020.
OTS describes the mission of Blickle Institute as “a systematic approach to interfaith understanding and relations.”
In a The Jerusalem Post interview, OTS President Kenneth Brander said the institute will “engage leading educational and rabbinic figures from the Jewish religious community to be partners in creating a new paradigm for how Judaism relates to other religions and how the Jewish people relate to non-Jews in our midst.” He believes the Jewish community in Israel must “not just tolerate the ‘other’ but ...engage and learn from the other” and it must share this belief with intellectuals, leaders and future leaders.
Ohr Torah Stone was founded in1983, and the Blickle Institute for Interfaith Dialogue is “the next step” in the OTS “mission of broadening Jewish education.”
Rabbi Yaakov Nagen, the new institute’s founding director, is a native New Yorker who teaches at the Otniel Yeshiva in a Jewish settlement near Hebron in the West Bank. He advocates a federative one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with equal rights for both peoples.
He told the Jerusalem Post: “Our goal is to disseminate among our students and fellow community leaders a new approach that focuses on the reality that there is so much more that unites us as people of faith than the political and diplomatic divisions that so often cloud that truth.” In a 2015 article in Haaretz News, Nagen said, “I believe the religious human encounter is the key to everything. When I meet a Palestinian and see how much he loves God—the same God I love—all the barriers fall.”
“The vision of this Institute is to ensure that all peoples can be better educated about fellow monotheistic religions in a way that can foster better relations between our faiths and thus serve as a source of blessing for Israel and the entire world,” said Karl Herman Blickle for whom the institute is named. Blickle is chairman of the Stuttgarter Lehrhaus Foundation for Interreligious Dialogue, an organization devoted to promoting discourse among Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Interest in interfaith dialogue has increased significantly since the August 13, 2020, signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE, a loose federation of seven Emirate states comprising Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Khaymah, Ras al-Khaymah and Fujairah. The UAE is the first Gulf state and the third Arab country after Egypt and Jordan to recognize Israel since the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.
Recently, on the UAE’s Saadiyat Island, construction began on the Abrahamic Family House, a sprawling interfaith complex that will contain a synagogue, mosque and church representing the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The structure is scheduled to be completed in 2022.
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