High-Ranking Interfaith Dialogue Takes Place in Manhattan

December 3, 2004

Source: The Jewish Week


On December 3, 2004 The Jewish Week reported, "in medieval times in the Middle East, translators in synagogues would render the reading of the weekly Torah portion from Hebrew into the vernacular Arabic or Aramaic. Something similar took place in Manhattan this week. As Burton Visotzky, professor of midrash at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, read the biblical story of the binding of Isaac in English to a group of prestigious international religious leaders in the Women’s League Seminary Synagogue of JTS Tuesday morning, members of the audience translated his words into Arabic — for the sake of the Islamic clerics who were part of the group. In the seats surrounding the bima, a few dozen Jewish, Islamic and Christian members of the clergy — part of the first Summit for Interfaith Respect sponsored by the New York-based Institute for Middle East Peace & Development — read the photocopied texts of the Akeidah, as the scenario of the near-sacrifice of Isaac at the hand of his father, Abraham, is known in Jewish circles. The texts included a midrashic account of the Akeidah, a Christian perspective on the Torah’s story, and the Koranic version, in which Ishmael instead of Isaac is the son offered up by Abraham. Scholars on both sides of the Jewish-Muslim divide respectfully offered their own interpretations of their respective texts."