The Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations announced on Tuesday May 11th (2010) the first awardee of the Goldziher Prize, Professor Mark Cohen of Princeton University.  The announcement was made at an event at the Muslim American Society of Boston’s Islamic Cultural Center attended by members of Boston’s interfaith community.  The prize is named for the 19th century Islamicist, Ignác Goldziher, a Hungarian Jew who revered Islam and Muslim people and validated Islamic studies in the 19th century European university context.

The prize is being administered by Merrimack College’s Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations.  The Center promotes reverence, understanding and collaboration in works of justice and peace among Jews, Christians and Muslims.

“The mission of the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations comes at a critical time as we witness the clash of civilizations and the conflict between the east and west.  The similarity of Jews and Muslims is woefully forgotten and we need to realize their commonalities such as their monotheism, the practice of daily prayers, dietary laws and charity in their daily lives.  Being awarded the Goldziher Prize is both an honor and a challenge, to write about the past without being tainted by the exigencies of the present,” said Professor Mark Cohen.

Prof. Cohen presents his book to the ISBCCProf. Cohen presents his book to the ISBCC

Professor Cohen, The Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East at Princeton University, is the first winner of the Goldziher prize.  Professor Cohen is the author of Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages, a powerful study revealing the advantages for Jews of the Middle Ages of being governed by Muslims and a work that has been translated into Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, French, German; Romanian and Spanish are forthcoming.  He is an ordained rabbi.

At the event, Professor Cohen presented a gift to the Islamic Cultural Center of an Arabic translation of his book.  Click here to watch the announcement on YouTube.

“The Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations is proud to join Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders for interfaith reverence, understanding and collaboration in works of justice and peace in announcing the first Goldziher Award to Professor Mark Cohen,” said Padraic O’Hare, Director of the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations.

“The Goldziher Award represents the connection of the worlds of Judaism and Islam and the power of words and ideas that need to be used as a vehicle for transformation.  What we say to each other has a way of shaping the world and moving it forward in peace,” said Rabbi David Gordis, President Emeritus of Hebrew College, Director of the National Center for Jewish Policy Studies and Senior Visiting Scholar, The University of Albany-SUNY.

“In the Boston area, we’ve worked hard to promote mutual understanding and respect among all faiths.  Interreligious dialogue is complex, but important in our quest for understanding,” said Father David Michael, Associate Director, Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

“Our hope is to identify and experience the commonalities among our faiths,” said Salma Kazmi, a leader in the local Muslim community and lecturer at Merrimack College.

The Goldziher Prize is a $25,000 cash award, made possible by a generous grant from The William and Mary Greve Foundation and by the vision of one of the Foundation’s principals, John Kiser.  On October 6, 2010, the prize will be formally presented to Professor Cohen at a dinner at Brandeis University.