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Announcing the Winner of the Goldziher Prize 2012

March 14, 2012
Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations at Merrimack College Announces the Winner of the 2012 Ignać Goldziher Prize for Jewish-Muslim Relations

In 1873 and 1874, the Hungarian Jewish scholar Ignać Goldziher toured Constantinople, Beirut, Damascus, Jerusalem and finally Cairo. There he became a student at Al-Azhar, the oldest educational institute in Egypt, founded in the 10th century. There he also joined the Muslim community at Friday prayers in the mosque. He wrote in his diary of the profound influence this experience had on him. He returned to Europe to establish what today we call Islamic Studies. Thus, Goldziher, who remained a devout Jew all his life, established this important academic bridge between two religions, two worlds. 

It was with this history in mind that John Kiser, a principal of the William and Mary Greve Foundation, decided to establish the biennial Ignać Goldziher Prize to be administered by Merrimack’s Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations. The prize recognizes work that contributes significantly to understanding, reverence and common moral purpose between Jews and Muslims.

The first Goldziher Prize was awarded in 2010 to Prof. Mark R. Cohen of Princeton University.  Over the past several months a jury of academics and activists in Abrahamic interfaith relations reviewed many nominees for the second Goldziher Prize. Upon their recommendation, the 2012 Goldziher Prize Winner is Rabbi Burton Visotzky of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. 

BURTON L. VISOTZKY serves as Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he joined the faculty upon his ordination as Rabbi in 1977. Visotzky is the Louis Stein Director of the Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies at JTS, charged with programs on Public Policy. He also serves as director of the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue at JTS. Visotzky was associate and acting dean of the Graduate School, and was the founding Rabbi of the egalitarian worship service of the Seminary Synagogue. 

Prof. Visotzky earned a B.A. (with highest honors and distinction) from the University of Illinois at Chicago, an Ed. M. from Harvard University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Visotzky has been visiting faculty at Oxford University; University of Cambridge; Princeton University, the Russian State University of the Humanities in Moscow; and served as the Master Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

With Bill Moyers, Visotzky developed ten hours of television for PBS, serving as consultant and a featured on-screen participant. “Genesis: A Living Conversation,” premiered in 1996. He also consulted with Jeffrey Katzenberg and DreamWorks for their 1998 film, “Prince of Egypt.”

Visotzky’s articles and reviews are published in America, Europe, and Israel. He is the author of ten books and over one hundred articles and reviews. His volumes include:  Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text (1991), and The Genesis of Ethics: How the Tormented Family of Genesis leads us to Moral Development (1996). Visotzky’s novel, A Delightful Compendium of Consolation, set in eleventh-century North Africa, was published in 2008. His tenth book, Sage Tales: Wisdom and Wonder from the Rabbis of the Talmud, came out in Spring, 2011. 

Visotzky serves on the boards of Fordham Law School’s Stein Center for Law and Ethics, Kent Affordable Housing, the Journal for InterReligious Dialogue, on the editorial board of “On Torah” (Odyssey Networks and Huffington Post), and J-Street’s National Advisory Council. Rabbi Visotzky is a member of the steering committee of “Shoulder to Shoulder - Standing With American Muslims; Upholding American Values.”  He also sits on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Church Relations. Rabbi Visotzky is National Co-Chair of Rabbis for Obama 2012, as well having served on the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee of CancerCare. 

Rabbi Visotzky is engaged in Jewish-Christian-Muslim engagement internationally, in capitals such as Washington; Warsaw; Rome; Cairo; Doha, Qatar (where he was in the first group of Jews invited to interfaith dialogue by the Emir); and Madrid, Spain (where he was in the first group of Jews invited by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia). In May, 2012 Rabbi Visotzky is invited to Muskat, Oman for the U.S.-Pakistan Interreligious Consortium. Visotzky is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Rabbi Visotzky is active as a lecturer and scholar-in-residence throughout North America, Europe, and Israel. His study groups and books have been hailed on radio, television, and in print. He is married to attorney Sandra Edelman. They make their home in New York City and Kent, Connecticut. 

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  • Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky
    Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky

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  • From author John W. Kiser, longtime supporter and benefactor of the Center, an article in the Rappahannock News.
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