President Christopher Hopey bestowed the $25,000 prize on Rabbi Visotsky at a dinner in the Merrimack Club. Cardinal O’Malley’s presence emphasized the importance which the Catholic Church places on interfaith dialogue. In his acceptance speech, the Rabbi expressed his thanks to the College and the Cardinal for recognizing his work for mutual respect and understanding among Jews and Muslims.
The College’s Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations awards the Goldziher prize every two years to a scholar or activist who advances reconciliation among Jews and Muslims. Dr. Joseph Kelley, Director of the Center, explained that the award is made possible by a generous grant from the William and Mary Greve Foundation, which supports several dimensions of the Center’s work.
Many distinguished Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders gathered from around the country and the world to honor Rabbi Visotzky. Prior to the award dinner, eleven of these visitors met with seventy-five Merrimack students in a program called “Heroes and Worship.” The students met in small groups with the interfaith “heroes” to learn about their work and to ask questions. The “heroes” included: Goldziher Prize winner Visotsky; Dr. Mohamed Lazzouni, New England’s leading Imam, and a recognized expert in identifications systems and chair of the Center’s Advisory Board; Diane Kessler, retired executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches in 2007 and ordained minister in the United church of Christ; Houda Abu Arqoub, a Palestinian activist from Hebron; Jacob Bender, an independent film maker, best known for Out of Cordoba, whose work is screened around the world; Salma Kazmi, a woman leader from the Islamic community in Boston; Jennifer Howe Peace, assistant professor of Interfaith Studies at Andover Newton Theological School and co-director of the Center for Interreligious and Communal Leadership Education; Fr. David Michael, priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Needham, Mass. He is also associate director of the Archdiocesan office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations; Yehezkel Landau, senior associate of the JCM Center and faculty associate in Interfaith Relations at Hartford Seminary. His work has been in the fields of interfaith education and Jewish-Arab peacemaking; Tamar Miller, who works with social change organizations and universities with a focus on contemporary Middle East and the Abrahamic traditions and senior consultant to International Abrahamic Network for Track Two, an institute for Citizen Diplomacy based in San Francisco; and Joseph Montville, a former State Department official who served in Libya.
Rabbi Visotzky will return to Merrimack in Spring 2014 to deliver his Goldziher lecture. At that time the next awardee will be announced. A jury of interfaith scholars chooses the winner from nominations received from across the globe.