Q: What is it like being the chair of Judaic Studies at a Jesuit, Catholic university?
A: The Jesuit educational mission in general, and USF’s mission in particular, is also my own personal mission. Education for the sake of social transformation, education for the sake of social justice, lies at the core of my own beliefs.
Q: What does your academic research focus on?
A: It focuses on the interplay of violence, nonviolence, Judaism, and Islam, and the interpretation of religious texts in the Israel and Palestine regions. Through my work with Abraham’s Vision, I am passionate about educational models that focus on working with groups in conflict. Abraham’s Vision works with Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, and Palestinian communities, helping students deepen their self-understanding.
Q: Why did you found Abraham’s Vision?
A: As a Jewish American who is male, Ashkenzai (Eastern European descent), from an upper middle class socioeconomic background, these identity traits have granted me certain access that 99.9 percent of those in our world do not have. With Abraham’s Vision I strive to be part of something larger than my individual self, working with communities that all too often are carrying out acts of violence against one another. As a member of the Jewish community, I feel it incumbent upon me to work in the field of social justice and help move these communities in general, and my Jewish community in particular, toward a time when they are no longer perceived as groups in conflict.
Q: How do current events further highlight the need for such an organization?
A: Unfortunately, I believe we live in an age when ethnic, religious, and national conflicts are common, with the 20th century having arguably seen more death and destruction than any other. As conflict resolution did not emerge as a formal academic field until quite recently, I am privileged to be part of a movement that, for me, is akin to other historical movements that helped society move forward in terms of equal rights for women, civil rights, environmental consciousness, and human rights.