Ohr Torah Stone launches interfaith dialogue initiative

The move follows newly normalizes ties between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors.

Rabbi Yakov Nagen on a visit with a neighbor in the Hebron hills (photo credit: EYAL SHANI)
Rabbi Yakov Nagen on a visit with a neighbor in the Hebron hills
(photo credit: EYAL SHANI)
Coming off the heels of major normalization announcements between Israel and its Arab neighbors, Ohr Torah Stone has launched a program for interfaith dialogue.
The Blickle Institute for Interfaith Dialogue was launched with the official mission of giving an updated attitude of Judaism towards non-Jews when educating religious students and leaders. This updated attitude includes new approaches towards other religions, in relation to both non-Jews living in Israel and relations on a global level.
The institute and a corresponding Beit Midrash of Judaism and Humanity were developed in order to “engage leading educational and rabbinic figures from the Jewish religious community to be partners in creating a new paradigm for how Judaism relates to other religions and how the Jewish people relate to the non-Jews in our midst,” Ohr Torah Stone president and rosh yeshiva Rabbi Kenneth Brander said in a statement.

“With the return to Zion and the establishment of the state of Israel, we must define the halachic status of other religions according to Judaism and outline our responsibilities to the country's non-Jewish minorities. Our goal is to disseminate among our students and fellow community leaders a new approach that focuses on the reality that there is so much more that unites us as peoples of faith than the political and diplomatic divisions that so often cloud that truth,” said the institute's founding director Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Nagen, a scholar with a career steeped into interfaith dialogue, especially between Jews and Muslims.
The institute is the next step in Ohr Torah Stone's mission of broadening Jewish education, which has already seen them train rabbis, educators, women Torah scholars, emissaries and more. Now it can add interfaith dialogue to its curricula.
“The vision of this Institute is to ensure that all peoples can be better educated about fellow monotheistic religions in a way that can foster better relations between our faiths and thus serve as a source of blessing for Israel and the entire world,” said Mr. Karl Herman Blickle, chairman of Stuttgarter Lehrhaus Foundation for Interreligious Dialogue.
“The Jewish people has achieved so much on a national level in recent decades, but with that accomplishment comes a sense of responsibility in how we interact with minorities and peoples of other religions,” Brander explained. 
“It's time that the religious Jewish community in Israel adopts a code regarding our religious responsibility to not just tolerate the 'other' but to engage and learn from the other, and to share that with our public intellectuals, our leaders and future leaders."
The institute's fellows will continue to communicate among one another in monthly round-table discussions regarding integration of interfaith studies in Orthodox educational institutions.
“Impacting positive interfaith relations is predicated upon ongoing communication between our peoples,” Nagen said.
“When we speak to one another, and most importantly when our younger generation is given the tools to speak to one another, we are able to appreciate that there is so much that we can do together that will further co-existence.  These are values that are at the heart of who we are as religious Jews and ones that we are confident this Institute will now make popular in our schools and communities all across the globe.”
The signing of the Abraham Accords has resulted in significant interest in interfaith dialogue, as Israel normalizes formal ties with new regional Muslim allies. This is evident by renewed interest in the Abrahamic Family House project, which will see a massive interfaith complex containing houses of worship for Jews, Muslim and Christians constructed on Abu Dhabi.