New York Rabbi Leads Interfaith Mission to Israel

Christians and Muslims Join Stephen Wise Synagogue on Journey

By Forward Staff

Published December 23, 2011.
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The Stephen Wise Free Synagogue’s Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch is leading an interfaith group of 16 prominent New York religious leaders on a mission to Israel and the West Bank.

The group, which includes prominent Christian and Muslim leaders as well as Jews, will meet seek to “promote peace and understanding” during the high-profile weeklong trip starting January 6.

During the intensive trip the clergy will visit the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and together address challenges to peaceful coexistence between Jews and Palestinians.

Among the leaders they anticipate meeting with are: Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel; Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority; Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority; Shimon Peres, President of Israel; Natan Sharansky, former refusnik and Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel; Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem, and David Buskila, Mayor of Sderot.

The delegation is scheduled to meet the mayor of Bethlehem and the leadership of the neighboring settlement of Efrat in order to gain a better understanding of the reality on the ground in the West Bank.

“There is an urgent need to counter the impression that our three great faiths are at war with each other,” Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue on Manhattan’s upper West Side said in a statement. “We believe in a better way: the way of dialogue and mutual respect. We hope that our visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories will emphasize our common aspiration for, and commitment to, a more peaceful world. We are eager to meet and encourage Israelis and Palestinians who are working daily to realize this aspiration.”

The religious leaders head 15 historic institutions and collectively represent tens of thousands of New Yorkers. The participants are Sheikh Dr. Ibrahim Abdul-Malik, Admiral Family Circle Islamic Community; Reverend Stephen Bauman, Christ Church; Reverend Shari Brink, Marble Collegiate Church; Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein, B’nai Jeshurun Congregation; Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, Park Avenue Synagogue; Rabbi Linda Henry Goodman, Union Temple of Brooklyn; Reverend Galen Guengerich, All Souls Unitarian Church; Imam Dr. Muhammad Hatim, Admiral Family Circle Islamic Community; Reverend Dr. William Heisley, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church; Reverend Brenda Husson, St. James Episcopal Church; Reverend Dr. James Kowalski, Cathedral Church St. John the Divine; Reverend Stephen Phelps, The Riverside Church; Father Robert Robbins, Church of the Holy Family at the United Nations Parish; Rabbi Peter Rubinstein, Central Synagogue; Rabbi Jonathan Stein, Temple Shaaray Tefila.


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