On October 7, 2018, Rabbi Jerome Davidson ‘58 was presented with the Islamic Center of Long Island’s third annual Institute Award in recognition of his pioneering and visionary leadership in advancing Jewish-Muslim relations on Long Island and beyond. The award presentation was attended by more than 100 community leaders and followed by a discussion on ‘Jewish-Muslim Relations over the past 1400 plus years.’
During his acceptance speech, Rabbi Davidson recalled the climate of the country when he began working with the ICLI in 1992: “The tension and dangers today faced by the Muslim community in America were unimaginable when the seeds of our dialogue were planted in 1992. Nonetheless I believe that because of the over a quarter of a century of this relationship and its influence and offshoots throughout the US, we are in a far better position to challenge effectively the ubiquitous Islamophobia of the present time,” he said.
Dr. Sharon Koren, Associate Professor of Medieval Jewish Culture; Dr. Norman Cohen Chair for an Emerging Jewish Scholar at HUC-JIR, was also in attendance and spoke about the early history of Islam, arts and architecture in Cordoba. She shared her knowledge of early Jewish-Muslim relations when, in many Christian countries, Jews were not allowed to practice their religion or convert to Christianity and chose to move to Islamic countries for safety.
Although the relationship between the Jewish and Muslim communities has not always been easy, Rabbi Davidson said they chose to focus on what ties them together instead of their differences: “…when Islamophobia spread, and the Jewish community was not immune, when hate mongers tarred the entire Muslim community with virulent views with demagogic threats of Islamization of America, we stood as one, and especially when voices from the Jewish community sought to divide Jews and Muslims. We always shall do so. We are natural allies in the struggle for religious freedom, for civil liberties.”
Rabbi Davidson is the Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Beth El of Great Neck, where he served for four decades, and he currently serves as National Coordinator of Leadership Initiatives; Adjunct Instructor in Leadership and Homiletics at HUC-JIR.
Watch a video of the event: