Yeshiva University to hold 1st of its kind Jewish studies conference in UAE

New York Modern Orthodox college will partner with Mohammed Bin Zayed University for Humanities in Dubai, as Gulf state boosts Jewish education programs following Abraham Accords

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Ahmed al-Mansoori, director of the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum, shows visitors around the Holocaust Gallery, in Dubai on January 11, 2023. (Karim Sahib/ AFP)
Illustrative: Ahmed al-Mansoori, director of the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum, shows visitors around the Holocaust Gallery, in Dubai on January 11, 2023. (Karim Sahib/AFP)

NEW YORK — Yeshiva University will hold a Jewish studies conference in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, as the Gulf state continues to lean into the academic field following its normalization with Israel in 2020.

The flagship Modern Orthodox university in New York City is hosting the event with the Mohammed Bin Zayed University for Humanities in Dubai’s Crossroads of Civilization Museum, the site of the only permanent Holocaust exhibition in an Arab country.

The conference is the first of its kind between a US Jewish university and a UAE university, and aims to strengthen academic partnerships between the institutions and foster dialogue between Jews and Muslims in the region, Yeshiva University said in a Sunday statement.

The event, called “Interacting philosophies, shared friendships,” will cover philosophical interactions and mutual influences between Judaism and Islam, with a focus on the medieval Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides.

Local officials, religious leaders, and scholars and students from the two universities will attend the conference and organizers will serve a kosher dinner.

After the event, Yeshiva University scholars will tour the Abrahamic Family House, a newly-opened interfaith center in Abu Dhabi that houses a synagogue, a mosque and a church. The scholars will then visit Israel’s ambassador to the UAE, Amir Hayek.

The UAE has made efforts to boost Holocaust education since normalizing ties with Israel in 2020’s Abraham Accords. The landmark deal, which also included Bahrain and Morocco, opened the way for exchanges in academics, business, science and tourism between the countries.

The UAE said earlier this year it will begin teaching about the Holocaust in history classes in primary and secondary schools across the country.

The move has met with some pushback, however. Arab nations have generally been reluctant to tackle the subject, given that Nazi Germany’s mass murder of the Jews is seen by some in the region as a key factor leading to the 1948 creation of the State of Israel.

The Crossroads of Civilization Museum opened its Holocaust exhibition in 2021, shortly after the Abraham Accords were signed.

Yeshiva University President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman spoke at a Yom HaShoah commemoration at the museum in 2021, the first such ceremony in an Arab country, as the museum opened the exhibit.

Earlier this year, the museum put a Torah scroll that survived the Holocaust on display in an exhibition aimed at combating Holocaust denial and reminding visitors of Jewish-Arab coexistence in the Middle East.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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