During the 2014-15 academic year, Vassar’s Office of the President established the Dialogue & Engagement Across Differences grant program to support initiatives that examine complex and, often, controversial social issues facing the college and society at large.
Sponsored activities are meant to foster transformative and respectful dialogue across the spectrum of experience. One powerful model for that type of dialogue took place last month in “Dialogue Across Difference: A Conversation on Israel/Palestine with Professor Yehezkel Landau and Imam Abdullah Antepli.” They discussed such questions as: How can Americans—thousands of miles from the conflict—talk about what's going on in Israel and Palestine without polarizing the discussion? What are conversation stoppers and what are conversation starters? And in what ways can self-examination within the Jewish and Muslim communities help to promote constructive conversation on this challenging topic?
Antepli and Landau first met as student and professor—Landau taught Antepli at the Hartford Seminary, where he continues to teach today—and the two have since become friends. Their discussion, which emphasized compassion, truth seeking, and peace-centered solutions, demonstrated a more balanced approach to an often-polarizing topic.
A native of Turkey, Antepli is chief representative of Muslim affairs and adjunct faculty of Islamic studies at Duke University. He became the university’s first Muslim chaplain in 2008, after initiating the post at Wesleyan University in 2003. He is founder and executive board member of the Association of College Muslim Chaplains and has worked on faith-based relief efforts in Myanmar and Malaysia.
A Jewish educator with dual Israeli and U.S. citizenship, Landau is associate professor of interfaith relations, holder of the Abrahamic Partnerships Chair, and director of the Building Abrahamic Partnerships Program at Hartford Seminary. He has worked for more than three decades in Israel and the U.S. in the fields of interfaith education and Jewish-Arab peacemaking.
Moderator Mia Mask is an associate professor of film, advisor to the Class of 2018, and an advisor to President Catharine Hill and senior officers on issues of race and inclusion.
We hope you will devote some time to listen to this thought-provoking conversation.
Photos by © Vassar College/Karl Rabe