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Dialogical Lecture Series (2015–2020)
Overview of All Previous Lecture Series with Video Recordings
From 2015 to 2020, we hosted a regular lecture series as part of our Jewish Islamic Forum. Two researchers were invited to each event to present a topic from Jewish and Islamic perspectives and to enter into dialog with each other.
On this page you can learn more about the different series and find video recordings of each lecture.
The Others’ Faith. World Religions through the Lens of Judaism and Islam (2019/20)
This lecture series explores Judaism and Islam's complex relationship to the other religions. Along with Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, the series also examines their relationship to atheism, as well as the theological history of the relationship between Judaism and Islam.
Between traditional convictions and increasing secularization, the world religions face new challenges to their own inner structures and their relationships to each other. Inter-religious relationships, whether at the individual or societal level, must be rethought or defined for the first time.
Video Recordings “The Others’ Faith”
On the Path to Enlightenment: Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism
Whereas Jews rarely came in contact with the teachings of Buddha before the nineteenth century, the spread of Islam in central and southeast Asia sparked an intensive exchange between Muslims and Buddhists. What shape did these relationships take?
Today, the popularity of Buddhism is growing in the West. Its followers include a group known as JuBus: predominantly American Jews who have adopted Buddhist practices. What explains that interest? And how do Judaism and Islam today approach a tradition of thinking that recognizes deities but not one all-powerful and immortal God?
A discussion with Jerome Gellman (Ben-Gurion University) and Johan Elverskog (Southern Methodist University), video recording of the event on 24 Sep 2020, in English Read more
Tying the Knot versus Bonds with God: Jews and Muslims in Interfaith Marriages
Does interfaith marital bliss require religious relativism?
Love goes beyond religious and cultural barriers, or at least that is what many believe. The growing number of interfaith marriages in Europe and the United States does seem to confirm this. But in day-to-day life, couples who practice different faiths confront a variety of challenges.
How do Jews and Muslims handle this? How can someone strike a balance between their own religious beliefs and their partner’s – and pass on those beliefs to children? And finally, how do the religious authorities react to interdenominational marriages?
With Madeleine Dreyfus (cultural anthropologist and psychoanalyst) and Imen Gallala-Arndt (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology), video recording of the event on 18 Jun 2020, in German Read more
Non-Transcendental Morality: Judaism, Islam, and Atheism.
Can mindsets critical of religion be constructive for a Jewish and Islamic theology that speaks to our times?
Skepticism, non-belief, and doubt have accompanied religions since their beginnings. As a result of advancing secularization, however, atheistic and agnostic convictions have become widespread in the Western world to an unprecedented level. How do Judaism and Islam respond to this?
As monotheistic religions, they both see the negation of God as a rejection of moral values. But do moral principles necessarily require recourse to transcendence? And how do Judaism and Islam meet the claim of rationality and reason formulated by the atheists?
With Jacques Berlinerblau (Georgetown University) and Ufuk Topkara (Johns Hopkins University), video recording of the event on 20 Apr 2020, in German and English Read more
What do you think about Jesus? Judaism, Islam, and Christianity
Jewish and Muslim perspectives on Christianity – Many Christian beliefs and religious practices are baffling to Jews and Muslims, from the Holy Trinity and the veneration of saints to the role of Jesus as the Son of God. By contrast, the other two traditions applaud Christianity’s shared beliefs in divine creation and the immortality of the soul as well as the observance of moral principles.
Where do Jewish and Muslim perspectives on Christianity overlap? Where do they diverge? And how is the diversity of Christian denominations addressed in theological debates?
With Israel Yuval (Hebrew University in Jerusalem) and Maha El Kaisy-Friemuth (Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg), video recording of the event on 18 Feb 2020, in German and English Read more
Mono or Poly? Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism
How do today’s Jews and Muslims view Hinduism, which recognizes multiple deities?
Since Antiquity, Judaism has been preoccupied with setting itself apart from polytheistic religions and “idolatry.” Islam, too, has had numerous experiences with non-monotheistic religions, dating back to its emergence in the early seventh century BCE, and particularly during its expansion in Asia.
How do today’s Jews and Muslims view Hinduism, which recognizes multiple deities? As we will see, perhaps these historical perspectives are useful for a contemporary understanding of polytheistic religions, or perhaps such perspectives impede a nuanced exploration.
With Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein (Elijah Interfaith Institute) and Reza Shah-Kazemi (Institute of Ismaili Studies in London), video recording of the event on 4 Feb 2020, in English Read more
Judaism and Islam – The History of Theological Relations
Judaism is generally regarded as the first monotheistic religion. The advent of Islam, however, brought a strictly monotheistic “competitor” to Judaism. How did Jewish scholars view this new religion? Both the Koran and early Islamic writings testify to numerous encounters between the Prophet Mohammed and Jews.
What does the Muslim Holy Scripture and early Muslim tradition reveal about how they perceived Jews and their religious ideas and practices?
With Lukas Mühlethaler (Free University Berlin) and Imam Abdullah Antepli (Duke University, USA), video recording of the event on 21 Nov 2019, in German and English Read more
Science and Faith in Judaism and Islam (2018–19)
Scientific discoveries in astronomy, geology, and biology over the past centuries have called into question the centrality of humans as the “crown of creation.” Today, religious and scientific positions are often seen as irreconcilable.
In the past, this conflicting relationship between religion and science was hardly the rule. Many theologists were also scientists and made significant contributions to our understanding of humanity and the surrounding world.
This lecture series sets out to explore the tensions and affinities between Judaism, Islam, and the sciences. It hopes to supplement the narrative of conflict with other narratives showing that both religions’ theologies have engaged deeply and broadly with the sciences.
Video Recordings “Science and Faith in Judaism and Islam”
Do You Believe in Miracles?
Jewish and Muslim Scripture describe many extraordinary events that contradict human experience and the laws of nature. Each religion considers these to be historical and objective accounts of the facts and attributes them to divine interventions in history.
People with naturalistic worldviews are skeptical of such miraculous tales or reject them outright. They allege that these narratives were rooted in a mythological view of the world that has long ago been replaced by a scientific approach. Yet the belief in miracles and the belief that God intervenes in world events are central articles of faith and of fundamental significance for both religions.
Could both religions express the belief in miracles in a way that withstands the challenges posed by science? Or is it impossible to believe in miracles in this day and age?
With James A. Diamond (University of Waterloo, Canada) and Umeyye Isra Yazicioglu (St. Joseph’s University in Philidelphia, United States), video recording of the event on 13 Jun 2019, in English Read more
Humanity: Between Destiny and Free Will
There is a longstanding tension between the assumption that God is omnipotent/omniscient and the idea of human free will. This comes down to whether humans are responsible for their own actions: a question that has been occupying Jewish and Islamic theologians since time immemorial. The doctrine of divine predestination is one attempt to resolve this dilemma.
Humans’ capacity to make conscious decisions has also been increasingly cast into doubt by new findings in psychology, neurology, and genetics. These disciplines consider humans to be predetermined by biochemical factors and by their genetic disposition.
Is our free will really just an illusion? What distinguishes scientific determinism from the doctrine of predestination? How free can humans be?
With Alan Mittleman (Jewish Theological Seminary of America) and Martin Mahmud Kellner (Institute of Islamic Theology, Osnabrück), video recording of the event on 30 Apr 2019, in English Read more
How Much God Is in the Holy Scriptures?
For devout Jews and Muslims, the Torah and the Quran are holy scriptures that contain God’s word or were divinely inspired.
The method of historical criticism in research has made it possible to explain the origins of both scriptures as arising from their specific historical context. For example, the decoding of ancient Middle Eastern texts has shown the roots of many biblical and Quranic themes in ancient traditions, which is often seen as a challenge to the doctrine of holy scripture’s divine origins.
How can Judaism and Islam interpret divine revelation today? Are historical textual research and religious convictions compatible?
With Benjamin Sommer (expert in modern Jewish theology) and Ghassan el Masri (researcher on the Koran in the context of the Arabic literature of his time), video recording of the event on 5 Mar 2019, in German and English Read more
God, Darwin and Evolution
Judaism and Islam have theological explanations for the origins of the world and humanity. These testify to a God who created the world and all living creatures in a unified act of Creation, assigning an elevated role to human beings.
Charles Darwin’s magnum opus The Origin of Species (1859) launched the discipline of evolutionary biology, which gives evidence that all living organisms are descended from other organisms and that humans are ultimately the product of an evolutionary process that took millions of years. Darwin’s insights marked a sea change in our understanding of how life emerged.
How does theology treat these scientific approaches? How do Judaism and Islam envision their belief in Creation today?
With Natan Slifkin (Biblical Museum of Natural History, Beit Shemesh, Israel) and Fatimah Jackson (Howard University, USA), video recording of the event on 31 Jan 2019, in English Read more
Science in the Light of Faith
For centuries, Jewish and Islamic theologians have reflected on the conflicting powers of faith in God and his revelation and human reason.
How has the relationship between reason and faith developed throughout the history of Jewish and Islamic theology and how does it look today?
With Geoffrey A. Mitelman (Sinai and Synapses) and Ahmad S. Dallal (Georgetown University, Qatar), video recording of the event on 20 Nov 2018, in English Read more
Jewish and Islamic Perspectives on Human Rights (2017/18)
Since the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, its principles have been regarded as a universal system of values – a moral foundation for the international community as well as for individual states.
In theory, the concept of human rights guarantees all religions and worldviews an equal place. However, since it was formulated in the Christian-European context, there is also criticism of its universal claim. The lecture series therefore explores how Judaism and Islam interpret human rights within their religious traditions.
Experts from both religions address whether and how human rights such as the right to life, freedom of expression, gender equality, and religious freedom can be theologically grounded within the two religions and put into practice.
Video Recordings “Jewish and Islamic Perspectives on Human Rights”
My God, Your God, No God
Religious freedom includes the right to choose one’s own beliefs and to practice one’s chosen religion – but also the right not to belong to any religious community.
How do Judaism and Islam strike a balance between individual freedom of belief and a specific religion’s absolute claim on the truth? How do they respond if their adherents leave the religious community? How are people of other faiths viewed and treated?
With Leora Batnitzky (Princeton University) and Anver Emon (University of Toronto), video recording of the event on 14 Jun 2018, in English Read more
Equal before God and Humans?
Religions often face the accusation that their patriarchal structures and traditions leave no space for emancipation.
How do religious Jewish and Muslim women respond to rules that bar them from holding a religious office, discount the value of their testimony in court, and deny them the right to divorce? Do their religious traditions allow for a more emancipatory vision of religious life?
With Susannah Heschel (Dartmouth College) snd Katajun Amirpur (University of Hamburg), video recording of the event on 3 Mai 2018, in English Read more
How Much Criticism Do Judaism and Islam Tolerate?
The open exchange of opinions is the foundation of political and intellectual freedom and includes criticism of religious content and institutions.
During the numerous conflicts over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad, a controversy arose in Western Europe about the relationship between religion and satire and the boundaries between legitimate criticism and hate speech. Historically, Judaism and Islam have had a culture of debate that has promoted a diversity of opinion.
How much internal and external criticism of their religions do Judaism and Islam tolerate today?
With Suzanne Last Stone (Yeshiva University) and Anshuman Mondal (University of East Anglia), video recording of the event on 12 Apr 2018, in English and German Read more
The Right to Life
The right to life and physical integrity is the foundation of every free society. Nonetheless, this right is severely restricted and disregarded in many countries. In reference to the Sharia, torture, beatings and capital punishment are found to be justifiable in some Muslim states.
In the "war on terror," torture and targeted killings without trial are found to be legitimate. Under what conditions can a person's right to life be restricted in Judaism and Islam and how is this right weighed against other legal rights?
With David Novak (University of Toronto) and Jonathan Brown (Georgetown University), video recording of the event on 8 Mar 2018, in English Read more
Human Rights Treaties and How They are Received
Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, Jewish and Muslim legal scholars and intellectuals have helped draft many other agreements and statements on human rights, which have a specific regional or national scope.
What religious and ethical norms underlie these agreements? And what are the primary features of the current Jewish and Muslim discourse over the adaptation and practical enforcement of human rights outside of Europe and North America?
With Michael Galchinsky (Georgia State University) and Mashood Baderin (University of London), video recording of the event on 25 Jan 2018, in English Read more
Human Rights and Religions – A Contradiction?
Human rights are regarded as a secular value system, which, rooted in the Christian tradition, claims universal validity. Jewish and Islamic traditions have also developed ethical standards over the centuries that their followers consider mandatory. Do these standards present conflicting priorities? Where do Judaism and Islam provide a link to contemporary human rights discourse or are they even incompatible?
With Shaheen Sardar Ali (University of Warwick) and Jill Jacobs (Rabbi and the Managing Director of T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights), video recording of the event on 23 Nov 2017, in English Read more
Ethical Questions in Judaism and Islam (2016/17)
This dialogical lecture series, which was held from October 2016 to July 2017 within the framework of our Jewish-Islamic Forum, picked up on ethically sensitive issues from different areas of life.
We considered social ethics and its concept of fair social order, the business ethics of capitalism, bioethical challenges at the boundaries of life, military ethics, sexual ethics, and environmental ethics.
These issues were illuminated from Jewish and Islamic perspectives.
Video Recordings “Ethical Questions in Judaism and Islam”
Man as Lord or Guardian of Creation?
The lecture series Ethical Questions in Judaism and Islam addresses ethically sensitive questions from different areas of life and illuminates them from a Jewish and Islamic perspective. Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, Director of Jewish Studies at Arizona State University in Tempe, and Nawal Ammar, Dean of the Humanities & Social Sciences College at Rowan University in New Jersey have been invited to attend.
With Hava Tirosh-Samuelson (Arizona State University in Tempe) and Nawal Ammar (Rowan University in New Jersey), video recording of the event on 13 Jul 2017, in German and English Read more
Sexual Ethics: Sexuality, Lust, Eroticism, and God
Jewish and Muslim sexual morals were regarded as particularly liberal by Western societies for a long time. Today, on the other hand, ideas of very repressive religious morals which suppress sexuality dominate the Western imagination.
But what do Judaism and Islam say about sexual life and eroticism? Which views are represented on controversial issues such as sex education, polygamy, homosexuality and pornography?
With David Biale (Eros and the Jews) and Kecia Ali (Sexual Ethics and Islam), video recording of the event on 16 Mai 2017, in German and English Read more
Military Ethics: The (Religious) Laws Silent Beneath the Weapons?
How do we feel about war drones? Are there ethical limits that cannot be overstepped even in the fight against terrorism? The technological advances of the last decades raise a number of new questions about the legitimacy of specific weapons (killer robots, biological weapons) and the opportunities and risks of military intervention.
With Michael Broyde (Emory University) and Asma Afsaruddin (Indiana University), video recording of the event on 6 Apr 2017, in German and English Read more
The Boundaries of Life – Bioethical Challenges
Progress in biotechnology and medicine confronts secular and religious communities with themes that challenge the human self-image, traditional values, and social conditions. Laurie Zoloth, professor of religion at Weinberg College, Northwestern University, and İlhan Ilkılıç, director of the Institute for the History of Medicine and Ethics at the University of Istanbul, will discuss Jewish and Muslim stances, inter alia, on treatment methods of reproductive medicine, stem cell research, gene therapy, and euthanasia. In doing so, they touch on the great existential questions surrounding the beginning and the end of life, as well as on the dignity and meaning of the human existence.
With Laurie Zoloth (Weinberg College, Northwestern University) and İlhan İlkılıç (University of Istanbul), video recording of the event on 23 Feb 2017, in German and English Read more
Business Ethics – Is Capitalism Kosher/Halal?
Profit and money often have negative associations. Material wealth and profit-seeking appear to many to be in opposition to spiritual and religious life. But how are material possessions and wealth actually assessed from the Jewish and Muslim perspective? Judaism and Islam created do’s and don’ts that endeavor to regulate economic activity.
Can such religion-based standards provide concrete impetus to an ethically-conceived economy and be implemented in a modern market economy?
With Nathan Lee Kaplan (author) and Idris Nassery (University of Paderborn), video recording of the event on 8 Dec 2016, in German Read more
Social Ethics – On Fair Social Order
In Judaism and Islam, inviting the faithful to pursue justice is central. It is intended, however, not only as an individual virtue, but also as a fundament that should shape the life of society. Ingrid Mattson, professor of Islamic Studies, Huron College of Western University in Canada, and Micha Brumlik, senior advisor at the Berlin-Brandenburg Center of Jewish Studies, will discuss how Judaism and Islam conceive a just society and which conditions and standards they must observe to live up to this ideal. The discussion focuses on concrete social systems that should come closest to this ideal.
With Ingrid Mattson (Western University, Canada) and Micha Brumlik (Berlin-Brandenburg Center of Jewish Studies), moderated by Dr. Alina Gromovavideo,video recording of the event on 26 Oct 2016, in German and English Read more
Judaism and Islam in the Diaspora (2015/16)
The notion of diaspora is a defining one for Judaism, but since postcolonial migration to Western Europe and other Western states, Muslims too have increasingly been confronted with issues around everyday religious practice in a minority situation. This lecture series illuminates the resulting theological debates, which sound out the tensions between autonomy and adaptation.
At the core of the processes of negotiation between tradition and modernity are questions concerning the interpretation of religious law and religious practices. That includes family law, dietary rules, the demarcation or crossing of religious identities, and reinterpretations of gender issues.
Video Recordings “Judaism and Islam in the Diaspora”
What Does Diaspora Mean for Jews and Muslims?
The diasporic existence of Jews has been a lived reality since the very beginnings of Judaism. The history of Islam is a different matter: originally, permanent residence under non-Muslim rule was not envisaged. This event explores the different ways in which Jewish and Muslim scholars have thought about the minority situation and its consequences in various domains of life.
With Michael L. Satlow (Brown University, Providence) and Sarah Albrecht (Free University Berlin), video recording of the event on 29 Oct 2015, in German and English Read more
Religious Law and Secular State
Even in Christian-defined secular states like those in Western Europe, Jewish and Islamic law can be applied to a certain extent. This concerns mainly issues of family and inheritance law.
What are the possibilities and limitations of religious jurisdiction in countries such as Germany? Where is there potential for social conflict? And to what extent does the diaspora situation, in turn, affect the interpretation of Jewish and Islamic law?
With Ronen Reichman (Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg) and Mathias Rohe (Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg), video recording of the event on 9 Dec 2015, in German Read more
Becoming a Jew, Becoming a Muslim
The borders of religious communities are fluid, and they are reformulated constantly. One way to cross the frontier from outside to inside is conversion. Whereas Islam solicits new believers, Judaism takes a rather cautious attitude to conversion.
What motivates people who convert to Judaism or Islam in Germany, and how do converts in Germany position themselves vis-à-vis people who were born Jewish or Muslim?
With Tobias Jona Simon (Rabbi of the Association of Jewish Communities in Lower Saxony) and Esra Özyürek (London School of Economics), video recording of the event on 18 Feb 2016, in German and English Read more
Feminist Approaches to Judaism and Islam
Religion and feminism may sound like a contradiction in terms. Nevertheless, religiously grounded approaches that aim to reread religious texts from a feminist perspective are currently taking shape.
What are the lines of conflict between traditional readings and these new interpretations, and how do the religious communities perceive such innovations?
With Judith Plaskow (religious scholar and author) and Ziba Mir-Hosseini, researcher on Islamic law and gender, video recording of the event on 14 Apr 2016, in English Read more
Organic Meets Kosher and Halal
Judaism and Islam are often met with suspicion when it comes to their treatment of animals. Ritual slaughter, especially, is often regarded as morally objectionable by the non-Jewish and non-Muslim majority society.
But how are questions around animal ethics, mass consumption, and environmental protection discussed within Jewish and Islamic theology? And what role does ritual slaughter play in flagging the "otherness" of religious minorities?
With Shai Lavi (Tel Aviv University) and Sarra Tlili (University of Florida), video recording of the event on 1 Jun 2016, in English Read more