February 17, 2023 — Abu Dhabi
American Jewish Committee (AJC) joined in the celebration of the Abrahamic Family House opening in Abu Dhabi. With a mosque, church, and synagogue, along with exhibition space and conference facilities, the new interfaith center drives home the message of interfaith respect and cooperation that has long been a feature of Emirati culture and life.
Ambassador (ret.) Marc Sievers, Director of AJC Abu Dhabi: The Sidney Lerner Center for Arab-Jewish Understanding; Rabbi David Rosen, Director, AJC International Interreligious Affairs; and Reva Gorelick, Program Director, AJC Abu Dhabi, attended the opening ceremony yesterday.
The concept of the Abrahamic Family House was first declared by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the country’s leader, in conjunction with the joint visit to the UAE by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, in February 2019.
“A complex of harmoniously arranged houses of worship, including the first synagogue to be built on the Arabian Peninsula in almost a century, is revolutionary,” wrote Jason Isaacson, AJC Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer, in a Times of Israel op-ed. Isaacson has been leading AJC delegations to the Gulf region for 30 years. AJC Abu Dhabi, the global advocacy organization for the Jewish people’s first permanent office in an Arab country, opened in 2021.
Rabbi Rosen today addressed the inaugural celebratory conference. He participated in a panel discussion on “The Role of Culture and Arts in Humanitarian Civilizations” with H.E. Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, Cultural Adviser to the UAE President; Sir David Frank Adjaye, the British-Ghanaian architect who designed the Abrahamic Family House; and Professor Mariët Westermann, Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi.
AJC played a special role in bringing the interfaith vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, and of his brother, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, to fruition through the prominent involvement of Rabbi Rosen and Ari Gordon, AJC Director of Muslim-Jewish Relations, in the Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace annual conferences and UAE Ministry of Tolerance initiatives.