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La Pietra Dialogues On the World On-Line
A Report on the Interfaith Dialogue on September 11
Nicole D´Alessio, NYU ´17
La Pietra Dialogues
September 11, 2013

La Pietra Dialogues hosted an interfaith dialogue on September 11th to discuss the complexities of Interfaith Dialogue. Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, the Executive Director for Jewish Student Life at NYU, acted as moderator for a discussion between what he called “true friends”. On stage with him were Izzedin Elzir, the Imam of Florence and President of Islamic Communities in Italy; Alfredo Jacopozzi, representative for Interfaith Dialogue for the Catholic Archdiocese of Florence; and, finally, Joseph Levi, the chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community in Florence. Rabbi Sarna began his talk with a reflection on the importance of a religious leader’s role wherever spiritual support is necessary, despite the religious identification of the people in need. He recognized the lack of Rabbis present at ground zero as “a problem,” he repeated solemnly, “a problem.” The group agreed with Rabbi Levi’s assertion that the true meaning of interfaith dialogue is “opening one’s heart in a time of crisis, and understanding the humanitarian feeling every religion possesses because they all come from the same place.” Sarna asked the panel to ponder the “cost” of interfaith relations. “Who can’t you be friends with?” he asked, when one is open to people of other faiths. Imam Elzir commented that interfaith is not without its complexities: interfaith communities, he said, often experience great disagreement, but this merely indicates passion for a cause. Like in any healthy relationship, there must exist in interfaith dialogue both understanding and compromise. Questions from the audience had the panelists consider the complexities involved in navigating between religious and political issues, especially in the context of socio-political upheaval in the Middle East. The speakers noted that religious differences can both separate and connect believers. “We are speaking different languages,” Jacopozzi indicates, “but that doesn’t prevent us from understanding each other.” A moment of meaningful silence marked the 12th year since 9/11, hope for a new era of understanding, and the conclusion of the day’s event.

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