Finding Common Ground
Rabbi Mark Diamond is the executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, a member of the senior management team of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and a pioneer in interfaith dialogue. Some of his collaborative projects included leading an interreligious mission of 23 Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders to the Vatican, Rome and Israel in January 2008, and creating the Jewish Federation's Interreligious Action Center to promote Israel education and awareness in non-Jewish faith communities. Diamond has also partnered in projects with Fuller Theological Seminary, Abrahamic Faith-Based Reconciliation Project, World Vision International and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is the founder and coordinator of "Ask a Rabbi," an acclaimed cyberspace forum answering online questions from America Online subscribers.
Imam Jihad Turk is the Director of Religious Affairs at the Islamic Center of Southern California, president of the Wilshire Center Interfaith Council, and vice president of the Interreligious Council of Southern California. With a cultural heritage from a Muslim-Palestinian father and a Christian-American mother, Turk cofounded the Christian-Muslim Consultative Group, where Christian and Muslim denominations have collaborated in developing programs to help build long-term relationships and a common ground between both faith traditions. Turk participates in many other interfaith relations, including his efforts in organizing an interfaith 9/11 memorial, which takes place annually at the Islamic Center. Turk is currently working to complete his PhD at UCLA in Islamic Studies, while teaching courses in Arabic and Islamic religion and culture through the UCLA Extension program.
Rabbi David Wolpe serves as the rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and was named the #1 Pulpit Rabbi in America by Newsweek magazine. He previously taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, Hunter College, and currently teaches at UCLA. Wolpe's work has been profiled in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and he regularly writes for The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Jerusalem Post, and appears on television, including CNN, CBS, PBS, A&E, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel. A 2009 recipient of the Simon Rockower Award for Jewish journalism, Wolpe is the author of seven books, including the national bestseller Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times. His new book is entitled Why Faith Matters.
Imam Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi is a renowned Islamic Scholar, who serves as the chairman of the Fiqh (Islamic Law) Council of North America, the North American Islamic Trust, and the Shura Council of Southern California. He is also the religious director of the Islamic Society of Orange County and an adjunct professor of Islamic studies and world religions at California State University in Fullerton and Chapman University in Orange County. Born in India, Siddiqi's extensive travels have provided him with opportunities to speak and teach courses at countless academic and religious institutions around the globe. He has worked with many Islamic organizations in Switzerland, England and the United States. He has also participated in numerous interfaith seminars and dialogues, such as his presentation at the World Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Vancouver, Canada. He is a founding member of the Council of 100 of the World Economic Forum based in Switzerland, which aims to foster dialogue and better relations between Islam and the West.
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson holds the Abner & Rosalyn Goldstine Dean's Chair at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and is vice president at the American Jewish University, Los Angeles, where he teaches Jewish philosophy and senior homiletics. He supervises the Miller Introduction to Judaism Program, and Camp Ramah California. Author of 7 books and over 200 articles, he served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years, growing his synagogue from 200 to almost 600 membership units. He will receive his doctorate this spring from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in philosophy and theology. Prior to rabbinical school, he was a graduate of Harvard, and then served as a legislative aide to the speaker of the California State Assembly. He lives with his wife, Elana, and their twins, Shira and Jacob.
Jim Butler is the associate professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he has taught since 1982. His primary research interest is in the redaction of the Deuteronomistic literature and Jeremiah. Besides teaching numerous electives, Butler also teaches an annual Writings course for graduate students in clinical psychology, addressing issues of theological anthropology, theodicy, and diversity. For more than 20 years Butler has been the coordinator for Fuller's participation in InterSem, which promotes interfaith experience for Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant students of five seminaries in the Los Angeles area. In 1994 he received a distinguished merit citation from the National Conference of Christians and Jews for his contributions to the program. In 2008-09, Butler participated in the first national cohort of the American Jewish Committee's Christian Leadership Initiative, which brought a dozen Christian church and academic leaders to Jerusalem to study Jewish traditions at the Shalom Hartman Institute.
William Abraham is a native of Northern Ireland who currently teaches at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He has authored numerous articles in philosophy, theology, and evangelism. His books include The Divine Inspiration of Holy Scripture (1981), Divine Revelation and the Limits of Historical Criticism (1992), and Crossing the Threshold of Divine Revelation (2006). His work on evangelism is recognized as igniting a new era of scholarship devoted to critical reflection on this vital ministry of the church. Abraham received a PEW Evangelical Scholarship Award to work on two books on canon and authority. His current book project focuses on the relationship between theology and terrorism. His other areas of interest include the nature and history of Methodism, epistemology of theology, and systematic theology.
Jacob Dayan assumed the position of Consul General of Israel in October 2007. In this role, he is the senior representative of the State of Israel in the Southwestern United States. Before assuming his post in Los Angeles, Mr. Dayan was selected to prepare a strategic plan on the feasibility of opening negotiations with Syria. Prior to this he served as Chief of Staff to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom. In this position he had intimate involvement in policy formation, decision-making, and implementation. Mr. Dayan also served in the role of Political Counselor at the Embassy of Israel in Washington DC where he was responsible for policy coordination with the State Department and the National Security Council. Previous to his service in Washington he held the post of Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Israel in Athens, Greece.
Hakan Tekin is the Consul General of Turkey in Los Angeles. Born in Ankara, Turkey, Tekin assumed his post on April 15, 2007 and is responsible for overseeing the western region of the United States. He graduated from Ankara University, Faculty of Political Sciences, and Department of International Relations in 1989, and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey in 1990, where he worked in the Departments of Culture, Central Asia, Human Rights, Balkans and Personnel within the ministry. He also served as Third Secretary Deputy Chief of Mission at the Turkish Embassy in Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates and as Second Secretary at the Turkish Embassy Sofia, Bulgaria. Tekin attended the NATO Defense College Senior Course in Rome, Italy and worked at the Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in New York. Following his tenure in New York, Tekin took office as Chief of Section and then as Head of Department at the Personnel Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from November 2004 to April 2007.