Rabbi Lustig’s Passion for Interfaith Understanding and Peace

By Nell Shapiro, Immediate Past President, and Lewis Wiener, First Vice President

When Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed the historic Abraham Accords Declaration at the White House in the summer of 2020, Rabbi Lustig was invited to attend. That comes as no surprise. Throughout his rabbinate, Rabbi Lustig has worked tirelessly to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding. What may be surprising, however, is that his invitation came from the United Arab Emirates.

For the past seven years, Rabbi Lustig has spent time in Abu Dhabi as a guest of the UAE government teaching, studying, building trust, and opening communication with other faith leaders. He believes that “if we could find the courage and grace to dismantle the assumptions, bigotry, hatred, and prejudice that sometimes accompany us from our history, experiences, and habitual bad behavior—all of which blind us—we might see God in the face of the other.” In recognition of his work, in 2019, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar appointed Rabbi Lustig to serve on the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity, an Abu Dhabi-based international delegation of 11 religious and cultural leaders and scholars who are committed to forging interreligious dialogue and peaceful co-existence among different beliefs, nationalities, and cultures. Rabbi Lustig is the committee’s only Jewish and only American member.

We had the honor of traveling with Rabbi Lustig and WHC members Ambassador Susan Esserman and Andy Marks to Abu Dhabi in February 2020 for the one-year anniversary and conference memorializing the signing of the Higher Committee’s Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together. Attended by the world’s religious leaders, the meeting also marked one year since Pope Francis’ historic trip to the region and showcased the continued work on the Abrahamic Family House, which will house a church, a mosque, and a synagogue. Rabbi Lustig’s warm relationships with leaders from Christian, Muslim, and other faiths were immediately apparent. At the start of the conference, there was literally a line of dignitaries waiting to greet him with open arms and enormous smiles.

In an increasingly complex and often divided world, Rabbi Lustig has made it possible for our Washington Hebrew community to join locally, nationally, and internationally with Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, and other faith communities to learn about and with each other. He has created safe spaces for us to ask and answer difficult questions. He has given us opportunities to celebrate together. He has shown us by example, the values of religious freedom, tolerance, and the shared belief that we are all created in the image of God. And we, in turn, wholeheartedly embrace these opportunities to bring change to our fractured world.