Writing / Published Works

Shed a Tear for Safed

Muslim Dialogue, November 15, 2010

We read sometime ago in the Washington Post (“Allegations of Racism and questions about a town’s character”), about the continuing desecration of a once fertile Jewish-Muslim mystical fraternity. The article notes: “In the winding stone alleys of this Galilee hill town, a centuries-old center of Jewish mysticism, a campaign is underway.

The Maimonides of Cairo: Five Generations of Jewish/Sufis

Al-Azhar University
Bridges and Dialogue Between Al-Azhar and the West
Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt, June 28-30, 2009

Not far from where we gather today, on the other side of the Sinai Peninsula, in the Holy Land, we witness one of the most challenging eras ever in the history of Jewish/Muslim relations.

Art for Art's Sake?!

Panoptikon logo
Panoptikon: On Contemporary Visual Culture, American University in Dubai, UAE, May 28, 2009

So, it was Immanuel Kant (d. 1804).

It was Kant who birthed the conception of “art for art’s sake,” where the significance of human creativity was said to represent little more than the product of creativity itself. It was Kant that originally conceived this reductive vision of the human imagination, starting the downward spiral that has sent art from the center of society, into the marginalized cultural eddy where it now circumnavigates its own tail. Ultimately, his ideas led to a denaturing of art’s immanent meaning to such an extent, that it spawned a cottage industry of critics, analysts and market purveyors, redefining art away from its position at the center of human spiritual experience, and into the little cesspool where it now breeds like mosquito larvae.

Identity as Conflict

University of CA, Irvine
Using Art to Redirect People's Sense of Belonging
Remote Control: Conflict and Mediation in Contemporary Art, University of California Irvine, Spring 2009

You cannot be for one thing, without being against something else. As the great 13th century Sufi saint, Jalluludin Rumi stated: “There is nothing in this world that is not a blessing for one person and a curse for somebody else.”

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How Islamic Conceptions of Prophecy Influenced Jewish Mysticism

Villanova
Patristic, Medieval and Renaissance Studies Conference, Villanova University, Philadelphia, PA, October 10-12, 2008

Medieval Judaism was deeply influenced by Sufism. Virtually all-Jewish thinkers between the 8th and 12th centuries assimilated some, or much of Islamic mystical thinking, allowing it to color their interpretation of their own Hebraic practice. With nearly 90% of the world’s Jews living under Islam at the height of the Muslim Caliphate, everyone from Saadia Gaon (d.

Prophetic Activist Art Art: Activism Beyond Oppositionality

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International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 3, Issue 2, Victoria, Australia, Fall 2008

Every era of human development represents a time of profound crisis, one in which the very survival of the species hangs in the balance. The invention of the crossbow in the fourth century B.C. foretold a time of unlimited casualties in war, leading to the potential destruction of civilization.

The Relevance of the Beautiful?

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Panoptikon: On Contemporary Visual Culture, American University in Dubai, UAE, January 24, 2008

Little is said around the art world these days about beauty; the beautiful is simply a quaint and mistaken idea from some past that no longer exists. It is seen as a bit too sincere, a touch saccharine and absolutely irrelevant to the contemporary art scene. In some circles, it is even viewed as reactionary, subversive to the idea of being subversive.

The Question of Sufi Influence on the Early Kabbalah

cover of Sophia, The Journal of Traditional Studies
Sophia: The Journal of Traditional Studies, Oakton, VA, Winter, 2007-2008

No mystical teaching so defines Jewish spirituality as does the Kabbalah. With its roots supposedly sunk in deepest Jewish history-by some accounts stretching all the way back to Moses, Abraham or even Adam-the Kabbalah has remained at the center of Jewish worship from its true inception in the 13th century.

War as Love: How the Mystic’s Quest has been co-opted to Sell War

Mid Atlantic Popular Culture Association Almanack, New York, Fall 2008

Given the importance of war to statecraft, a method of convincing citizens of its necessity is essential. For this reason, politicians conflate war and God, which become hopelessly entangled with each other in the public square. To convince a nation that a gruesome and inequitable political alternative is necessary, social leaders need a means that will break though the rational resistance towards war that exists in all of us. The use of God and religious terminology in selling war to society does just that.

Real Artistic Style is How One Behaves in a Crisis

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Panoptikon: On Contemporary Visual Culture, American University in Dubai, UAE, November 6, 2007

“There is no syntax in painting. Anything can happen on the canvas and you can’t foresee it. Paul Valery used to say that if the idea of poetry hadn’t existed forever, poetry could not be written now. The whole culture is against it because language is always being worn down and debased.

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