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The Leader in Graduate Interfaith Education

With roots that go back to 1834, Hartford Seminary is a non-denominational graduate school for religious and theological studies. What makes us unique is our multi-faith environment and our proven ability to prepare leaders for the complex world that surrounds us.

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Hartford Seminary Mourns the Passing of Rabbi Stanley Kessler, Trustee from 1994-97
After a life of extraordinary accomplishment and service, Rabbi Stanley Kessler, a Hartford Seminary Trustee from 1994 to 1997, passed away on May 30, 2019, at the age of 95. Known as the founding spiritual leader of Beth El Temple in West Hartford who served there for 38 years, he was also a civil rights advocate who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960s, an activist who spoke against the Vietnam War, and a founder of Rabbis for Human Rights. Stanley Kessler was born in 1923 in Bethlehem, PA. "After his baccalaureate degree (Yeshiva University), Stanley Kessler followed the call to arms in WWII, by joining the Air Force, flying 18 missions in a Liberator bomber over Italy and Austria," according to his obituary. After the war, he was ordained as a Rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and after serving several other congregations, settled in West Hartford at Beth El with his wife Maurine in 1954. In the 1960s, he responded to Dr. King's call and became a Freedom Rider, marching with King in Birmingham and Selma, AL. "Over the course of his long and distinguished career he continued to speak his mind on a wide range of issues from Middle East peace to human rights," his obituary said. "He won numerous awards from organizations such as T'ruah and served in high-level positions in several national organizations, including chairman of the National Rabbinic Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal." The vestry at Beth El Temple was named after Rabbi Kessler in 2003 as the synagogue marked its 50th anniversary. He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. For more information on his accomplishments, visit this article in the Connecticut Jewish Ledger. Hartford Seminary is grateful for Rabbi Kessler's years of service on the Board of Trustees and sends sympathy to his surviving children, Dr. Abigail K. Hanna and Jonathan J. Kessler; a granddaughter, Georgine Hoge; a brother and sister-in-law, Arnold and Naomi Kessler; and numerous nephews and nieces.  
Prayer Shawl Ministry, Started at Women's Leadership Institute, Going Strong
It was more than 20 years ago, but Janet Bristow well remembers meeting a woman in her Women's Leadership Institute (WLI) class who had a Mexican serape that she used to comfort herself as her husband was dying. Both were part of the first WLI cohort launched by Professor Miriam Therese Winter, who still runs the program. Inspired by their classmate, Bristow and another class member, Victoria Galo, decided they would knit shawls for people in their lives to give comfort and live out their faith, praying as they knitted and crocheted. No sooner did they start making the shawls than others began asking for information and patterns. Before long, they had a website. Then an article in the Hartford Courant about their ministry through prayer shawls got picked up on the wires, the way information went viral before the Internet reached into every home. "It jumped across the ocean," Bristow said during a recent visit to Hartford Seminary to talk about the ministry. They heard from people across the U.S. and around the world who wanted to put prayer shawl groups together. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the demand was even higher. "That’s where it got really crazy. Everyone was in such distress," she said. "Churches flew us in to get groups up and running." Soon they were publishing books with patterns and inspirational stories as well as prayers. The shawls most often went to those who were ill or in mourning, but later came to include celebrations such as having a baby. "There are so many areas of need where a shawl is appropriate, when you have no words to give to somebody," she said. Often, Bristow hears stories about how a shawl helped someone to heal. One woman, for example, had lost a son.  The shawl was the one thing that could console her as she put her fingers into the stitches for security. Another woman couldn't leave the house unless she had the shawl around her. Prayer shawl ministry groups are all over the world now, too many to count. "It's beyond anything we might have imagined," she said, tracing the whole initiative back to the experience she had at WLI. "It was that collective energy that I experienced in those weekends," she said. "Everyone is so filled at the end. That energy made this go forward."
The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper to Serve on Panel at Fulbright Summer Institute
The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, Faculty Associate in Religious Leadership, will serve on a panel at the Fulbright Summer Institute for International Scholars at New York University. The panel, "Religious Liberty and the American Creed," will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on June 19 at NYU. The Institute is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to "improve the quality of courses and research on the United States, and to stimulate the development of centers for the study of the United States in foreign universities." The panel will be moderated by Gabriel Moran, Professor Emeritus of Religious Education and Philosophy at NYU. Other panelists are Bob Seltzer, who headed Jewish Studies at CUNY, and Xavier Prickett, a visiting Assistant Professor at NYU, who has written about African American religion. The Rev. Dr. Schaper also recently participated in an episode of the "Jew Too" podcast called "My Mother, the Minister" along with her son, Isaac Luria.  To listen to the podcast, click here. Great work, Donna!
Professor Najib George Awad Presents Paper in Mexico City
Professor Najib George Awad recently read a paper titled “When the Intellectuals of Harran Co-Created Falsafa: Theodore Abu Qurrah as ‘Naqil-wa-Mufassir’ of Proclean Legacy in Early Islam” at a conference on "The Neoplatonic-Aristotleian Tradition in Early Jewish-Christian-Muslim Kalam." The conference took place in the Department of Philosophy of Universidad Panamerican, Mexico City, Mexico.
President Lohr Makes Institutional Connections, Visits Alums in Europe
President Joel N. Lohr recently returned from a 10-day visit to Europe that began at the Islamic University of Rotterdam (IUR), one of Hartford Seminary’s educational partners. IUR, a graduate and undergraduate institution, collaborates with Hartford Seminary through Erasmus, a European Union funded program that involves student and staff exchanges. During his visit, President Lohr gave a lecture titled: A History of Hartford Seminary: Christians and Muslims in Abrahamic Perspective. He then traveled to Amsterdam, where he met with Lady Paula R. Mandalika, a 2010 alumna of the Seminary’s International Peacemaking and Women’s Leadership Institute programs. Ms. Mandalika is currently a Ph.D. student at the Free University of Amsterdam, and she also works for the translation department of the Indonesian Bible Society. President Lohr departed Amsterdam for Cambridge, UK, to meet with leaders at the Woolf Institute, including its Director of Studies, Dr. Emma Harris, and Director of Research, Dr. Esther-Miriam Wagner. He then traveled north to Durham to meet with Dr. Seyfeddin Kara, the Seminary’s current holder of the Imam Ali Chair for Shi’i Studies and Dialogue among Islamic Legal Schools. Finally, President Lohr traveled to Dublin, Ireland, where he met with alumnus Gugun Gumilar, who graduated from Hartford Seminary in 2015 with an MA in Religious Studies focusing on Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations. Gumilar is in a Ph.D. program at Dublin City University (DCU) furthering his studies of Muslim-Christian Dialogue, with a focus on Indonesia. While at DCU, President Lohr met with leaders of the Centre for Interreligious Dialogue.   [gallery ids="18722,18723,18726"]      
Graduates Urged to Embrace Complexity, Help Heal a Troubled World
More than one speaker had a similar message for 59 students completing their programs at Hartford Seminary: Graduation represents not an ending but a beginning of the hard work ahead to help heal a struggling world. President Joel N. Lohr, presiding over his first graduation, told the graduates, "You've been prepared for a meaningful life through Hartford Seminary." He urged graduates to continue the Seminary's legacy of peace and reconciliation: "What will you do with your degree, your certificate, your huge achievement? Will you be content with leading an average life, or will you strive, with God’s help, to give your all to the causes of peacebuilding, education, dialogue, and deepening faith in the world? Our world needs you. Go out and make a difference! The graduation address was delivered by Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Chair and Executive Director of the New York City Civic Engagement Commission. She spoke to graduates about embracing the complexity of life and its challenges, as well as embracing differences of opinion. "Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds?" she asked. She asked the graduates to keep two things in mind as they go forward. First, to be mindful of their own need for spiritual nourishment. "Take time to strengthen and renew yourselves," she said. "Often the people working the hardest to charge the world take care of themselves the least." Second, she challenged the graduates to think of themselves as "civic engagement specialists" who can "serve as a voice of moral clarity." "We need your leadership to discover and revive the common good." Following the conferring of degrees, Hartford Seminary writing prizes were presented to three students: Jayleigh Lewis received the Hartranft Scholarship Fund prize. Kyra Jenney received the William Thompson Fund prize. Kelly David received the Bennett Tyler Scholarship Fund prize. The winner of the 14th Annual Celie J. Terry Prize, awarded to a student who demonstrates a commitment to academic achievement and excellence in interfaith community work, was Danang Kurniawan. And the first annual Preaching Award, determined at a preaching competition in April, went to Safwan Shaikh and David Figliuzzi. A link to the gallery of professional photos will be posted on the website and sent to all graduates next week. A video of the entire ceremony can be viewed below. Click on the CC symbol for closed captioning. [gallery ids="18647,18646,18645,18644,18643,18642,18641,18640,18657,18658,18659,18661,18662,18664,18665,18666,18667,18668,18670,18671,18672,18674,18675,18676"]
Boundless: A Celtic Vision of the Sacred in All Things with John Philip Newell
Please join us for this special opportunity to hear from John Philip Newell, internationally acclaimed Celtic teacher from Edinburgh and the celebrated author of Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality, as well as founder of the School of Celtic Consciousness. Celtic Spirituality celebrates the essential sacredness of all things. It remembers John the Beloved as leaning against Jesus at the Last Supper. It was said of him in the Celtic world that he, therefore, heard the heartbeat of God. He became a symbol of the practice of listening, listening deep within ourselves, deep within one another, and deep within the Earth and every creature and life form. We will explore the implications of listening for the Sacred at the heart of each moment. John Philip Newell is one of the most prominent Christian teachers of spirituality in the Western world and has authored over 15 books, including Christ of the Celts, Praying with the Earth, A New Harmony, and his most recent visionary title The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings.  This free event is co-sponsored by First Church of West Hartford and Saint John's Episcopal Church of West Hartford.         Note: Hartford Seminary is committed to providing accessibility for all. Please contact Susan Schoenberger at or 860-509-9519 at least 3 days in advance if you have questions about our accessibility or need reasonable accommodations for this event.
Divine Words, Female Voices with Dr. Jerusha T. Rhodes
Our biennial Willem A. Bijlefeld Lecture will be given by Dr. Jerusha T. Rhodes, Associate Professor of Islam & Interreligious Engagement at Union Theological Seminary. Dr. Rhodes will discuss her new book – Divine Words, Female Voices: Muslima Explorations in Comparative Feminist Theology (Oxford University Press, 2018) – which argues that interreligious feminist engagement is both a theologically valid endeavor and a vital resource for Muslim women scholars. She will discuss how comparative feminist theology leads to new, constructive Muslima and Islamic feminist positions on topics including revelation, scripture, feminist exemplars, theological anthropology, and ritual practice. The Willem A. Bijlefeld Lecture is named after the first director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. It brings a distinguished scholar to campus for a public presentation on Islam or Christian-Muslim relations to promote interreligious understanding and mutual respect in the local, national and world communities. Note: Hartford Seminary is committed to providing accessibility for all. Please contact Susan Schoenberger at or 860-509-9519 at least 3 days in advance if you have questions about our accessibility or need reasonable accommodations for this event. About the Speaker Jerusha T. Rhodes is Associate Professor of Islam & Interreligious Engagement at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. Her research focuses on theologies of religious pluralism, comparative theology, and Muslima theology. She also serves at the Director of Union’s Islam, Social Justice, and Interreligious Engagement (ISJIE) Program. Dr. Rhodes earned a Ph.D. in Theological and Religious Studies with a focus on Religious Pluralism at Georgetown University in 2011. She also received an M.A. in Islamic Sciences at the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences, and an M.A. in Theological and Religious Studies at Georgetown University. Before joining the Union faculty in July of 2012, she was Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University. Dr. Rhodes’ first book, Never Wholly Other: A Muslima Theology of Religious Pluralism (Oxford University Press, March 2014), explores the Qur’anic discourse on religious ‘otherness’. In this book, she draws upon feminist theology and semantic methodology to re-interpret the Qur’anic discourse and challenge notions of clear and static religious boundaries by distinguishing between and illuminating the complexity of multiple forms of religious difference. Her second book, Divine Words, Female Voices: Muslima Explorations in Comparative Feminist Theology (Oxford University Press, 2018), uses the approach of comparative feminist theology to engage diverse Muslim and Christian feminist, womanist, and mujerista voices. It argues for the value of comparative feminist theological engagement and proposes constructive Muslima insights relating to Divine revelation; textual hermeneutics of the hadith and Bible; Prophet Muhammad and Mary as feminist exemplars; theological anthropology; and ritual prayer, tradition, and change.  
Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the Language of Scripture
Hear from top scholars on the language of Scripture in this special Hartford Seminary symposium. Faith, Belief, and a Compassionate Response: What it Means to be a Neighbor Father Joseph Cheah University of Saint Joseph The word “compassion” comes from the Hebrew word, rehem, which means a mother’s womb. To be compassionate is to have a deep feeling a woman has for the child that comes forth from her womb. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, it was the good Samaritan who exemplified this sort of compassion by offering liberating assistance to the half-dead man on the side of the road. Using Harvey Cox’s thesis of the primacy of faith over belief, Father Cheah will examine what this good Samaritan, a foreigner and a racialized other, teaches us about what it means to be neighbor and exemplifies for us the value of strangers in our midst. Dr. Deena Grant Exploring Jewish and Christian Translations of Scripture: Practical Applications Is translation interpretation? We will explore together ways that translation can influence meaning by discussing a variety of diverse translations of the identical Scripture passages. The Book of Job, Islamic Thought and the Gospels Dr. Steven Blackburn Retired from Hartford Seminary As a rising tide of Islamization began to engulf both Jews and Christians in Mesopotamia by the mid 8th century C.E., interpreters of Jewish scripture presented their writings in ways that were accessible to Muslims through preferences for vocabulary with an Qur’anic cast.  The translation of Pethion ibn Ayyub of the Book of Job betrays not only affinities to Islamic thought but simultaneously attempts to harmonize Job’s teaching with portions of the Gospels. Does Everyone in Heaven Speak Arabic? Dr. Suheil Laher Adjunct Professor at Hartford Seminary 'When God is angry, He sends revelation in Arabic. When He is pleased, He sends revelation in Persian.' What might have led someone to claim the Prophet Muhammad had said these words? The Qur'an is central to Islamic belief and practice, as God's words. But what exactly is meant by the phrase, “God's words.” Is Arabic “the language of God”? And if so, how much leeway is there for prayer and sermons to be in other languages? Will everyone in Heaven speak Arabic? Dr. Laher will discuss these theological and ritual questions, and how they impacted and were impacted by socio-political factors.
Hartford Seminary became the first seminary in America to open its doors to women, in 1889.
In 1902, Hartford Seminary was a founding member of the American Association of Schools of Religious Education.
The first American center for the study of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations opened at Hartford Seminary in 1973.
In 1990, Hartford Seminary became the first nondenominational theological institution in North America to name a female president.
Naming a Muslim to the core faculty was a first for nondenominational theological institutions in North America in 1991.
Hartford Seminary established the first Islamic Chaplaincy Program in America in 2001.
The first chair of Shi’i Studies in North America launched at Hartford Seminary in 2015.

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