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News from the Hill February 12, 2014 | back to index

Andover Newton, Hebrew College Make Historic Joint Appointment of Muslim Scholar


Celene Ayat Lizzio Appointed to Andover Newton and Hebrew College

Emerging Islamic studies scholar to also serve as CIRCLE co-director

The Presidents of Andover Newton Theological School and Hebrew College have announced the joint appointment of an emerging Islamic studies scholar to serve as Scholar-in-Residence and to share in the leadership of their ground-breaking interreligious leadership education efforts. Made possible by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, the appointment is for three years, beginning in March 2014 and moving to full time in July.

Ms. Celene Ayat Lizzio is recognized as a leading representative of the new generation of American Muslim thinkers and leaders. Her position will involve both teaching courses at the schools, developing programs in conjunction with the existing interfaith work there, and enabling greater interaction between Muslim, Jewish,  and Christian communities. Lizzio is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Divinity School, and she is a current Ph.D. candidate at Brandeis University.

Hebrew College and Andover Newton, who share a hilltop campus in Newton Centre, MA, are known nationally and internationally for their innovative approach to training religious leaders in an interreligious setting. Both are deeply committed to nurturing and strengthening clergy in their own distinct traditions, but feel that the demands of a pluralistic world require today’s ministers and rabbis have “border-crossing skills.”

“The world is plagued by hatred, suspicion, and violence because of religious difference,” said Rev. Nick Carter, President of Andover Newton. “We who train religious leaders have an obligation to ensure there is a new generation with the skill to effectively engage those of different faiths and build vibrant communities together. Andover Newton and Hebrew College have been able to create a unique laboratory for the development of those critical skills.”

Rabbi Daniel Lehmann, President of Hebrew College, said: “This is an exciting and important moment in the history of our two institutions.  While it is imperative that we know, cherish and enhance our own traditions, no rabbi or minister can be a true leader in today’s environment without the ability to understand how our own tradition can constructively engage the religious traditions of others. There is too high a price to pay for ignorance. For our great traditions to be relevant and offer something of value to the world, we must have a much deeper understanding of each other.”

Ms. Lizzio reflected on her appointment, saying: “It is a pleasure and an honor to be joining the distinguished faculties of Andover Newton Theological School and Hebrew College. These two institutions are at the forefront of an interreligious leadership studies movement that is enhancing,  in leaps and bounds, our collective capacity to be religious scholars and practitioners in a multi-religious world. I look forward to the future and offer my sincere gratitude to those who that made this appointment possible,  including the visionary support of the Henry Luce Foundation.”
  The multi-faceted interreligious programs at Andover Newton and Hebrew College have been gathered into the Center for Inter-Religious and Communal Leadership Education (CIRCLE) under the shared leadership of Dr. Jennifer Peace, Assistant Professor of Interfaith Studies at Andover Newton and Rabbi Or Rose, the Director of the Center for Global Judaism at Hebrew College. Ms. Lizzio will join them as a third Co-Director.

As a current CIRCLE fellow, Ms. Lizzio is already familiar with the two schools, and she had already made an impression on Dr. Sarah Drummond, Dean of the Faculty at Andover Newton.

“Over the past few years, I have encountered Celene in various interfaith educational gatherings,” Dr. Drummond said. “Each time, I found her presence to be a bright light in the room. She exudes love of ideas and learning. I so look forward to working with her as Andover Newton and Hebrew College partner in a whole new way.”