"Encounter", Marco DiPiazza, 1999

"Encounter", Marco DiPiazza, 1999

About Us

The Goldziher Prize competition is hosted by The Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations at Merrimack College, North Andover, MA. Merrimack is an independent college in the Catholic Augustinian tradition.  The Center’s mission is to “cultivate the practice of Abrahamic hospitality; educate for religious, ethical, and cultural literacy; counter destructive prejudice; and increase tolerance and mutual understanding among people of diverse beliefs.”  

In 2008, the Center expanded its program to include Muslim relations thanks to a grant from the William and Mary Greve Foundation. In the words of John W. Kiser, Chair of the Foundation, “the challenge was to bring about greater public awareness of the commonalities of Islam and Judaism in order to counter the notion, promoted by some, that Islam is a cult of violence having nothing to do with Jewish and Christian values.” 

The purpose of the Goldziher Prize, one of the projects of the Center, is to thwart “a McCarthy-like approach to Muslim Americans,” by recognizing journalists who craft storiea and opinion pieces that counter narratives full of fear and hateful rhetoric about American Muslim communities. For the 2019 Goldziher Prize, Religion News Foundation, the educational and charitable arm of Religion News Association, has joined this effort to stimulate nuanced and enlightened stories or opinion pieces about Muslims in the U.S.

Ignac Goldziher (1850-1921) was a well-respected Hungarian Jewish scholar of Islamic jurisprudence. He is credited as one of the founders of Islamic Studies in Western and Central European universities, where Jews were just able to enter and where the study of Islam in European departments of religion was previously treated as a heresy. In the 1870’s, Goldziher toured Constantinople, Beirut, Damascus, Jerusalem and Cairo, where he became a student at Al-Azhar, the largest university in the Arab/Muslim world. There he prayed in a mosque and wrote in his diary, “In the midst of thousands of the pious, I rubbed my forehead against the floor… never in my life was I more devout … than on that Friday.” Goldziher believed Islam represented a pure monotheism and provided a touchstone for judging other monotheistic religions.  (Albert Hourani, Islam in European Thought; Cambridge University Press, 1991 pp. 38-40).

The Goldziher Prize was awarded to scholars and activists working in the arena of interfaith relations. Past prizes honored the work of Mark Cohen (2010), Burton Visotzky (2012), Josef Meri (2014) and Daoud Abudiab and Bernard Werthan (2016). The 2017 Goldziher Prize for Journalists marked a new emphasis which will continue when the prize is awarded again in 2019.

Joseph T. Kelley is Director of the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations at Merrimack College and Professor of Religious and Theological Studies. He holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Boson University and a D. Min. in Clinical Pastoral Psychology from the Andover-Newton Theological School. Kelley is a clinical psychologist, musician and the author of five books. He is a contributing editor for the New Catholic Encyclopedia (Second Edition), and has authored scholarly articles in the areas of pastoral psychology, ritual studies, and Augustinian Studies. He has lectured widely in the United States, Australia, the UK and the EU. He serves as a board member of the Augustinian Heritage Institute in Villanova, Pennsylvania.

Yehezkel Landau is Senior Advisor to the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations at Merrimack College.  He is a dual Israeli-American citizen, an interfaith educator and peacebuilder, leadership trainer, author, and consultant for more than 35 years. While in Israel, Landau directed the Oz ve-Shalom-Netivot Shalom religious peace movement and co-founded and co-directed the Open House Center for Jewish-Arab Coexistence and Reconciliation in Ramle. Landau was a professor of Jewish tradition and interfaith relations at Hartford Seminary, where he held the Chair in Abrahamic Partnerships and directed the Building Abrahamic Partnerships training program from 2002-2016. Landau lectures internationally on interfaith relations and Middle East peace issues, has authored numerous journal articles, co-edited the book Voices from Jerusalem: Jews and Christians Reflect on the Holy Land (Paulist Press, 1992), wrote a Jewish appraisal of Pope John Paul II’s trip to Israel and Palestine in 2000 for the book John Paul II in the Holy Land: In His Own Words (Paulist Press, 2005), and authored a U. S. Institute of Peace research report entitled “Healing the Holy Land: Interreligious Peace building in Israel/Palestine.” Landau earned an A.B. from Harvard University, an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School, and a D. Min. from Hartford Seminary.


The roster of 2019 judges will be posted before the start of the competition, October 15 2018. The following were the judges for the 2017 Goldziher Prize. 

Wajahat Ali, Goldziher Prize Chair for 2019, is a journalist, writer, lawyer, an award-winning playwright, TV host, consultant for the U.S. State Department, and Emcee of the Goldziher Prize award ceremony. As Creative Director of Affinis Labs, he works to create social entrepreneurship initiatives that have a positive impact for marginalized communities and to empower social entrepreneurs, young leaders, creatives, and communities to come up with innovative solutions to tackle world problems.

Previously, Ali helped launch the Al Jazeera America network as co-host of Al Jazeera America's The Stream, a daily news show that extended the conversation to social media and beyond. He was also a National Correspondent, Political Reporter, and Social Media Expert for Al Jazeera America. He focused on stories of communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media. Ali is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim Americans, post-9/11—which was published by McSweeney's and performed off-Broadway and at the Kennedy Center. Currently, with Dave Eggers, Ali is writing a television show about a Muslim American cop in the Bay Area. He was also the lead author and researcher of “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” the seminal report from the Center for American Progress.

In 2012, Ali worked with the U.S. Department of State to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. He initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. The Muslim Public Affairs Council honored him as a “Generation Change Leader” and as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist.” Ali has given many presentations, from Google to the United Nations to Princeton to The Abu Dhabi Book Festival. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and Salon.

Diana Eck is Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies; Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; and Member of the Faculty of Divinity at Harvard University. Eck’s work in the U.S. focuses especially on the challenges of religious pluralism in a multireligious society. Since 1991, she has headed the Harvard Pluralism Project, which explores and interprets religious dimensions of America's new immigration; the growth of Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, and Zoroastrian communities in the United States; and the new issues of religious pluralism and American civil society. The Pluralism Project's award-winning On Common GroundWorld Religions in America, was published in 1997; her book A New Religious America: How a "Christian Country" Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation was published in 2001. Her book Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey From Bozeman to Banaras is in the area of Christian theology and interfaith dialogue. It won the Grawemeyer Book Award in 1995, and a 10th-anniversary edition was published in 2003.

Eck received the National Humanities Award from President Clinton and the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1998, the Montana Governor's Humanities Award in 2003, and the Melcher Lifetime Achievement Award from the Unitarian Universalist Association in 2003. In 2005-06 she served as president of the American Academy of Religion. Eck has worked closely with churches on issues of interreligious relations, including her own United Methodist Church and the World Council of Churches. She is currently chair of the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches.


Ari Goldman is a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where he directs the Scripps Howard Program in Religion, Journalism and the Spiritual Life. He is a former reporter for the New York Times. Goldman teaches a variety of courses, including the popular Covering Religion seminar that has taken students on study tours of Israel, Ireland, Italy, India and Russia. Goldman is the author of four books, including the best-selling memoir “The Search for God at Harvard” and, most recently, “The Late Starters Orchestra.” Goldman was educated at Yeshiva University, Columbia and Harvard. He has been a Fulbright Professor in Israel, a Skirball Fellow at Oxford University in England and a scholar-in-residence at Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University.

Farhan Latif is President of the El-Hibri Foundation, providing strategic leadership. He previously served as the Chief Operating Officer & Director of Policy Impact at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). During his time at ISPU, Latif worked with White House, Department of State, and Department of Homeland Security officials on a range of domestic and foreign policy issues. Prior to ISPU, he spent over a decade in higher education working at the intersection of building a culture of philanthropy and enabling access for underrepresented, low income, and first generation students. As a social entrepreneur, he founded Strategic Inspirations, a social impact-consulting firm focused on strengthening the ability of nonprofit organizations to build capacity, create a culture of learning, catalyze innovation through philanthropy, and maximize impact. As an interfaith leader, Latif worked with state and national faith-based organizations to promote religious understanding and inclusion. He holds an M.A. from Harvard University and a degree in Business Management and Marketing with graduate work in nonprofit management at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. 


Anisa Mehdi  is a documentary filmmaker, journalist and adjunct professor at Seton Hall University. She has won two Emmy Awards, a Cine Golden Eagle, and numerous awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. Mehdi is the first American to cover the Hajj pilgrimage on location in Saudi Arabia. She produced and directed National Geographic's acclaimed Inside Mecca and directed "The Hajj" for PBS's "Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler."  Her coverage of local, national and global affairs has appeared on CBS, PBS, and ABC's Nightline.

An expert on the convergence of religion and the arts, Ms. Mehdi is a consultant for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) and the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. She serves on the boards of the Abraham Path Initiative and the Esalen Institute. She was a 2009-2010 Fulbright Scholar in Jordan. Mehdi is writing a memoir about life with her father, Dr. Mohammad T. Mehdi, an Iraqi-American expert on Palestine.  She has written columns for NPR and the intelligence company Stratfor.com. Mehdi has a Master's degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a Certificate in Jewish-Christian Studies from Seton Hall University. She is an alumna of Wellesley College.


Joseph V. Montville  is Senior Associate of the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations and Chair of Goldziher Jury. He is the Director of the Program on Healing Historical Memory, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University. Montville is also director of the Abrahamic Family Reunion, the Esalen Institute project to promote Muslim-Christian-Jewish reconciliation. He is also Senior Adviser on Interfaith Relations at Washington National Cathedral. Montville founded the preventive diplomacy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 1994 and directed it until 2003. Before that he spent 23 years as a diplomat with posts in the Middle East and North Africa. He also worked in the State Department’s Bureaus of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and Intelligence and Research, where he was chief of the Near East Division and director of the Office of Global Issues. Montville has held faculty appointments at the Harvard and University of Virginia Medical Schools. He defined the concept of “Track Two,” nonofficial diplomacy. Educated at Lehigh, Harvard, and Columbia Universities, Montville is the editor of Conflict and Peacemaking in Multiethnic Societies (Lexington Books, 1990) and editor (with Vamik Volkan and Demetrios Julius) of The Psychodynamics of International Relationships (Lexington Books, 1990 [vol. I], 1991 [vol. II]). His most recent book is History as Prelude: Muslims and Jews in the Medieval Mediterranean, (Lexington Books, 2011). In 2008, the International Society of Political Psychology gave Montville its Nevitt Sanford Award for “distinguished professional contribution to political psychology.”


Peter F. Steinfels is an author, journalist and educator best known for his writings on religious topics.  A native of Chicago, Illinois, and a lifelong Roman Catholic, Steinfels earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University and joined the staff of the journal Commonweal in 1964. He served as a visiting professor at Notre Dame in 1994-95 and then as visiting professor at Georgetown University from 1997 to 2001. From 1990 to 2010, he wrote a column called "Beliefs" for the religion section of the New York Times. He has also been a professor at Fordham University and co-director of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture. Steinfels has written several books, including The Neoconservatives: The Men Who Are Changing America's Politics and A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.

Diane Winston holds the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and teaches on the faculties of Journalism, Communication and Religion. Her courses examine religion as it relates to journalism, visual media, American history and foreign policy.  Her research interests include religion, politics and the news media; media coverage of changing Christianities, and religion and the entertainment media. She is the publisher of Religion Dispatches (religiondispaches.org), an award-winning daily online magazine of religion, politics and culture.

Between 1983 and 1995, Winston covered religion at the Raleigh News and Observer, the Dallas Times Herald and the Baltimore Sun and contributed to the Dallas Morning News. She has won numerous press association awards and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her work in Raleigh, Dallas and Baltimore. Her articles have appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Wall Street JournalThe Los Angeles Times, and The Chronicle of Higher Education among other publications.

Winston has a Ph.D. in Religion from Princeton University; holds Master’s degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and  B.A. from Brandeis University.


Project Directors

Tamar Miller, Project Lead for the  2017 Goldziher Prize for Journalists, is a consultant to social benefit programs, foundations, institutions of higher learning and religious institutions currently specializing in strategy, design, and facilitation. Her practice has ranged from working with the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, introducing Harvard and MIT faculty to meditation as a pedagogic practice; to crafting a parliamentary campaign in Kuwait; to strategic evaluations for the Fetzer Institute’s science and spirituality unit. Miller was VP Education and one of three founders of American Higher EducationInc. based in Cambridge, MA., and was Partner in Middle East Holdings, a business development firm in Boston and Dubai. Miller is former Director of Leadership Development and Executive Director of the Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East at Harvard's Kennedy School.  She is active on the board of directors of the Parents’ Circle for Bereaved Familiesand the Israel Palestine Center for Creative Regional Initiatives. Miller was on the founding board of the Alliance for Middle East Peace and is advisor to TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy.  Miller holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Judaic Studies, Master of Social Work from Yeshiva University, and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University. 


Evelyn Messinger is the producer for the 2017 Goldziher Prize for Journalists. Messinger is a television and web producer and a pioneer of online citizen engagement. She was the series producer of Global Pulse, a Webby Award-winning international news feature for the national satellite television channel Link TV; the Director of the News Literacy website Know the News; the founding director of the Soros Foundation’s electronic media program; and co-founder and former executive director of Internews Network, an international NGO that supports media development worldwide. Messinger has worked as a producer and video editor for CNN and CBS News, and as a documentary and feature producer for programs that have appeared on the BBC, PBS, ARTE and others. She is the founder of Internews Interactive, a media engagement non-profit that connects Americans to their leaders, each other, and the world.


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