Muslim scholar, educator and chaplain to speak at Congregation Beth Sholom


Celene Ibrahim – scholar, educator and chaplain – will speak on June 4 at Providence’s Congregatiaon Beth Sholom, 275 Camp St., following Shabbat morning services. 

Ibrahim holds a joint faculty appointment as Islamic Studies Scholar-in-Residence at Hebrew College and Andover Newton Theological School, where she co-directs the Center for Inter-Religious and Communal Leadership Education (CIRCLE). She also serves as the Muslim Chaplain for Tufts University. 

Recognized as a Harvard Presidential Scholar, Ibrahim’s contributions to increasing religious literacy have been featured on the BBC, Public Radio International and the Religion Initiative of the Council on Foreign Relations. Her academic interests range from Muslim feminist theology and theologies of religious pluralism to critical social theory and the history of Islamic intellectual thought.

For the past few years, Ibrahim has intensively organized Jewish-Muslim joint theological learning in different contexts. However, this will be her first time speaking to a Modern Orthodox congregation.

“Many Muslim communities share with Modern Orthodox congregations similar goals and challenges involving how to honor and preserve religious laws in a contemporary world that differs, in some substantial ways, from the context and milieu in which the laws were originally given,” Ibrahim notes. “We also share an appreciation for ritual, for worship, for the power of scripture and for the subtle heart that has awakened through witnessing the signs of the One. We are siblings through language and faith.”

During her talk, Ibrahim plans to reflect briefly with the congregation on her experiences with different forms of Jewish-Muslim theological engagement, and on what she sees works best and why. In addition, she intends to talk about the role of Moses in the Quran and in Islam, and about the Quranic idea of “people of the book” and “Children of Israel.” There will also be plenty of time for questions.

“Often, interfaith dialogue occurs among non-equals, in a certain sense,” according to Congregation Beth Sholom’s Rabbi Barry Dolinger. “Frequently, those engaging in the conversation at a lay level have limited knowledge of their respective faiths and are sometimes not particularly active practitioners, whether from one faith or the other.” 

In that context, Dolinger feels it is important to have a Muslim scholar and educator of Ibrahim’s caliber address the congregation. “I’m so excited by this visit because it’s the exact opposite of some of the lay level interfaith interactions that often occur,” he said. “To have a devout and learned Muslim woman speaking in a modern Orthodox Jewish congregation is the perfect match.”  

Dolinger also believes that Modern Orthodoxy has a special role in interfaith dialogue. “I like to think that we represent that branch of Judaism that is devoutly loyal to the past but also fully informed and educated, applying teachings most relevantly to the modern world and embracing the advances of today, challenges and all, and not merely confronting them. I’m excited to learn from Celene and think this will be a wonderful opportunity for our congregation.” 

For more information about Celene Ibrahim’s June 4 talk, contact Rabbi Barry Dolinger at

SHAI AFSAI ( lives in Providence. His exhibit on the priests of Ethiopian Jewry in Israel is on display at Barrington’s Temple Habonim through the end of June.

Muslim, Beth Sholom