Celebrating Interfaith and Intercultural Peacebuilding
Madison, NJ – Believers in peace and interfaith dialogue from Morris County to Cairo gathered at the Park Avenue Club in Florham Park, NJ on May 24, 2016 for Drew University Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict’s Third Annual Gala. Drew CRCC is proud to have honored two remarkable individuals with the CRCC Peacebuilder Award: businessman and philanthropist Shafik Garbr and Drew Trustee Emerita and founder of the Sugerman interfaith Forum, Shirley Sugerman.
Mr Gabr’s award was presented by the honorable Howard Berman, former US Congressman, who chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman Berman spoke about Gabr’s long-term commitment to inter-cultural dialogue and understanding between peoples of the world. Mr. Garbr, upon accepting the award, spoke passionately about building bridges between peoples of United States and Egypt, especially through the East-West: Art of Dialogue fellowship that he founded.
Dr. Sugerman’s award was presented by her rabbi and long-time friend, Rabbi Matthew Gewirtz of Temple Bnai Jeshrun Short Hills, New Jersey. Rabbi Gewirtz offered a moving tribute to Shirley and all that she does for the community. Dr. Sugerman, who was joined at the podium by her husband, Dr Morton Rosenberg, spoke with great pride about the deep connection between Drew University, the Sugarman Interfaith Forum, and the CRCC.
Drew University President Dr. MaryAnn Baenninger told the audience, “Drew University isn’t simply a place for scholars; it’s a place where we nurture and develop the next generation of peacebuilders – tomorrow’s Shirley Sugermans and Shafik Gabrs.” The audience then screened a brand new video featuring students deeply involved with interfaith engagement at Drew University through their work with the Center.
All in all, it was night to remember. The Gala brought together people of many faiths, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds, all of whom left feeling inspired, and hopeful, by the message of peace.
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Shafik Gabr | East-West: The Art of Dialogue
Dr. Shirley Sugerman G’70 | Founder, The Shirley Sugerman Interfaith Forum
M Shafik Gabr
Successful businessman and philanthropist Shafik Gabr is the epitome of cultural diversity. Born in 1952, to a mixed family, his mother was a Copt and his father a Muslim diplomat, an occupation which meant the Gabr family travelled a great deal. So it’s perhaps not surprising that from a young age Shafik Gabr developed a curiosity and empathy for different cultures, now with homes in London, Prague, Washington and Cairo.
After acquiring degrees in business and economics from Cairo’s American University and the University of London, and a stint working for his father, Mr. Gabr began an unpaid job working for a subsidiary of ARTOC, one of Egypt’s biggest industrial conglomerates. Some years later he became the company’s chairman; a testament to his ambition and enterprise.
Inspired by the progressive painters of the 19th and 20th century, Mr Gabr began collecting Orientalist Art in 1993. His collection now comprises of some of the finest examples of the greatest masters of Orientalism, published copies of which can be found in Mr. Gabr’s book – Master of Orientalist Art: The Shafik Gabr Collection.
Noting that these painters or, as Mr. Gabr calls them, “early globalists” had “opened routes to knowledge and understanding between East and West by immersing themselves in the Middle Eastern culture they painted”, Mr. Gabr sought to continue their legacy. A dreamer with drive, Mr. Gabr took a proactive step to develop cultural dialogue and understanding by launching the East-West: Art of Dialogue initiative in 2012. This dynamic program encourages young leaders to develop cultural understanding and education by funding their participation in exchange programs between the Middle East, Europe and the United States. Drew University and the CRCC are honored to be part of this program and regularly welcome Gabr Fellows on the Drew Campus.
Mr. Gabr is also the Chairman of Egypt’s International Economic Forum and on the boards of Zurich Financial Services and MIT’s Centre for International Studies.
Dr Shirley Sugerman
A Manhattan native, Dr. Shirley Sugerman was already a mother of four and a sculptress, with a degree in economics from Barnard College and a career in business before coming to Drew University to complete her PhD in the early 1960s. It’s no exaggeration to say that she has been, together with her husband Dr. Morton Rosenberg, a deeply committed and valued member of the Drew community ever since.
A practicing psychoanalyst, an adjunct faculty member at Drew for many years, and a member of the University Board of Trustees since 1979, Dr. Sugerman is the author of Sin and Madness: Studies in Narcissism. She also served as the editor of Evolution of Consciousness: Studies in Polarity, which contains her engaging interview with Owen Barfield, the British philosopher, poet, and critic known as the “first and last Inkling.”
Beyond her many professional accomplishments, Dr. Sugerman was the driving force and principal benefactor behind the creation, in 1991, of the Shirley Sugerman Interfaith Forum. This program provides a much-needed venue for interdisciplinary exchanges between and among scholars, teachers, religious leaders, faculty, students, and members of the larger community interested in exploring issues of interfaith understanding, the diversity of religiously-based ethical perspectives and the political, social, and cultural conflicts caused by the clash of religious traditions. Through its annual lectures, colloquia, and other gatherings, the Sugerman Forum facilitates an ongoing, collaborative, and dynamic interfaith dialogue focused on both achieving a deeper understanding of religious differences and building bridges between and among various faith traditions.
This year the Shirley Sugerman Interfaith Forum marked its 25th anniversary – evidence that Dr. Sugerman’s pioneering vision of building the bridges that enable cross-cultural and interreligious understanding and collaboration continues to be relevant in today’s increasingly peripatetic and shrinking global village. (In fact, were it not for Dr. Sugerman’s leadership on this front, it is unlikely that there would even be a Center on Religion, Culture, & Conflict at Drew, given that the latter was very much built upon the solid foundation laid by the Sugerman Forum.)
With her undeniable energy and humanity, Dr. Sugerman is a widely esteemed and much cherished member of the Drew family, which remains inspired by her passion, her dedication, and her vision for a more peaceful and just world.