Rabbi Dr. Marc Gopin ’75, back from a conversation in Damascus with the first lady of Syria, will present his unique perspective on recent grass-roots uprisings in the Middle East at his Maimonides School lecture planned for Motza’ei Shabbat, February 26.
His remarks, beginning at 8:30, will be entitled, “Revolutions and Evolutions of the Arab World, Egypt, Jordan and Syria: One Rabbi’s View from the Front of Citizen Diplomacy.” The event is sponsored by the Maimonides Alumni Council. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-232-4452, ext. 405.
Prof. Gopin has engaged in what he calls “back-channel diplomacy” with religious, political and military figures on both sides of conflicts, especially that between Israel and Arab countries. His Jan. 17 meeting with Asma al-Assad was part of a “seminar on reflective practice” that included about three dozen college students.
Prof. Gopin is director of the Center on Religion, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, part of George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. The center promotes “emerging networks of indigenous and global peace builders, mobilizes support for them, and creates linkages among peace builders, citizen diplomats, and policy makers.” He also teaches religion, diplomacy and conflict resolution at the Fairfax, VA campus.
His blog, marcgopin.com, presents “sober analysis on the conflicts and challenges facing humanity… the intention is always to balance problems with possibilities, tragedies with opportunities.”
Prof. Gopin received semicha in 1983 from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University. Last year, during an appearance at YU, he told students that his close relationship with his mentor, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l, Maimonides School founder, inspired him to pursue a career in mediation and conflict analysis. “The Rav was embedded in global consciousness and listened to the news every hour,” he said.
According to a report on that presentation, Prof. Gopin said there were “deeper things about peace-making than political posture.” He discovered that “ways people come to kill — or conversely, reconcile — are far more attributable to religious and ethical categories than expected.”
His said his most effective strategy was to establish a close partnership with a member of the negotiating party. “How to treat other people is the basis of negotiation,” he said. “There needs to be a sense that the room is governed by love, where everyone has the chance to speak and be heard.” Prof. Gopin said he believed it is necessary to study the prayers, rituals and texts of the particular community in order to better connect.
A graduate of Columbia University, Prof. Gopin received a Ph.D. in religious ethics from Brandeis University in 1993. He is a former visiting associate professor of international diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. He also was a visiting scholar at Harvard University; and a senior associate in the preventive diplomacy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He is the author of four books, including “To Make the Earth Whole: The Art of Citizen Diplomacy in an Age of Religious Militancy,” published in 2009.