Tom Block , Writer and Artist
“Shalom/Salaam: A Story of a Mystical Fraternity
Tuesday, July 28th 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
At the RUMI Forum
1150 17th Street NW, Suite 408,
Tom Block will speak on his forthcoming book, "Shalom/Salaam: A Story of a Mystical Fraternity" (Fons Vitae Publisher, Louisville, KY, 2010) , which traces the virtually unknown story of Islamic mystical influence on the development of Jewish mysticism for over 1000 years. Mr. Block's talk will introduce this story, exploring how Jewish thinkers and mystics, from Moses Maimonides (d. 1204) in Egypt to the Kabbalists in Spain (13th century) and the Holy Land (15th century), turned to their Islamic cousins for spiritual inspiration, as well as specific manners of understanding the relationship with the Divine. These medieval Jewish thinkers irrevocably turned Jewish worship, meditation and synagogue practice in the direction of their Islamic cousins. By the 18th century, when the Baal Shem Tov was developing Hasidism in eastern Europe, he was attracted to the same medieval Jewish thinkers who had, in turn, depended so much on Islam for inspiration. Although he didn't realize it, his interest in specific medieval Jewish thinkers and systems of thought continued the "Islamicization" of Jewish worship, an influence which still reverberates through Jewish practice to this day.
Tom Block is a writer and artist who is best known for his Shalom/Salaam Project, a scholarly investigation of the influence of Islamic mysticism on the development of Jewish mysticism, from the inception of Islam through medieval Egypt, Spain and the Kabbalah, into 18th century European Judaism and into today’s Jewish practice. He has published numerous articles excerpted from his research, as well as appearing at academic conferences around the United States and Canada. He recently presented his research at the first interfaith conference held by Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the pre-eminent religious institution for Sunni Islam. His book, Shalom/Salaam: A Story of a Mystical Fraternity, will be published early next year by Fons Vitae Publisher, Louisville KY. Mr. Block has received numerous awards and grants, including support from the Maryland State Arts Council (MD), Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation (NY), Sugarman Foundation (CA), Nelson Talbott Foundation (MD), Puffin Foundation (NJ), William and Mary Greve Foundation (NY), New York Foundation for the Arts (NY), Abrahamic Family Reunion Project (MI), Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County (MD) and Amnesty International (NY).