March 21, 2012: “Who Do You Say Jesus Is?” Perspectives from World Religions

Click on image to view larger version

Christians like to say that Jesus is the answer. But Jesus himself was more prone to asking questions. The one he put to Peter at Caesarea Philippi, “Who do you say that I am?” has engaged his followers through the ages. But they have not been the only ones who have weighed in on the conversation. Members of other faith traditions through the ages have also had some important things to say about Jesus. In our pluralistic world, these perspectives are increasingly becoming as much a resource as they are a challenge for Christians who engage them. There may be more yet to learn about Jesus from the perspective of other world religions.

The 7th Annual Spring World Christianity Lecture on March 21, 2012  at New York Theological Seminary will invite a conversation with four representatives of other world religions around the question “Who do you say Jesus is?”



Rabbi Samuel Barth

Rabbi Samuel Barth is a teacher of liturgy and halakhah (Jewish Law), and the intersection between these academic fields and the lived experience of contemporary Jewish community life.  He currently serves as Senior Lecturer in Liturgy and Worship at The Jewish Theological Seminary, where he is Director of Liturgy and Worship.

Reb Sami attended the Jewish Free School (a yeshivah high school in London) and then pursued studies in mathematical physics at the University of Sussex, receiving his BA in philosophy from the Open University in the UK.  He studied for the rabbinate at the Leo Baeck College in London with several years of study in Jerusalem at Yeshivat HaMivtar, Pardes and the Hartman Institute.  His rabbinic dissertation on “Kavvanah in Halakhic Literature” was supervised by Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs z”l.

Reb Sami has serve small and larger congregations in the UK and the USA, including 10 years as Rabbi of the Park Slope Jewish Center in Brooklyn, where the congregation grew from 90 to almost 240 families during his tenure.  He is known for interactive and analytic diverei Torah, and for crafting liturgical experiences that engage and inspire diverse populations.

In 1989 Rabbi Barth was invited to serve as Assistant Dean of the Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary, followed by 10 years as Dean of Academic Affairs at The Academy for Jewish Religion, where he designed the core curriculum, recruited a diverse and outstanding faculty and taught Liturgy and Codes.  He completed course work in the doctoral program in Liturgy at JTS and is completing his doctoral degree at the New York Theological Seminary.  At the core of Reb Sami’s academic work is the interface between the artistic, halakhic and historical elements of liturgical occasions and the integration of personal prayer experience into that structure.  That interest led to his work for 3 years with the Synagogue 2000 project on synagogue transformation.

Since 2001 Reb Sami has been a member of the Vaad of the ALEPH Semikha Program, teaching courses in the core areas of Liturgy and Codes, and guiding students from around the world towards their semikha.  He has been a core member of the ALEPH team that developed the DMin program in Liturgical Arts in partnership with NYTS.


Rev. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki

Rev. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki is a Buddhist priest, ordained in the 750-year-old Jodoshinshu tradition of Japanese Buddhism.  Currently, he is a doctoral student in multifaith studies at New York Theological Seminary as well as Vice President of The Interfaith Center of New York, Clergy-on-Call for Columbia University, Community Clergy Liason for the NYC Police Dept., and Religious Advisor to the Japanese-American Lions Club. He is a current member and former President of the Buddhist Council of New York.

He formerly served as resident minister of The New York Buddhist Church from 1994-2010.

Since 1994, Rev. T.K. Nakagaki has organized a commemoration of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings and since 2002, the annual 9/11 World Trade Center Floating Lanterns Toronagashi memorial event on the Hudson River.

Rev. T.K. Nakagaki was ordained in 1980 at the Nishi Honganji Temple in Kyoto, Japan. In 1985, he was sent to the US as an overseas minister, serving first with at the Seattle Buddhist Church, (1985-1989), the Parlier Buddhist Church (1989-1994), and the New York Buddhist Church (1994-2010).

He is the author of two books in Japanese: “No Worry, No Hurry, Eat Curry: New York Bozu Indo o Aruku” (A Buddhist Monk Walks in India, published by Gendai Shokan, 2003) and “Manhattan Bozu Tsurezure Nikki” (Diary of Manhattan Monk, published by Gendai Shokan, June 2010).


Askia Muhammad

Askia Muhammad is married with three children; an Imam in the Islamic faith tradition since 1988. He has pursued independent studies in comparative religion and has acquired two Masters Degrees; one in Political Science and the other in Public Administration. He has served as adjunct professor at Metropolitan College of New York for five years.  Presently, he is a Chaplain for the New York City Department of Correction and a student in New York Theological Seminary’s Masters of Divinity Degree program.


Baba  Antonio Mondesíre

An independent consultant and Awo Ifa Ol’Obatala (Ifa / Orisa Priest) with roots in Caribbean and African religious traditions, Baba Antonio Mondesíre serves as a representative of the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye (CLBA), and is a member of IITI – Ifa International Training Institute (New York Chapter).

Born and raised in the Bronx, NY of Puerto Rican and Eastern Caribbean parents, Baba Tony (or Baba “T”) as he is affectionately called — first became interested in Afro-Cuban expression of African Spirituality as a youth, delving into his familial love of music and maternal relationship with “Espiritismo.” Through empirical experience, academic study, and musical expression, dedication to African Spirituality took root.

While serving as a Transit Management Analyst for MTA New York City Transit in the early 1980s, Baba “T” also pursued his ordination as a Yoruba / Lukumi Priest of Obatala with a prestigious Orisha community of elders led by the late Eduardo Pastoriza (Shango Lari Iba’e).

From the late 1970s through the 1990s, Baba “T” studied with esteemed Yoruba / Lukumi Priests: Baba John Mason (Yoruba Theological Archministry), Oba / Oriate Baba Jose Manuel Ginart, Oba / Oriate Ernesto Pichardo (Church of the Lukumi BabaluAye) and Baba Adeleri Olayinka (Yoruba Temple of Ifa Studies). He also worked in a variety of secular positions: Corporate Planner for NJ Transit; Marketing / Sales of Health & Wellness products; Cultural Diversity Consultancy for Mercy College, NY; and overseeing a freelance computer training business.

In 1999, following his commitment to education of urban youth, Baba “T” joined the New York City Department of Education. As a substitute teacher, he taught global studies to high school students in the South Bronx. In conjunction with these duties, he began work as an Information Literacy / Assistive Technology Specialist for Hostos Community College – CUNY. Here he trained and empowered students with disabilities, faculty, and staff in the use of Assistive/Adaptive Technology. During this milestone period, he pursued his ordination as an Ifa Priest in Oshogbo, Oshun State, Nigeria with the prestigious Ifa community of Chief Priest Baba Fakayode Faniyi, Agbonbon Awo of Oshogbo. Baba “T” later served as an Adjunct Professor at CUNY’s Brooklyn College – specifically hired to teach the course: “Spiritism and African Religions in Puerto Rico and Other Spanish Speaking Caribbean Societies” – followed by other introductory courses.

In the artistic sphere, he has performed & recorded as a musician (percussionist & vocalist) in the Afro-Caribbean, Latin Jazz, and Salsa genres.

Baby “T” graduated from the S.U.N.Y. – College at Old Westbury with a Bachelor of Arts in “Politics, Economics, and Society and a Master of Science in Transportation Planning and Engineering from NYU – Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, New York.

Presently, Baba “T” primarily works as an Educator & Spiritual Counselor – guiding, mentoring, and edifying others individually and in intrafaith / interfaith venues, CPE Chaplaincy, seminars, and workshops – locally and abroad. Facilitating his students’ personal development via in-person and on-line sessions, he continually strives to educate through community outreach.

Current projects include university level presentations abroad and returning panelist at Interfaith Center of New York events such as it’s annual course on “Social Work and Religious Diversity”. Recently, he completed one unit (semester) of “Clinical Pastoral Education” (CPE) at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx under the standards of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education.

Cognizant of the need for lifelong learning, he continues his studies with respected Ifa and Orisha Priests. His religious “journey”, interdisciplinary and professionally diverse background provide a well-rounded, unique perspective and creative thought process that he applies to his work.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.

Related Posts