The Interfaith Center of New York wishes to congratulate the 2023 recipients of the James Parks Morton Interfaith Award: Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Dr. Uma Mysorekar, F.A.C.O.G., and Joshua Seftel and the creative team behind the documentary short film Stranger at the Gate. We hope you will join us on June 26th, 2023 as they receive their awards. In the meantime, please scroll below to learn more about our esteemed honorees and those we honored between 1997 and 2022.
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Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum serves as spiritual leader of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City. She was installed as CBST’s first rabbi in 1992, arriving at the height of the AIDS crisis when the synagogue was in desperate need of pastoral care and spiritual leadership. She guided the congregation through a period of loss and change, while addressing social issues of the day and building a strong and deeply spiritual community. Under her leadership as Senior Rabbi, CBST has become a powerful voice in the movement for equality and justice for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions and a significant force challenging the radical right’s dominance over religious and political life in the United States and around the world. Rabbi Kleinbaum has long been involved in the fight for human rights for all people. Rabbi Kleinbaum is a long time activist for full Palestinian rights and committed to a progressive Israel.
For many years Rabbi Kleinbaum has been ranked by Newsweek among the 50 most influential rabbis in America. Rabbi Kleinbaum was appointed by President Joseph Biden to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Rabbi Kleinbaum is also a Commissioner on New York City’s Commission on Human Rights, serves as an advisor to Mayor Adams’ Office of Faith-based and Community Partnerships, and has served on the boards of many organizations. Rabbi Kleinbaum is a co-editor of CBST’s acclaimed prayer book. Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum’s longtime leadership of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah and her outspoken activism have made her a powerful voice for GLBTQ rights and human rights in America and around the world.
Dr. Uma V. Mysorekar, a medical graduate from Bombay University, Maharashtra State of India migrated to the USA. She hails from Bangalore, Karnataka State of India, formerly known as Mysore State. A successful Gynecologist & Oncologist since 1970, Dr. Mysorekar has, in addition to her medical profession, been associated with several social and cultural organizations – As a Committee Member, Vice President and President of Heart & Head of the Handicapped (HHH) she was responsible for organizing events and fund raising efforts for the handicapped children in New York and in India.
Dr. Mysorekar was invited by both former President Clinton and former President Bush to represent Hinduism at Interfaith Conference sponsored by the White House. She has been a leading fundraiser and donor for care of impoverished women and for the disabled and orphaned in India, having pioneered the fundraising for “Aid to Disabled, Orphaned and Poor” (ADOP) and contributed substantially towards the construction of a hostel for poor working women in Bangalore in India. Here in the US, under the auspices of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, she devised various projects to address the psychological and emotional concerns of Indian Youth, growing up under the influence of dual cultures.
Dr. Mysorekar was one of the few high profile Asians chosen as the representative of 1.8 million Hindus of this Continent at a special interreligious gathering to meet and greet the revered head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI on April 17, 2008. She had an audience with Pope Benedict during this visit. Later that year, she was one of the six representatives of various faiths chosen to participate in the National Prayer Service in Washington on November 22, 2008 following the inauguration of Mr. Barrack Obama as the 44th president of the United States of America. As the first person chosen to represent the Hindu religion for the National Prayer Service, Dr. Mysorekar was also invited to have an audience with the new President. Dr. Mysorekar later participated in Interreligious meeting with His Holiness Pope Francis and offered Hindu prayer in New York on September 25, 2015.
Dr. Mysorekar has been the recipient of the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor for 2009 and was featured in the prestigious publication “The Women who made New York” authored by New York Times columnist Julie Scelfo, who recognized Dr. Mysorekar’s service to the community, her role in organizing interfaith dialogues reaching out to leaders of other faiths, and her fundraising capability for common causes and elder care.
Stranger at the Gate is the latest Academy Award®-nominated film in Joshua Seftel’s Emmy- and Peabody-nominated “Secret Life of Muslims” project (SXSW), which combats Islamophobia with filmmaking. Seftel, who experienced antisemitism as a child, has been committed to working on this subject matter for the past seven years. At age twenty-two, Seftel made his first film, the Emmy-nominated “Lost and Found” (PBS), which exposed the conditions of Romania’s orphaned and abandoned children and spurred the American adoption of thousands of children. His other award-winning films include “Taking on the Kennedys” (POV), “Ennis’ Gift” (HBO), “The Home Team” (SXSW), “The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano” (NYT Op-Docs, Tribeca), and the anti-war movie “War, Inc.” (Tribeca), starring John Cusack, Marisa Tomei, and Ben Kingsley. He is also a contributor to the Peabody Award-winning podcast “This American Life” and a commentator on CBS’s “Sunday Morning,” where he regularly interviews his eighty-five-year-old mother.
Stranger at the Gate Synopsis: A U.S. Marine returns home to Indiana with an all-consuming rage and plots to bomb a local mosque. But when he comes face to face with the community he seeks to kill – Afghan refugees, African American converts and others of Muslim faith – this story takes an unexpected turn.
Past Award Recipients
Ruby Bridges, civil rights activist who established the Ruby Bridges Foundation, and recipient of the NAACP Martin Luther King Award (among others)
Amed Khan, human rights advocate, political activist, and philanthropist, founder of Elpida Home and president of Zaka Khan Foundation.
Faith Justice Hero Award:
Dr. Sarah Sayeed
Dr. Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University and Founder of The Pluralism Project
Faith Justice Hero Award:
Pandit Vyaas Sukul
Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President Emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)
Faith Justice Hero Award:
The Venerable Ming Yu
Faith Justice Hero Award:
Chaplain Imam Dr. Ahmed Atlig, Imam and Secretary-General of Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF)
Preet Bharara, former US attorney of the Southern District of New York
Ann Rockefeller Roberts, founder, and president of the Fund of the Four Directions, philanthropist, humanitarian, and best-selling author.
The Community of Sant’Egidio, a Roman Catholic movement of 60,000 lay people based on prayer, solidarity, ecumenicism, and dialogue
Bob Abernethy, Executive Editor, and Host of PBS/Thirteen’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly
Promise for the Future Award:
James Venturi, Urban Strategist
The Honorable Al Gore, 45th Vice President of the United States, 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Peter L. Zimroth, Senior Counsel, Arnold & Porter LLP; Director, Center on Civil Justice, NYU Law School
Mrs. Gaetana Enders, Humanitarian
His Holiness Sri Swami Satchidananda (posthumous), Interfaith Visionary; Founder, Integral Yoga International
Rev. Dr. C. T. Vivian, Veteran Civil Rights Activist & Colleague of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bill Moyers, Host, PBS Bill Moyers Journal
Judith Moyers, CEO, Public Affairs Television
Russell Simmons, Chairman, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
Sister Pat Farrell, OSF, Vice President, Sisters of St. Francis of Dubuque & Past President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Abigail Disney, Philanthropist and Filmmaker
Wynton Marsalis, Composer and Musician
Philip Glass, Composer and Musician
Thomas Cahill, Author
The Hon. Judith S. Kaye, Chief Judge of the State of New York
Dr. Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Foundation
Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, Rabbi of Jewish Community in the Hague and Dutch Interfaith Leader
His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, Spiritual Leader of the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism
Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, Environmental Human Rights Interfaith Leader
Rev. Kyotaro Deguchi, Japanese and Global Shinto Interfaith Leader
Nicholas D. Kristof, Pulitzer-Prize winning Op-Ed columnist and Global Human Rights Advocate
Steven Rockefeller, Educator and Global Environmentalist; creator of The Earth Charter
Carl Sagan, Posthumous award for pioneering work in astronomy, the environment, and interfaith activities
Paul Winter, Environmental Musician
The Hon. Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the IAEA AND 2005 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Richard Gere, Human Rights Activist
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, and his wife, Daisy Khan, Founders American Society for Muslim Advancement
Her Holiness Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma), Spiritual Leader and Humanitarian from southern India
No award, instead there was a celebration of The Very Rev. James Parks Morton’s 75th birthday
Santiago and Robertina Calatrava, Spanish Architect and his wife/administrator/lawyer
Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Actors and Civil Rights Activists
Judge Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Muslim Judge, Human Rights Activist
Philippe Petit and his partner Kathy O’ Donnell, World Trade Center High Wire Walker
Daniel and Nina Libeskind, Architects and Winners of the Master Plan Design for Ground Zero
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, former Archbishop of Southern Africa
Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States of America
Alan Slifka, Interfaith Philanthropist
James Carroll, Author
H. H. the Dalai Lama, 1989 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
Ravi Shankar, Musician and Peace Activist
The James Parks Morton Interfaith Award is named in tribute of The Interfaith Center of New York’s founder the Very Rev. James Parks Morton and recognizes individuals or organizations that exemplify an outstanding commitment to promoting human development and peace — values shared by the world’s great religious traditions.