June 25, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings


June 25, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), in conjunction with Representatives Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), John Lewis (D-GA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Mia Love (R-UT), hosted a breakfast for Black and Jewish Members of Congress. The purpose of this breakfast was to reflect on the shared experiences of Black and Jewish Americans, and to make certain that these communities continue to work collaboratively to eliminate racism and anti-Semitism both abroad and here at home:

“I was delighted to be joined by so many of my colleagues in Congress and leaders in both the Black and Jewish community this morning for my Annual Black and Jewish Members of Congress Breakfast,” said Congressman Alcee L. Hastings. “The presentations and discussions that took place today confirmed what we know to be true – that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. We must continue to work across our communities to eliminate hatred and bigotry from our nation, and indeed the entire world.”

Also attending the breakfast was Rabbi Marc Schneier, Founder and President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, as well as Rabbi Ari Sunshine of B’nai Shalom Congregation, Reverend Robyn E. Franklin-Vaughn of the Howard University School of Divinity, and student leaders Henry Bowe, Jr. and Maya Bornsteinfrom Operation Understanding D.C. Following Congressman Hastings’ opening remarks, blessings were offered by Rabbi Sunshine and Reverend Franklin-Vaughn, who also shared brief words about their work in engaging and uniting the Black and Jewish communities.

Featured speaker Rabbi Schneier stated “The gathering this morning, celebrating the historic and ongoing Black-Jewish alliance, reminded us that a people who fight for their own right are only as honorable as when they fight for the rights of all people.”

“This breakfast is an opportunity to continue strengthening the bonds of the Black and Jewish communities who have, for so long, worked together to promote social justice and overcome the common threat of bigotry,” saidCongresswoman Lois Frankel.

Congressman Eliot Engel said, “There has always been a special bond between the Jewish and black communities, as both peoples have had to overcome a tremendous amount of discrimination and hatred. As the horrific events in Charleston last week have shown us, that discrimination and hatred is still alive and well in the hearts of an ignorant few, which is why this breakfast takes on an extra special significance today. We come here in the spirit of cooperation and understanding, standing together against the forces of oppression in the fight for equality and social justice. I cannot think of a better cause to stand for. I am delighted to be able to participate in this important breakfast, and I thank Congressman Hastings for hosting.”

I am thrilled to cohost the breakfast again to celebrate our communities’ shared values and commitment to action. Earlier this year, I was honored to participate in the commemoration of the historic march on Selma, which strengthened my resolve to work together to pursue the causes that we are still fighting for: equal access to justice, and voting rights for every single citizen of this nation. As we continue to reel from the horror and tragedy in South Carolina, it is crucial that we continue to work together to combat justice and intolerance,” said Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson stated, “The parallels between racism and antisemitism are undeniable and have served to strengthen the bond between the African-American and Jewish communities,” said Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson. “This history also has helped us forge an enduring commitment to work together to combat social injustice and all efforts to deny any group, regardless of race, creed or ethnicity, of their equal rights.”

“I am humbled to honor the partnership of Jewish Americans and African Americans with this breakfast. Our Jewish brothers and sisters were there with African Americans as we marched for voting rights. They supported the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the NAACP, and the Urban League. Jewish Americans made up 50 percent of the civil rights attorneys in the South during the 1960s. Together we have fought for justice, and together we will continue to walk hand-in-hand as we create what Martin Luther King, Jr. calls the “Beloved Community,” assertedCongressman John Lewis.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey stated, “The act of violence and hate in Charleston last week is an affront to us all – just as the anti-Semitic attack in Paris earlier this year brought grief and heartache far beyond France and the Jewish community. That’s why our two communities must stand resolutely together and remember that just as our interests are intertwined, so too are our destinies. By working together, we can leave a better world for generations to come.”

Student leaders from Operation Understanding D.C. (OUDC) gave remarks regarding their experiences in the program, and spoke eloquently about the need to instill in our youth a commitment to ending racism and prejudice in all of its forms. OUDC Program Director Avi Edelman remarked “It is only through engagement with our history, the pleasant and the painful, that the young can become the shapers of its next course, and the Black and Jewish champions assembled today affirmed that the mantle being passed to the next generationhas an unshakable foundation.”

Members In Attendance (33): Reps. Karen Bass (CA), Joyce Beatty (OH), Xavier Becerra (CA), Corrine Brown (FL), Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA), David N. Cicilline (RI), Steve Cohen (TN), John Conyers, Jr. (MI), Joseph Crowley (NY), Susan Davis (CA), Theodore Deutch (FL), Keith Ellison (MI), Eliot Engel (NY), Chaka Fattah (PA), Lois Frankel (FL), Al Green (TX), Steny Hoyer (MD), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Hank Johnson (GA), Robin Kelly (IL), Brenda Lawrence (MI), Barbara Lee (CA), Sander Levin (MI), Alan Lowenthal (CA), Nita Lowey (NY), Gregory W. Meeks (NY), Jerold Nadler (NY), Nancy Pelosi (CA), Charles Rangel (NY), Terri A. Sewell (AL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL), and Frederica Wilson (FL).

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.

Read release here: http://alceehastings.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=398441

The First roundtable to create a grassroots body focusing on Muslim-Jewish relations in Montreal

Montreal MJSC standing together

More than 20 prominent leaders of the Muslim and Jewish communities of Montreal held a first-ever community-wide roundtable meeting on June 30 under the aegis of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and the Montreal-based Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRAAR). Co-chairing the meeting together with Walter Ruby, Muslim-Jewish Program Director, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, were Fo Niemi, executive director of CRARR and Dr. Karen Mock, a prominent human rights consultant from Toronto with extensive experience in Muslim-Jewish relations. Participants in the meeting discussed issues of Muslim-Jewish relations in Montreal and the common interest of both communities in working together to create a diverse and tolerant Quebec society in which all ethnic and faith communities enjoy equal rights and respect.

Participants in the meeting agreed in principle to create an ongoing grassroots body focusing on Muslim-Jewish relations in Montreal, likely to be named the Greater Montreal Muslim-Jewish Forum. The new body is to operate along the lines of FFEU-initiated Solidarity Committees in cities across the U.S. and the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims in Toronto; ensuring that Montreal Muslims and Jews stand up for each other when either community is impacted by hate crimes, incitement or discrimination; that the two communities educate themselves about each other and hold joint festive, education and social service events on a regular basis. Attendees indicated a strong interest in holding a ‘Muslims and Jews Refuse to Be Enemies’ event during the Season of Twinning in November. A Steering Committee will soon be set up to work to bring these initiatives to fruition, which will include a cross section of French-speaking and English-speaking Jews and Muslims

Ruby, Mock and Niemi held a follow up meeting at the Montreal Hotel de Ville (City Hall) with Howard Liebman, senior adviser to Mayor Denis Coderne and Fadima Diallo, Assistant to the Mayor on Intercultural Relations, who welcomed the initiative to create a permanent Muslim-Jewish body in Montreal and indicated that City Hall would be interested to endorse and participate in a ‘We Refuse to be Eemies’ event. In addition, Ruby, Mock and Niemi met with Brian Ferinden, Press and Cultural Attache at the U.S. Consulate-General in Montreal.


Muslims and Jews in cities around the world will hold scores of public events during the upcoming Season of Twinning, October 30 – December 18, 2015 in order to express a shared commitment to building ties of friendship and trust and to being there for each other if and when either community is attacked.


These public manifestations of Muslim-Jewish solidarity at a time of increased Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and of growing efforts, sometimes marked by violence and terrorism, to drive our two faith communities apart, will be held under the rubrics Spread Hummus, Not Hate and Ring Around the Synagogue and Mosque. The Season of Twinning, formerly known as the Weekend of Twinning, is an annual event during which mosques and synagogues and Muslim and Jewish student, young leadership and women’s organizations hold joint events together; with the participation of thousands of Muslims and Jews in more than 30 countries around the world.


The Season of Twinning is sponsored by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), a nonprofit that has been working since 2008 to build a global movement of Muslims and Jews committed to communication, reconciliation and cooperation. FFEU’s partners in this year’s Season of Twinning include The Greater Washington Muslim Jewish Forum, The Shoulder to Shoulder CampaignMuslims Against Hunger, ISNA, NYCJMSC, Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, NJMJSC, the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims, The Denver and Detroit Muslim Jewish Solidarity committees


“We have decided to encourage participants in the Season of Twinning to hold events emphasizing Muslim-Jewish solidarity so as to directly combat the false narrative that Muslims and Jews are doomed to be adversaries,” said FFEU President Rabbi Marc Schneier. “The best response to acts of hatred and terrorist violence calculated to drive our two communities apart is to hold public manifestations of the joint commitment of Muslims and Jews to stand together and support each other, as we saw by the FFEU initiated Muslim-Jewish delegation in the Paris Unity march and the Rings Around Synagogues in Copenhagen and Oslo. Indeed, the fates of our two communities are inextricably linked, and it is crucially important that we publicly express that truth as vividly and emphatically as possible.”


Spread Hummus, Not Hate is modeled after a program of the same name held last fall in Washington by the FFEU-affiliated Greater Washington Muslim-Jewish Forum in which 20 Muslim and Jewish activists rode a minibus together to a series of public appearances across Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia to express their friendship and solidarity and to share hummus and pita with people of all backgrounds who came out to hear them. Communities that choose to participate in Spread Hummus, Not Hate during the upcoming Season of Twinning, can decide either to travel together by minivan or public transportation to a variety of locations or to hold their events in public settings to which they can march together. It is anticipated that Christian groups in some cities may join with their Jewish and Muslim counterparts in Spread Hummus, Not Hate actions focused on advocating interfaith solidarity and opposing bigotry.


One form of publicly manifesting Muslim-Jewish solidarity is for members of both communities to feed homeless and hungry people together as an expression of the common moral imperative in both Islam and Judaism to help people in need. FFEU will be organizing Muslim-Jewish ‘Feeding the Hungry’ events together with our longtime partner organization, Muslims Against Hunger.


People wishing to take part in Ring Around the Synagogue and Mosque are encouraged to emulate the actions of the inspiring activists in Oslo and Copenhagen, and to offer symbolic protection to a mosque in their community as well as to a synagogue.


As in past years, twinned mosques and synagogues and Muslim and Jewish organizations that take part in the Season of Twinning, are free to choose for themselves the program they wish to hold, which may be a festive, educational or social service event. While many will hold Spread Hummus Not Hate or Ring Around the Mosque/Synagogue events, others may decide to hold other kinds of activities. FFEU will assist organizers with technical needs for your Twinning events and will use its Facebook and social media platforms, as well as print and electronic media outlets to get out the word about Season of Twinning events around the world and to inform participants in the Season of Twinning as to what is taking place in other cities and countries. So please join the Movement in and fill out the FFEU 2015 coordinator form so that we at FFEU can assist you best!


Arif Huskic of Common World Alliance, Shahid Akhtar of Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims, Walter Ruby

On Sunday 26 over 30 Muslims and Jews from around Greater Detroit held the inaugural meeting of the Greater Detroit Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee at the Al-Ameer Restaurant in Dearborn Heights. The mood of the participants was enthusiastic as they discussed the possibility of leaders of two communities that have had relatively little contact in recent years, rolling up their sleeves and working together for the good of all Detroiters.
FFEU Muslim Jewish Program Director Walter Ruby opened the meeting, by describing the evolution of FFEU-initiated Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committees in metropolitan areas across North America with a common agenda of Muslims and Jews standing up for each other; Educating ourselves about each other and holding festive and social service events, but then explained that Detroit will have a special mission; for Muslims and Jews to work together for the revitalization of a city that both love deeply. According to Ruby, “Here is a great city that has gone through 50 years of very hard times and is now struggling to get on its feet and here are two large and influential communities with considerable economic and political clout. Just think what we can accomplish if we join forces and work together for the good of the city! And what an amazing, inspiring symbol that would be to Jews and Muslims everywhere.”
Also speaking about the enormous potential of what the Detroit Muslim and Jewish communities can achieve by working together were the three principle Detroit-based organizers of the event; Rabbi Dorit Edut, a self-styled ‘Rabbi Without Borders committed to the revival of downtown Detroit, who has organized several Weekend of Twinning social service events in the city; Siham Awada Jaafar, a professional in community, public and media relations who organizes annual conferences on Commitment, Engagement and Empowerment Through Diversity, and Jeremy Salinger, a progressive Jewish community activist, regional board member of Ameinu and Innovation Program Manager at General Motors R&D.
Shahid Akhtar, co-founder of the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims in Toronto, spoke about the work of his organization; the oldest Muslim-Jewish body in the world and model for the Solidarity Committees FFEU has helped to birth in Los Angeles, Washington, New York, New Jersey, Denver and Detroit.
Among the prominent members of the Detroit Muslim and Jewish communities taking part in the inaugural meeting of the GDMJSC were Robert Cohen, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Arif Huskic, leader of the Detroit Bosnian community and the Common Word Alliance, attorney Tareq Baydoun, Soumaya Ahmed and Amina Iqbati of the Michigan Muslim Council, Samantha Woll of the Downtown Synagogue, Nancy Titus and Gigi Salki of Zaman International, Rabbi Robert Gamer of Congregation Beth Shalom and Imam Mohammad Mardini of the American Muslim Center.
Participants in the event decided to kick off GDMJSC’s program of social service work on behalf of Detroiters in need by joining with Zeman International in its annual Ramadan Fight Against Hunger. The group also voted to commence work on a project focusing Educating High School students on Diversity, Etiquette and Dialogue Techniques. The GDMJSC also plans to facilitate a Literacy and Poetry Project for Young People and will focus on ongoing social service initiatives such as feeding the hungry, neighborhood cleanups and providing transportation support for people without cars or access to public transportation.


The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding salutes members of the Danish Muslim community, together with allies and friends who will participate tomorrow in a “Ring of Peace’ around the Copenhagen Synagogue.
According to the Facebook page of the organizers, 674 people of all faiths and backgrounds have confirmed that they will be joining hands and ringing the synagogue in love and solidarity and 269 others have indicated they may attend as well. The total attendance is likely to match the 1000 Muslims and friends who turned out in Oslo, Norway one month ago with the first such Ring Around the Synagogue event, in response to attacks on February 14 and 15 by an Islamist extremist in Copenhagen on a free speech meeting and on the Copenhagen Synagogue, which killed two people, including Dan Uzan, a volunteer guard at the synagogue. Mr. Uzan father is set to attend the Ring of Peace event tomorrow.
According to the initiator of the event, Niddal El-Jabri, the original idea was to hold the Ring of Peace immediately after the shootings in Copenhagen on February 14, but the police denied a permit at the time for security reasons, so the first such event was held in Oslo. More recently, the Copenhagen police agreed to let the Ring of Peace go ahead with the active support of the Danish Jewish community and Chief Rabbi Jair Melchior. “This is a completely grass roots generated idea organized via Facebook,” explained El-Jabri. “I have a very good feeling that so many people-Muslim and non-Muslim have signed up to participate and there has been very little expressed opposition. This is a gesture of solidarity with and support for the Jewish community, which was traumatized by the attack at the synagogue, and a call for the creation of a society where all faiths and ethnicities can live together in peace and harmony. We are also saying that Danish Muslims see ourselves as part of Danish society and reject the path of violence and extremism.
Rabbi Bent Lexner, the former Chief Rabbi of Denmark and a participant in the Gathering of European Muslim and Jewish Leaders, an affiliate of FFEU, remarked, “I find this gesture incredibly uplifting. It is wonderful that many Danish Muslims are stepping forward, reaching out a hand of friendship to the Jewish community and saying, ‘We refuse to be defined by a terrible act of violent extremism.”

7th Annual Weekend of Twinning- Jewish-Muslim Twinning proliferate in the Muslim World for the FIRST Time

Jewish-Muslim Twinning proliferate in the Muslim World for the FIRST Time

Events in Indonesia, Singapore, Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria

7th Annual Weekend of Twinning features hundreds of programs around the globe

 In a year during which conflict in the Middle East has cast doubt on co-existence efforts, thousands of Muslims and Jews came together in over 200 events spanning over 30 countries during the 7th Annual Weekend of Twinning to make the point: ‘We refuse to be enemies. We will join together to build ties of communication and cooperation for the good of both our communities and the diverse societies around the world in which we live side by side.’

The Weekend of Twinning is an initiative spearheaded every November and December by the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) based on the concept of synagogues, mosques and Muslim and Jewish student, women’s and young leadership groups in countries around the world forming partnerships and holding joint programs with the goal of building ties of communication, reconciliation and cooperation between Muslims and Jews.The official Weekend of Twinning is November 14-16, but Muslim-Jewish programming bringing together thousands of Muslims and Jews around the world kicked off on November 2 with a groundbreaking Muslim-Jewish women’s conference in Philadelphia and will continue until December 19, with upcoming events in Tunis, Abuja, Nigeria, Chicago, Paris and Bronx, NY.

This year’s Weekend of Twinning broke geographical records, with a greater range of twinning events particularly in the Muslim world. To visualize this range, check out our Twinning map and click on different locations for pictures and event descriptions.

Among the most notable twinning events this year were a series of appearances by FFEU President Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali, a New York-based imam, in JakartaJogjakarta and Bali, Indonesia before government leadersuniversity students and members of a major national Muslim movement to discuss their book Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation about the Issues that Divide and Unite Jews and Muslims, which was recently translated into the Indonesian language. After a meeting with Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalia, Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali traveled to nearby Singapore for a Muslim-Jewish event.
FFEU Media Director Tamar Schneck and European Coordinator Samia Hathroubi were among the featured speakers at a Jewish-Muslim-Christian women’s conference in Rabat, Morocco under the patronage of King Mohammed II from November 11-13 entitled “Women at the Heart of Monotheism”.
On December 5-6, FFEU will co-sponsor the first ever Weekend of Twinning in Nigeria together with the Chief Rabbi of Nigeria Israel Uzan and Tony Araoye, a Nigerian-Canadian, who serves as President of HD Public Relations Canada. At this unprecedented event in a country that has been torn apart in recent months by violence between Christians and Muslims, Rabbi Uzan will bring together prominent Nigerian Christian and Muslim leaders like Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, Pastor Sam Otenaike, and Dr. Abdul Isiaq to call upon Nigerians and all Africans, regardless of their faith tradition, to embrace a new culture in which people shift from ethnic and religious strife ‘to a new mindset of mutual respect and co-operation of its diverse community’.
On Sunday December 7, FFEU will co-sponsor together with the Tunisian Association for the Protection of Minority Rights and the Embassy of France, a Muslim-Jewish event, featuring film director Karim Miske screening his award winning documentary, Jews and Muslims, So Far Apart, So Close Together. FFEU Muslim-Jewish Program Director Walter Ruby will speak at the event, stressing the importance of Tunisia as a democratic Islamic country with a Jewish minority, where the two communities can and must forge strong ties.
In Paris on Sunday December 14, FFEU Executive Director Will Eastman and Suhail Khan, White House Liaison to South Asian and Muslim communities during the George W. Bush Administration. will take part in a panel discussion highlighting the ongoing efforts of the FFEU affiliated Gathering of European Muslim and Jewish Leaders to create a Europe-wide network of Muslims and Jews committed to standing together against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and educating our two communities about each other. The event is co-sponsored by FFEU and the U.S. Embassy.

According to FFEU President Rabbi Marc Schneier; “We are profoundly heartened that even as the grim headlines in recent months have created a picture of endemic conflict between our two faith communities, the Weekend of Twinning has shown that more and more Muslims and Jews around the world are reaching out to each other.

Russell Simmons, FFEU Chairman, commented, “I am so proud of the inspiring and critically important work FFEU is doing to buttress Muslim-Jewish relations. Despite difficulties in the Middle East, we are moving together with friends and collaborators around the world to build a global movement of Muslims and Jews.”

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Muslims and Jews: “Enemies, or Allies in the Struggle Against Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism?”

Shahid Akhtar, co-founder and co-chair of Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims (CAJM) and Walter Ruby, FFEU Muslim-Jewish Program Director, held an informative and sometimes provocative dialogue on Sunday June 15 at the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga, Ontario before an enthusiastic audience of about 75 Muslims and Jews from throughout Greater Toronto.

ImageThe theme of the discussion was Muslims and Jews: “Enemies, or Allies in the Struggle Against Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism?”  The dialogue was moderated by Imam Hamid Slimi of the Sayeda Khadija Center. Slimi, former president of the Canadian Council of Imams, is Founder and Director of the Faith of Life Network, which promotes the positive values of Islam for Muslims and non-Muslims alike in Canada and around the world.

During the course of the 90 minute conversation, Ruby and Akhtar spoke about the important progress they have seen in Muslim-Jewish relations in the years since Akhtar co-founded CAJM in 1996–making it the longest operating Muslim-Jewish organization in the world–and since FFEU began working to strengthen global Muslim-Jewish relations in 2007.  Since then, both pointed out, there has been important forward movement both in the Toronto area, where CAMJ has co-sponsored state of the art Weekend of Twinning events since 2008, and worldwide, where twinning events have brought together thousands of Muslims and Jews in more than 30 countries around the world.   

Yet both Akhtar and Ruby said that ongoing efforts to strengthen Muslim-Jewish relations have faced new and difficult challenges in recent months during which  there has been a palpable pulling apart among some Muslims and Jews in North American and Europe due to a deterioration of the Middle East peace process and violent acts, like the recent attack on the Holocaust Museum in Brussels by a French Islamist extremists that left three dead. Ruby and Akhtar said that members of the two faith communities should agree to disagree respectfully on aspects of the Middle East conflict and speak out forcefully against violence and terrorism, while stepping up efforts to build coalitions like recently created and FFEU-inspired Muslim-Jewish solidarity committees in Los Angeles, Washington, New Jersey, and New York. Following in the footsteps of CAJM, these committees are focused on bringing Muslims and Jews together to fight against  Islamophobia and anti-Semitism; educate the two communities about each other to as to discredit misinformation and half-truths that create roadblocks to understanding,  and organizing joint festive, educational and social service events that give Muslim and Jewish participants to strengthen inter-personal ties.Image

According to Akhtar, “Moments like the present, when difficult issues come up between our communities, are exactly the times we need most to be communicating with each other…We must raise our voices together when either community is discriminated against.” Ruby remarked, “There is a beautiful energy at this event, with Muslims and Jews really engaging and learning from each other.  I just spoke with a Muslim woman who was meeting Jews tonight for the first time in her life. Once you encounter people face to face, you can never again see them as part of a sinister ‘Other’.

Rabia Khedr, a hijab-clad blind woman who is a candidate for Mississauga City Council remarked, “It is wonderful to be among Muslims and Jews coming together to listen to and take part in a heartfelt dialogue like this one.  This event leaves me feeling more optimistic about our ability to strengthen Muslim Jewish relations.”