New York Muslim and Jewish Young Professionals Event—Shabbat Shabang: Muslim-Jewish Shabbat Dinner and Dialogue.

 

submitted by Walter Ruby, Muslim-Jewish Relations Program Officer, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding,  photos by Audrey David

“What does being Jewish/Muslim mean to me?” “How do my faith and identity inform my personal values and how I function in the world?

These were the central questions that a roomful of Jewish and Muslim young professionals publicly grappled with—and posed to each other—during a scintillating dialogue on identity following a Shabbat dinner at the JCC in Manhattan on the evening of Friday, November 18.

After hearing greeting from Rabbi Carol Levithan  and Audrey Davis of the JCC in Manhattan, which had hosted Muslim and Jewish Weekend of Twinning events for the last three years, about 50 young professionals from organizations like the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA Society), Muslim Bar Association of New York, Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals (CAMP), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and a coterie of  young leaders from the JCC, including members of Generation R, watched a a series of film clips produced by Unity Productions, in which Jewish and Muslim community heroes discussed their religious identities and how living their faith has impelled many of them to lives of service to people in need.

Among those appearing on the film clips were Rabbi Shmuely Yankelowitz, the founder of Uri L’Tzedek, who led a protest at a kosher chicken-packing plant in Iowa that exploited Latino immigrants; Najah Bazzi, a Muslim community activist and nurse in Dearborn, MI, who works with the terminally ill; Ari Teman, a stand-up comedian who created JCorps, a network of young Jews who volunteer in soup kitchens and homeless shelters; Kevin James, a Muslim New York City firefighter who answered the call on 9-11; and Daisy Khan, the high profile director of the ASMA Society, who also attended the twinning event at the JCC and spoke of how her faith leads her to reach out to non-Muslims concerning her belief that Islam is a religion of peace and inclusivity.

In a wide-ranging discussion following the viewing of the video clips that was moderated by Walter Ruby, Muslim-Jewish Relations Officer at the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, and Sami Elmansoury, a Muslim community activist who serve as an advisor on immigration to Manhattan Boro President Scott Stringer, participants in the twinning event addressed the central issues raised in the film clips, and remarking that viewing the film had enlightened them as to the shared core beliefs and values in Islam and Judaism concerning the moral imperative of every Jew and Muslim to repair the world and succor those in need (tikkun olam and islah). Many said they had not been aware until viewing the film that the injunction, ‘If you save one life, it is as if you saved the whole world’, appears in both the Talmud and the Quran.  Many said they had also been unaware that there were leaders in the other community willing to confront injustice or intolerance in their own communities, and that learning that had positively impacted their perception of the other faith.

When several of the participants in the twinning event remarked that they would love to volunteer together with members of the other faith to help people in need, they learned that a venue for doing so already exists. Two participants in the discussion; Uzma Kaleem and Kyla Pollack, announced that they are co-leaders of the recently formed Jewish-Muslim Volunteer Alliance (JMVA), whose members have volunteered together at Habitat for Humanity and feeding the homeless. According to Pollack, “Doing service projects together positively impacts the larger community and changes all of us for the better.”

Amen. There could be no better summation of the spirit of the Weekend of Twinning than that.

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Muslim-Jewish Encounters in Italy during the Twinning season

Submitted by Imam Yahya Pallavicini, imam and vice president of the Islamic Religious Community of Italy (COREIS)

8 October, Brescia. Rav Borella and Shaykh  Abdal-Wahid Pallavicini share a public moment reading from Jewish  and Muslim traditional masters and answering to questions from the  audience.

27 October, Assisi. Pope Benedict XVI invited imam Yahya Pallavicini to attend the 25th anniversary of the Interreligious Meeting   and shares this event with Rav David Rosen.

30 October, Vicenza. COREIS hosts a meeting with  Rav Piattelli and Roberto Israel on Freedom of Religions with imam Isa Abd   al-Haqq Benassi.

9 November, Rome. Israel Ambassador to the Holy  See, Mordechay Lewy, invites imam Yahya Pallavicini to meet the Interfaith Council from Israel next to Rav Riccardo Disegni in the Synagogue of Rome. Imam Yahya Pallavicini gives a presentation of the FFEU twinning initiative and of the encounters COREIS has organised with the Jewish  youth in Italy and the award received from the Italian Head of State for these   activities.

Forecoming, 14-15 December, Rome. International   seminar on Sacred Space and Sharing Spaces featuring  Rav Jack Bemporad and Imam Yahya Pallavicini.

Muslim-Jewish Twinning in Beaumont, Texas

(submitted by Rabbi Joshua Taub, spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel, Beaumont)

The Shabbat of Twinning event at Temple Emanuel in Beaumont Texas was a great success. Our guest, Imam Fahmee Al-Uqdah shared a warm and wonderful message of shared heritage and narrative between the Jewish and Muslim communities. He called for all of our continued efforts to find ways to remove the barriers of ignorance and misconception on both sides and bring the Jewish and Muslim communities in Southeast Texas together. He and I are both working to bring about an invitation to me to attend/speak at a local Muslim gathering. For such a thing to happen would be a big deal down here.

 

We look forward to participating the Twinning program next year, and continuing to build bridges in the mean time.

 

MUSLIM-JEWISH ENCOUNTER IN CRIMEA

Submitted by Anatoly Gendin, coordinator of the Progressive Jewish Communities of Crimea

There was a wonderful Jewish-Muslim meeting on November 20 at the Nir Tamid Synagogue in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, as part of the Crimean observance of the Weekend of Twinning. Members of the youth clubs of the Crimean Tatars and Jewish communities took part in the meeting, as did representatives of the Council of Elders of the Spiritual Center of the Muslims in Crimea and representatives of a broad range of Jewish organizations including the Simferopol Jewish community, the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Crimea and the Progressive Jewish Communities of Crimea. Anatoly Gendin, coordinator of the Progressive Jewish Communities of Crimea, speaking on behalf of Nir Tamid Synagogue, spoke about the grim realities of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Crimea, and expressed the hope that the encounter would be the beginning of an ongoing strengthening of Muslim- Jewish relations in the Crimean Peninsula, a beautiful but troubled autonomous region of Ukraine where ethnic Russian neo-nationalists have advocated reunion with Russia. Gendin argued that the Muslim and Jewish communities have more in common than they have differences, and said that the two communities should collaborate on joint projects for the betterment of both. Prof. Aydar Bulatov, a top Crimean Tatar leaders who serves as chairman of the Center for Islamic Studies in Simferopol, and who took part in the Kiev conference on Muslim-Jewish relations in May, 2011, co-sponsored by the Ukrainian Jewish Congress and Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, showed an exhibition of photographs of cemetery desecrations and other acts anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Crimea; graphic evidence that both communities are threatened by xenophobes and neo-nationalists in the region. The meeting concluded with a wide-ranging frank and open discussion during which many participants agreed that more such meetings are needed if the two communities are to better understand and provide support to each other. There were some skeptics who questioned the usefulness of such efforts, demanding to see instant proof that such Muslim-Jewish encounters are worth the trouble. However, the majority argued that a long term ongoing dialogue will be needed to build a functional alliance. Many expressed satisfaction that the youth of both communities were represented at the meeting and are now engaged in the process of dialogue; noting that they will be the ones who will ultimately reap the seeds of Muslim-Jewish communication and cooperation now being planted.

Long Island Tikkun Olam-Islah Twinning event

(submitted by Walter Ruby, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding)

Three Jewish and three Muslim spiritual leaders from round Long Island came together at the Islamic Society of Long Island in Westbury on November 13 to talk about the impact of tikkun olam and islah—the Judaic and Islamic moral injunction to repair the world and help those in society most in need—in their own lives and their pastoral work.

Participants in the panel discussion, Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum,  Senor Rabbi, Temple Israel of Lawrence, Dr. Abdul Jabbar, Director, Masjid Darul Quran, Bayshore, Rabbi Michael White, Senior Rabbi, Temple Sinai, Roslyn Heights, Imam Ahmed Kamal, Long Island Muslim Center, East Meadow, Rabbi Arthur Schwartz, Senior Rabbi Kehillath Shalom,  Cold Spring Harbor, and Sister Sanaa Nadim, Chaplain, SUNY-Stony Brook, answered in personal and often moving terms to questions from Habeeb Ahmed of the Islamic Center of Long Island and Walter Ruby of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and from audience members. Each stressed the central role that nurturing tikkun olam and islah has played in their lives and pastoral work, with Rabbi Schwartz affirming the need for people of faith to “bring out a spirit of divine light in each other” and with Imam Kamal affirming; “Doing righteous work—tikkun olam and islah–is a fundamental commandment for all of us.”

Rabbi White characterized what he called “the sacred work of tikkun olam as “identifying who is in pain and, in a cruel world, deciding what can I do to bring them health and happiness,” while Sister Nadim said that the discussion had enlightened all concerned as to how much the two faiths have in common “in upholding both spiritual enlightenment and social justice.”

After the presentations, panelists and members of the audience entered into an open-ended discussion as to which social issues the Muslim and Jewish communities might engage together at a time of great economic distress on Long Island; with several people urging that the two communities consider responding together to injustices being endured by illegal immigrants on the Island. There appeared to general agreement that a two step process is needed; raising consciousness in the Muslim and Jewish communities as to how similar are the moral injunctions in both faiths to help those in need, and then joining together in social action to reduce the level of human misery that exists in the larger community that Jews and Muslims cohabit.

London Women’s Twinning event

(submitted by Rabbi Jackie Tabickof North West Surrey Synagogue and Irit Burkeman, MA. head of Student Services at Leo Baeck College)

Thanks to the help of the Al-Nisa society, the Leo Baeck College and the hospitality provided by North West Surrey Synagogue in Weybridge, a group of Muslim and Jewish women met together for tea and discussion as part of Mitzvah Day, Interfaith Week and the world wide Muslim-Jewish twinning programme spearheaded by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.. Participants were asked to bring a text from their own tradition of women that had inspired them. The range was enormous, from Deborah, the prophetess to Aisha, one of the wives of the Prophet, peace be upon him.