By: Walter Ruby, FFEU Muslim-Jewish Programs Director
FFEU-INITIATED MUSLIM-JEWISH SOLIDARITY COMMITTEES BEGIN WORK IN CITIES ACROSS NORTH AMERICA
In January 2014, FFEU opened a new chapter in its quest to create closer ties between Muslims and Jews in cities and metropolitan areas across North America with the creation of first Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committees in Greater Washington D.C., Greater Los Angeles, New Jersey and Queens, N.Y. The Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims (CAJM), a Toronto-based body that has existed since 1996 and has longstanding ties with FFEU, will serve the function of a Solidarity Committee, bringing together Jews and Muslims in Toronto and other parts of Canada. It is anticipated that solidarity committees will soon be created in other cities where FFEU has worked successfully with local Muslim and Jewish communities to build ties of communication, reconciliation and cooperation over the past six years.
The purpose of the Solidarity Committees is to build on the inspiring success of the Weekend of Twinning in order to strengthen Muslim-Jewish communication in communities across North America on a year-round basis. The Solidarity Committees will serve as umbrella bodies for Muslim-Jewish relations in their metropolitan areas, with the task of coordinating and publicizing the work of local Muslim-Jewish groups, which until now have often been unaware of the work being done by others in their own areas.
Several of the solidarity committees are organizing sub-committees focused on specific tasks; including Standing Up for Each Other (Muslims and Jews taking joint public stands against hate crimes, incitement or discrimination directed at either community); Learning About Each Other so as to counteract Islamophobia and anti-Semitism within our respective communities, and Organizing and Publicizing Cultural, Festive and Social Service Events in order to deepen communal ties and allow individual Jews and Muslims to connect on a personal level.
There has already been heartening forward motion by several of the committees. Three members of the Greater Washington Muslim-Jewish Forum (GWMJF) , Symi Rom-Rymer, Dr. Maqsood Chaudhry and Parvez Khan, took part in the recent meeting of a Muslim-Jewish delegation with the Danish Ambassador to the U.S. spearheaded by FFEU in order to protest Denmark’s recent adoption of a law outlawing kosher and halal slaughtering. Rom-Rymer and her co-chair of the GWMJF Standing Up for the Other Committee, Suhail Khan, recently contacted a local cable television station, DCTV to express concern about the recent airing of an virulently anti-Jewish documentary entitled “Understanding Anti-Semitism” by Holocaust denier Christopher Bollyn. Plans are underway for an event focused on bringing together rabbis and imams from around the Washington metropolitan area to get them more involved in Muslim-Jewish activities.
The GWMJF, together with the Jewish-Islamic Dialogue Society (JIDS) and JAM-DC are sponsoring a breakfast event on Sunday May 18 for imams, rabbis and mosque and synagogue administrators to encourage more houses of worship throughout the Greater Washington area to get more involved in promoting the building of Muslim-Jewish relations. For more details on this event, please contact Walter Ruby at firstname.lastname@example.org
The New Jersey Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee (NJMJSC) has focused attention on a case involving one of its members, the Islamic Center of Morris County (ICMC) in Rockaway, NJ, which has been on the receiving end of seemingly discriminatory rules by local zoning officials forbidding the teaching of Arabic and bringing catered food into the mosque. The At NJMJSC’s second meeting at Masjid-e-Ali in Somerset, NJ, special guest New Jersey Assistant Attorney General Paul Salvatoriello said his office is fully committed to ensuring that mosques or synagogues are able to exercise their full rights to freedom of religion, members of the Solidarity Committee attended a meeting of the Borough of Rockaway Land Use Board and addressed the board about the importance of ensuring that the mosque is accorded the same rights given to local synagogues and churches. At the end of the meeting the Board appeared to reverse previous positions and to acknowledge that there is no just cause to deny personnel at ICMC the right to teach Arabic, knowledge of which is necessary for the practice of Islam, or to prevent the use of chafing dishes or a coffee machine.
At the third meeting of the NJMJSC, Dr. Ali Chaudry, founder and president of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge and Rabbi Deb Smith, spiritual leader of the Or Ha Lev Jewish Renewal Community led a fascinating discussion on “Zakat and Tzedakah: Similarities and Differences”, the first of an ongoing series of lectures on Islam and Judaism the two will be leading during subsequent NJMJSC meetings so as to promote greater understanding of the Other among members of our two communities.
In Los Angeles, members of the SoCal Muslim-Jewish Forum (SCMJF) have set a goal of developing joint programs across the sprawling metropolitan area focused on strengthening Muslim-Jewish ties and working together to serve the larger community. There will be an effort to greatly increase the number of LA twinning events during the upcoming Weekend of Twinning. It is anticipated that Claremont-Lincoln University, an ecumenical and interreligious university with affiliated Muslim and Jewish seminaries (Banyan-Claremont and Jewish Institute of Religion) will sponsor together with SCMJF a conference/celebration in the fall highlighting the deepening of Muslim-Jewish relations in LA. FFEU Chairman Russell Simmons will speak at Claremont-Lincoln graduation ceremonies on May 20.
The Queens Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Forum (QMJIF), initiated by the Central Queens Y and Jamaica Muslim Center, in addition to FFEU, held a meeting on March 27 at Central Queens Y at which participants from mosques, synagogues and Jewish and Muslim organizations across the Boro vowed to stand up for the Other, to take part in each other’s festive events and to work together for the betterment of the larger Queens community by undertaking community service projects devoted to beatifying the urban environment. After the shooting at a Jewish community center near Kansas City that left three dead by a Ku Klux Klan leader, the QMJIF issued a statement condemning the anti-Semitic attack as well as a recent incident on a public bus in Queens in which a man spat on and shouted insults at a Muslim girl.
The Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims convened a meeting of Jewish and Muslims leaders from across Greater Toronto on March 30 at the home of CAJM xx Dr. Karen Mock, at which they announced plans for a full range of Muslim-Jewish activities in Greater Toronto for the remainder of 2014, including a fund-raising event for CAJM to be held on June 17.
According to FFEU President Rabbi Marc Schneier; “We are gratified that the Solidarity committees are off to such a strong start. We believe these committees will help propel Muslim-Jewish relations to the next level in cities across North America.”