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.

Chelsea Garbell: The Bridge Builder

 by Gentry BrownPublished December 15, 2011

It’s one thing to build a bridge. It’s another to make the journey across it. Chelsea Garbell does both.

 

Read this article in WSN Chrome

 

As president of Bridges, a Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue club, the Steinhardt junior’s dedication to fostering respectful conversation and understanding between the two religions goes far beyond the typical call of duty.

Following her interview with WSN, Garbell jetted off to Fast-A-Thon — an event held by NYU’s Islamic Center. She was attending not out of presidential obligation to Bridges but in genuine support of friends.

“This Fast-A-Thon matters to the friends I’ve made in the Muslim community, so it matters to me too,” she said. “It’s corny, but we really have built a lot of bridges.”

In addition to fostering community between the two groups, Garbell dedicates her time to Bridges planning panels and events, including the popular Jum’ah/Shabat Fridays. Jewish students attend the Jum’ah prayer at the Islamic Center with Muslim students, and then both communities head to Friday night Jewish services. Afterwards students get together for dinner or activities.

Garbell’s conciliatory influence has permeated throughout the NYU Bridges community to the national stage. Garbell was NYU’s nominee for the Truman Scholarship, and she has also acted to make her cause global. This summer, she traveled to Ghana with the American Jewish World Service to build a wall encircling a school for former child slaves.

Within NYU, Bridges has become so popular that the university has planned an Alternative Breaks trip to Nashville, Tenn. As part of the trip, students from the Jewish and Muslim communities will volunteer to help rebuild the region, which was damaged by heavy flooding earlier in the year. Students will also engage with the local religious communities.

Garbell and the three other board members planned the trip in conjunction with the Jewish Disaster Response Corps run by the Bronfman Center. She noted that so much interest has been generated that she still has freshmen asking if they can join.

Nationally, Bridges has inspired 16 other universities to participate in the fourth-annual weekend of “Twinning of Mosques and Synagogues,” for which Garbell helped coordinate involvement. The club is also one of 250 nominees for the president’s Interfaith Community Service Challenge.

“I love that Bridges has taken a huge leap of expansion,” she said. “One of the biggest ways to fix anything is to develop understanding and break down the barriers of ‘us versus them’ and recognize what we have to share and also to respect the differences we have.”

The drive to build these bridges comes from Garbell’s religious observance and upbringing, which instilled a desire to give back to the community that has always fostered her.

“The Jewish community here has always been the number one driving force in my life,” she said. “It’s why I love being at NYU so much, more than anything else. I try to give back in any way that I can.”

Coordinating events for Bridges has allowed Garbell to explore her other interests, like women’s reproductive rights, grassroots campaigning, global public health and, of course, interfaith and religious tolerance.

With several successful discussion panels focusing on issues from food and fashion to gender and sexuality, Garbell and the Bridges board are taking the next step, a controversial one: They are planning an invite-only, sit-down conversation next semester targeted specifically for political discourse.

“It will be a time and space for people to actually talk about the difficult, uncomfortable issues in a context, with people that they have gotten to know and respect,” she said. “That’s really the whole point of Bridges … Once you have a relationship with somebody you can still have an argument and disagree and still walk away friends.”

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Dec. 15 print edition. Gentry Brown is a deputy university editor. Email her at gbrown@nyunews.com

Bridging Religious Divides

Bridging Religious Divides

 

By Dow MarmurColumnist

Ominous signs that the promising Arab Spring may be turning into a harsh Arab Winter are reflected in the toxic relations between Muslims and Jews in the Middle East and around the world.

People who live in the diaspora are often prone to import the radicalism of the countries in which they’ve their roots. Therefore, continued tensions between Jews and Muslims are bound to affect Canada, too. Reports of unrest on university campuses and elsewhere are troubling indicators.

That’s a compelling reason to welcome with enthusiasm and hope the initiative of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU). In cooperation with Muslim and Jewish representative bodies in different parts of the world, the foundation has this year again initiated interfaith twinning events that involved thousands of members of both faith communities.

Participants seem to have managed to avoid pious and vacuous declarations by engaging in genuine face-to-face encounters that brought together people from very different backgrounds, not just to be nice to each other but to do hands-on work together. Thus, for example, in Toronto as in other cities in North America, Muslims and Jews organized projects to feed the hungry and the homeless in their locality.

The initiatives of the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims deserve special attention and support. Joint projects make it possible for participants to get to know each other. This in turn helps them to free themselves from prejudices and stereotypes fostered by unscrupulous propagandists with agendas of their own.

The president of FFEU is quoted as saying that the result of this year’s encounters “reinforces our efforts to build a global movement of Muslims and Jews committed to communication, reconciliation, cooperation and understanding.”

And the organization’s chairman said: “There was a moment in time when some thought that bringing together imams and rabbis wouldn’t be productive. But I’ve had some of the greatest and most rewarding experiences of my life promoting dialogue. The fact that year after year more Muslims and Jews are joining the conversation speaks volumes.”

My own experience of interfaith work, including Muslim-Jewish dialogue, bears this out. I’ve learned that the more we come to appreciate the religious commitment of the other, the more we deepen our own. But to get there safely we must avoid the traps of engaging in empty public relations gestures and distance ourselves from the duplicity of those who want to appear conciliatory to the world while promoting hatred in their own communities.

To help make sure that leaders live up to their public statements, Christian counterparts should be involved in the encounters. Christian anti-Semitism is almost as old as Christendom. Through the ages it has often been much more virulent than its Muslim equivalent. Yet things are very different now. Today, most Christian denominations have learned to reach out to and appreciate Jews without seeking to subdue or convert them. The resulting growing mutual trust, reflected in fruitful cooperation, has greatly enhanced the standing of both Judaism and Christianity.

In order to preserve and develop its promising achievements, Muslim-Jewish dialogue needs the participation of Christians to act as witnesses and catalysts to help separate the political situation in the Middle East from the challenge of living in peace with each other here. The pioneering work of the Three Faiths Forum in the U.K. can serve as a helpful model.

Instead of vainly seeking to fight proxy wars between Palestinians and Israelis in the Canadian media and universities, we must discipline ourselves to live up to the teachings of our respective traditions by being good neighbours, thus serving faithfully both God and the country in which we live.

Dow Marmur is rabbi emeritus at Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple. His column appears every other week.

Imam Furqan and Amjad Taufique address 1,200 people on community service

December 1st, 2011

Atlanta Muslim

Relevant Local News

Imam Furqan and Amjad Taufique address 1,200 people on community service

by Bassem Fakhoury • Nov. 19, 2011        0 comments ☺

Ecumenical-Thanksgiving-Service

Bassem F.
On Thursday evening, Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta hosted a multi-faith Thanksgiving service. Over 1,200 people attended including many Muslims representing The Islamic Speakers Bureau, Roswell Community Masjid, Masjid Al-Hedaya and Masjid Al-Mu’minun.

This was the 7th year that this service was held, but the first time Hounada and I attended. We were quite impressed by the organization, the pageantry and the sense of greater community throughout the evening. The opening ceremonies consisted of Boy and Girl scouts from the various faiths escorting the flag. Sister Huda Tauha from RCM proudly represented her troop in this short demonstration of patriotism, a few welcoming notes, a very emotional rendition of the Athan by Brother Yusof Khalousi. It was followed by a few words of prayers by youth representing the various participating communities. The main event consisted of speakers from different faiths sharing their thoughts about the importance of being thankful from the own faith perspective.

Imam Furqan (from Masjid Al-Mu’minun) and Amjad Taufique (Masjid Al-Hedaya) did an excellent job conveying the importance of thanks and of community service from the Islamic point of view. The other speakers represented The Unitarian Universalists, The Bahai, The Hindu, The presbyterian and the Church of Christ beliefs. The speeches were interspersed with choir singing and bell ringing performances. Funds were also collected to purchase turkeys for needy families.

The Emcees were Monsignor Patrick Bishop, Pastor of Transfiguration Catholic Church, and Rabbi Steven Lebow of Temple Kol Emeth. They are a true comedic duo and kept making fun of themselves and each other. The 90-minute service flew by very quickly and was followed by cookies and refreshments. It was during this later period, when people are mingling and sharing their thoughts, that the positive side of individuals shine.

A couple of ladies came up to Hounada at the ISB table and spoke about their found memories of living in the Arab world and how the Athan took them back to that happy period in their lives. Several attendees left their thoughts on a wall of paper and all the comments were along the lines of how wonderful the event was and how much better the world would be if more people came together like this.

Among graves, Dutch teens build bridges between communities

by: Jan Hennop Updated: 26/Nov/2011 10:42
The restoration of the old Jewish cemetery of ‘Zeeburg’ in Amsterdam – dating back to 1714- by volunteers. The restoration by a Jewish foundation and youngsters involved in restoring the cemetery are more than just cleaning up: drawn from the city’s Jewish and Moroccan Muslim residents, they are building bridges between two divided communities.
Photo: Anoek de Groot in Amsterdam, AFP Copyright 2011
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AMSTERDAM (AFP)—On a chilly Sunday morning, a group of Dutch teenagers gather in an overgrown patch of land in east Amsterdam to work on  unique project: cleaning up a 300-year-old graveyard.   

But the volunteers involved in restoring the Zeeburg Jewish cemetery are more than just beautifying: drawn from the city’s Jewish and Moroccan Muslim residents, they are building bridges between two divided communities.

“Come on guys, lets get going!” volunteer Alfie de Vries, 13, urges his friends Jonas Poolman and Mx Zegerius as they grab garden rakes and a spade to join some 30 other teenagers hacking away in a nearby clearing.

With help from Ahmed Bularoez, 21, they pull down branches and clean up strands of dead grass to reveal a grey stone slab with an inscription in Hebrew and the Star of David on it.

“Another tombstone,” one teenager excitedly points out as dirt and leaves are wiped away before being carted off in a wheelbarrow. De Vries, Poolman, Zegerius and Bularoez lean on their garden tools, grinning broadly.

De Vries, Poolman and Zegerius are Jewish. Bularoez, the son of Moroccan migrant labourers who came to the Netherlands in the 1970s, is Muslim.

“The idea to get Jewish and Muslim teenagers working side-by-side to clean the old cemetery was sparked last year after we filmed incidents of anti-semitism on a hidden camera and broadcast it,” one of the project’s organisers, Rabbi Lody van de Kamp tells AFP.

Shown on Dutch television, Moroccan youngsters are seen baiting two Jewish teenagers wearing skullcaps, as they walk around a Moroccan neighbourhood in Amsterdam, while in another clip, the boys are flashed a Hitler salute.

The broadcast sent out shockwaves which reverberated all the way to the lower house of the Dutch parliament.

It was mooted as a sign of growing anti-Semitism in the Netherlands and an MP, himself of Moroccan parentage, even suggested police don kippas and walk the streets as “decoy Jews” to catch offenders in the act.

But the images also touched a raw nerve within the Moroccan community, whose members also complain of being singled out.

“You know, when you do something good, you’re called a Dutchman of Moroccan descent, when you do something bad, you’re just a Moroccan,” said Bularoez.

Said Bensellam, a key figure among Amsterdam’s Moroccans, says he decided to contact Van de Kamp shortly after the programme aired — and so the idea of a combined project to clean up the Zeeburg cemetery was born.

“We want to show solidarity with the Jewish community,” he says.

Jewish teenager Jonas Poolman says “together we can achieve a lot. Besides, we really like these guys.”

Around him, teenagers mix and laugh together, all wearing the same blue overalls. The only real difference, some of the youngsters are wearing kippas.

Says Bularoez: “This is a fantastic project with a lot of history here.”

Opened in 1714, the Zeeburg Jewish cemetery is spread over two acres (0.8 hectares) and with thousands of graves, it’s one of Amsterdam’s oldest Jewish graveyards.

It’s also one of the largest in western Europe, according to Van de Kamp.

It was well maintained until 1944, when most of the city’s Jews including its most famous wartime figure, Anne Frank, and her family were carted off to Nazi death camps like Auschwitz, Sobibor and Bergen-Belsen.

“They did not come back so there was no-one to tend to the graves,” says Van de Kamp.

Its existence was rediscovered about two years ago, when police arrested two youngsters playing a paintball game among the gravestones, which borders Zeeburg’s multi-ethnic Indies Neighbourhood.

Now, the plan is to clear a part of the cemetery and restore it to its
former glory. For five Sundays, the teenagers will lead the way.

“In a sense, it’s the dead from the past showing the living of today the way of the future,” says Van de Kamp.

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SERVING UP PEACE: Muslim, Jewish volunteers work as a team to feed hungry, homeless

Somerset – Scott Thompson, at left, places assembled meals into boxes at the end of the meal assembly line in a hallway at the Muslim Foundation, Inc. The Rutgers Shalom/Salaam student organization and other multi-ethnic volunteers join at the Muslim Foundation, Inc. mosque in Somerset to prepare over 500 meals for the homeless on Sunday, November 20, 2011. (AUGUSTO F. MENEZES/Staff photographer) METRO. B69623630Z.1 / A.F. MENEZES/MyCentralJersey/STAFF
Written by
Cheryl Makin | Staff Writer
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FRANKLIN — While peace in the Middle East seems elusive to many, Muslim and Jewish volunteers in Middlesex and Somerset counties joyfully worked together on Sunday to feed the homeless.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, more than 100 members of the Muslims Against Hunger Project, Rutgers Shalom-Salaam and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding gathered at the Muslim Foundation Inc. mosque in Somerset to cook meals from both religions’ cookbooks.

Delicious smells wafting up from the basement kitchen area of the mosque mingled with friendly conversations and laughter. Volunteers of both faiths created more than 400 meals for the homeless at a veterans shelter and in New York City.

In three hours, volunteers cooked meals consisting of tandoori chicken, rice pilaf, chickpea salad, mixed vegetables (corn and string beans), regular salad, buttered bread, kheer (rice pudding) and cholent (a meat and vegetable stew).

After the cooking session, the volunteers — many wearing Jewish kipot skullcaps and Muslim hijab headscarves — broke bread together as they sampled their meals for an interfaith luncheon of their own.

And after members of both religions recited their afternoon prayers, a group of the volunteers headed to deliver the meals to the homeless.

One group delivered the lunches to the homeless at the Basking Ridge VA homeless shelter, while a second group went to New York City.

There, the volunteers were joined by a group of Brooklyn-based Orthodox Jews from Masbia, a nonprofit soup kitchen network and food pantry that operates in Brooklyn and Queens.

The volunteers then delivered between 150 and 200 boxed meals to the homeless in local hangouts.

The idea for the mission was the brainchild of Zamir Hassan, founder and director of the 10-year-old Muslims Against Hunger Project, and Walter Ruby, the Muslim Jewish Relations Program Officer of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a New York-based nonprofit organization.

Rutgers Shalom-Salaam was created in 2010 by Will Eastman, a college senior from Edison, and Bahaa Hashem, an Egyptian native. With the addition of students Jane Vorkuhova and Amjad Saeed, the group was born.

Full Article

Muslim and Jewish students join together to fight hunger

Rutgers groups serve meals to the needy on ‘day of twinning’

Joining efforts at a Somerset mosque to make meals for the hungry and homeless are, from left, Brian Thompson of Highland Park, Alina Razak of Basking Ridge, and Zafar Jamil of Livingston. Photo by Debra Rubin + enlarge image Joining efforts at a Somerset mosque to make meals for the hungry and homeless are, from left, Brian Thompson of Highland Park, Alina Razak of Basking Ridge, and Zafar Jamil of Livingston. Photo by Debra Rubin

+ more images

Meals made by Muslims and Jews earlier that day in New Jersey are handed out on a Manhattan street by volunteers.  Photo courtesy Zamir Hassan Mehmet Kaplan of Muslims Against Hunger and Rutgers Shalom-Salaam board member Jane Vorkunova of East Hanover prepare trays of food for delivery. Photo by Debra Rubin

by Debra Rubin
NJJN Bureau Chief/Middlesex

November 23, 2011

Muslim and Jewish students came together to fight a common enemy that knows no religion or ethnicity.

On Nov. 20, the Rutgers University students joined community members at the Muslim Foundation Inc. Mosque in Somerset to make about 500 meals for the hungry and homeless. The meals were distributed in Newark, Manhattan, and among veterans in Bernards Township later that day.

The event, dubbed People of Abraham United Against Hunger, was one of 125 joint Muslim-Jewish events in 26 countries organized around the fourth annual “weekend of twinning” by the Manhattan-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

The Somerset event’s primary sponsors were the mosque, the Pluckemin-based Muslims Against Hunger, Rutgers Hillel, and Rutgers Shalom-Salaam, a campus Jewish-Muslim coalition.

“These children of Abraham not only share a common faith, but a common fate,” foundation president Rabbi Marc Schneier said in a phone interview. “Our single destiny will strengthen only through concern and compassion for each other.”

After a morning of cooking, volunteers shared a meal at the mosque, where they were joined by its lay and religious leaders as well as children from its religious school.

As the smells of cooking wafted to upper floors, women with hijabs covering their heads chatted with men in yarmulkes. At one table, volunteers prepared Muslim delicacies, like spicy chicken with rice, according to the laws of halal. At another, they served helpings of kosher cholent, the traditional Eastern European Jewish Sabbath dish. Groups stood together chopping tomatoes for salads.

“We are people inspired by our faith, inspired by Abraham, and the name of this event is symbolic of that,” said Will Eastman of Marlboro, president of Shalom-Salaam and program co-coordinator. “Abraham is the common forefather of both Jews and Muslims. We, as his people, are inspired by Abraham’s kindness to strangers. As his descendants, we have come together to do our own acts of kindness in his name.”

Zamir Hassan, founder and president of Muslims Against Hunger and the event’s other coordinator, said, “Hunger has no religion.”

The Bedminster resident founded the organization in 2000 after visiting a Morristown soup kitchen with his son’s school.

“I didn’t realize the extent of poverty there was right in my own backyard,” he said. “We live in the richest state, but 11 percent of all residents are considered hungry. We formed this organization to help people.”

After preparing the meals, volunteers delivered them to residents of transitional housing at the Veterans Administration in Lyons. They continued on to Manhattan, where they were met by volunteers from Masbia, which runs four kosher soup kitchens in New York. On the way back they handed out another 150 meals at Newark Penn Station.

Zafar Jamil of Livingston, an active member of Muslims Against Hunger, said the event “was what we need to do in America to make this a better country.”

“Not only in America, but if everyone around the world would do this, it would give us peace,” he added. “With so many other events going on in our lives we forget these things. I really feel very strongly that this message should resonate throughout the country — that we as human beings should get together and take care of each other.”

Among the participants were three Orthodox rabbis: Akiva Weiss, Jewish learning initiative educator at Rutgers Hillel; Aharon Grossman of Rutgers Jewish Xperience; and Yossi Sirote, executive director of Abraham’s Tent bookstore in Highland Park.

“I think our communities are often very divided politically and we forget how much we have in common on other fronts,” said Weiss, who spoke at the luncheon.

He used a sports analogy to describe the day’s events.

“We have to remember we are on the same team,” he added. “If political discourse is our weakness, it is even more important we play to our strengths in other areas. I got the impression from the imams and mosque leaders and people there that they want our communities to join together.

“They struck me as sensitive and warm.”