Mosque Synagogue “Twinning” - Mazel Tov, Mabrook!

Mosque synagogue twinning

Mosque Synagogue “Twinning” - Mazel Tov, Mabrook!

by Sheila Musaji


I was priviledged to participate in the local Saint Louis week-end of Mosque-Synagogue Twinning.  This is a continent wide event that Haaretz called “unprecedented” 

This effort was sponsored by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, the Islamic Society of North America, the World Jewish Congress and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and came out of a New York meeting of the National Conference of Imams and Rabbis held last year.  In at least 50 cities across the United States and Canada, mosques and synagogues held events this week-end aimed at dispelling mutually held fears and biases.  The events are part of a “Mosque-Synagogue Week-End of Twinning” project with the theme “Confronting Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism Together”.

On November 12th The New York Times published a full-page advertisement announcing this historic event and a public service announcement has been aired on cable news networks.

That this process will have moments of difficulty can be seen from Sunbul Ali-Karamali’s article Anti-Semitism Through the Lens of Islamophobia  and Rabbi Brad Hirschfield’s response which calls on Muslims to openly discuss perceived failures in their past, but does not call on Jews to do the same in regards for example to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.  As Sunbul points out:  “We can either focus on the conflicts in history, proving only that human beings are imperfect; or, we can focus on the countless cooperative, cross-religious acts of generosity instead, using those to drive forward our vision of the future.  It’s up to us.”  And, that is a stumbling block that we will need to remove in order for this necessary dialogue to succeed.

This is a first step in the process of dialogue between Jews and Muslims.  And, since the elephant in the room in any Jewish-Muslim dialogue is the Israeli-Palestinian issue, at some point in the future if we can build bridges of mutual understanding and trust, it is possible that we will be able to talk constructively about this and perhaps even come up with some ideas that may help to bring a solution.  For now, every step forward is something that we need to encourage and nourish. 

Comments of some participants across the continent:

“Each of us needs to accept a certain amount of personal responsibility to become an ally as much as possible.  Addressing issuesjointly we’d be much more effective.”  Karen Aroesty, St. Louis, Missouri

“I think it is very important that we talk about how can we heal together here, and get to know each other better. Then we can get to the harder subjects. But subject one is, ‘Let’s get to know each other, let us build trust.’”  Mehdi Eliefifi, Clifton, New Jersey

“Perhaps we can gain the ability to see the pain in what is done to ourselves and what is done to others as equivalent.  We need to keep the doors open for dialogue and not isolate ourselves.”  Prof. Fatemeh Kashevarz, St. Louis, Missouri

“The fact is, at every synagogue there are a range of views.  At virtually every synagogue in which the leader ship has decided to engage in this effort, there have been members who have been uneasy about it. But our primary goal is not to convince the rejectionists—those who are simply opposed to this—to join in. It’s to provide a model and build a broad consen sus and show the benefits of the exchange.”  Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism

“Our goal was to enlist 25 synagogues and 25 mosques, but we ended up with double the number.  Both American Jews and Muslims are children of Abraham and citizens of the same country, and we share a common faith and destiny.  Of course, we cannot ignore the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s the elephant in the room, but I see the emergence of moderate, centrist Muslim voices, particularly in the United States, and we must do everything possible to encourage such voices.”  “We’re all children of Abraham.  Not only do we share a common faith, but we also share a common fate. Our single destiny must strengthen our bonds of compassion, concern and caring for each other. If we can create a paradigm of Jewish-Muslim cooperation in North America, we can bring this model to other continents.” Rabbi Marc Schneier, President, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, New York

“It’s significant that American Jews and American Muslims are saying we want to build a relationship and be involved in issues of mutual concern. That hasn’t happened before. There’s a thirst on both sides to make it happen.” Walter Ruby, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, New York

“Together, Jews and Muslims can send a message to the purveyors of hate and bigotry.” Usman Madha, Director, King Fahad Mosque, Los Angeles, California

“The more information people have the less likely they are to stereotype.”   Imam Khalil Akbar, Charlotte, North Carolina

“I hope we become more aware of the challenges of minorities in our community, and then feel empowered to speak against discrimination no matter what form it takes: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia.” Rabbi Judy Schindler, Charlotte, North Carolina

“There are some anti-Jewish attitudes in the Muslim world and some anti-Muslim attitudes in the Jewish world, but there is no inherent conflict between Judaism and Islam.  We have much in common in our goals and aspirations.”  Rabbi Reuven Firestone, Los Angeles, California

“It starts with small initiatives like this.  The most important thing is for Jews and Muslims to talk.”  Chaker Drioli, West Hartford, Connecticut

“Mazel tov to you for the vision and courage you’ve shown.”  Richard Silverstein of the Tikun Olam web-site

“I think there is a feeling in this country that we can’t push problems under the rug anymore. We have to be honest, but reach out to each other at the same time.” Bobbe Salkowitz, Los Angeles, California

“On the national stage it’s going to be a really important weekend. Pretty soon, there will be more Muslims than Jews in this country. If we want to have bridges to cross in times of difficulty, we have to build bridges first. Getting to know each other and trust each other,” he said, marks a first step.”  Rabbi Donald Rossoff, Morristown, New Jersey

“In this day and age, how could you not be in?  The only opportunity to finally stop seeing the stereotypes we imagine is to meet real people with real experiences living real lives. It’s our only shot at understanding.”  Rabbi Matthew Gewirtz, New Jersey

UPDATE 2011

The Mosque-Synagogue twinning continues to expand each year. For example, in Staten Island, Maura Grunland reports that  “In what is billed as the “World’s Largest Muslim Jewish Conversation,” over 250 Muslim and Jewish Organizations in 26 countries began holding the fourth annual “Weekend of Twinning” joint events that began last Friday “FFEU is proud to showcase these unprecedented international gatherings of Jews and Muslims,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier, FFEU president.  “The sheer magnitude of this year’s Weekend of Twinning reinforces our efforts to build a global movement of Muslims and Jews committed to communication, reconciliation, cooperation and understanding.”

SEE ALSO:

Muslims and Anti-Semitism, Tariq Ramadan http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/muslims_and_anti_semitism/
Muslims are reaching out. We should reach back, Rabbi Dr. Alan Brill http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/muslims_are_reaching_out_we_should_reach_back/
Islam and the Charge of Anti-Semitism, Asma Afsaruddin http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islam_and_the_charge_of_anti_semitism/
Anti-semitism Is a Racism Totally Contrary to Islam, Harun Yahya http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/antisemitism_is_a_racism_totally_contrary_to_islam/
Is There Anti-Semitism in The Qur’an?, Muzammil H. Siddiqi, Ph.D. http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/is_there_anti_semitism_in_the_quran/
The Other Anti-Semitism: The image of Islam in American pop culture, James J. Zogby http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the_other_anti_semitism_the_image_of_islam_in_american_pop_culture/
A Pax on Both Their Houses - Interfaith Peace Effort Ignored By Mainstream Media, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/a_pax_on_both_their_houses/
A Pax on both our houses campaign still necessary, Rabbi Arthur Waskow http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/a_pax_on_both_our_houses_campaign_still_necessary/ 
Islamophobia Real or Imagined article collection http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islamophobia_real_or_imagined/0016131
Collection of articles on interfaith dialogue issues http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/interfaith_dialogue_issues/
The Makkah Conference on Inter-Faith Dialogue: Stirrings of a New Beginning?, Yoginder Sikand http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the_makkah_conference_on_inter_faith_dialogue_stirrings_of_a_new_beginning/
Interfaith Dialogue a Moral Duty to Finding Common Ground, Louay Safi http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/interfaith_dialogue_a_moral_duty_to_finding_common_ground/
Jewish-Muslim Dialogue and the Value of Peace, Jacob Bender http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/jewish_muslim_dialogue_and_the_value_of_peace/
Jewish-Muslim dialogue deeper than it seems, Aaron Greenblatt http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/jewish_muslim_dialogue_deeper_than_it_seems/
“So That You May Know One Another”: The Role of People of Faith in the 21st Century, Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/so_that_you_may_know_one_another_the_role_of_people_of_faith_in_the_21st_ce/
BOOK REVIEW:  Islam and Global Dialogue: Religious Pluralism and the Pursuit of Peace, Chris Hewer http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/book_review1/
The Peace of Abraham, Hagar, & Sarah: Sharing Sacred Seasons This Fall, Rabbi Arthur Waskow http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the_peace_of_abraham_hagar_sarah_sharing_sacred_seasons_this_fall/
Assessing the Myths of Interfaith Dialogue, David Shasha http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/assessing_the_myths_of_interfaith_dialogue/
A Tsunami of Confusion - Antisemitism and the Arab-Israeli conflict, Tony Klug http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/a_tsunami_of_confusion_antisemitism_and_the_arab_israeli_conflict/
The Possibility of Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue, Dr. Tony Klug http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the_possibility_of_jewish_palestinian_dialogue/
A New Role for Religion in the Middle East, Marc Gopin http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/a_new_role_for_religion_in_the_middle_east/
The Land of Canaan should be a Place of Peace and Reconciliation for all True Religions, Harun Yahya http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the_land_of_canaan_should_be_a_place_of_peace_and_reconciliation_for_all_tr/
Islam and Judaism, Akbar S. Ahmed http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islam_and_judaism/
Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, National Mosque & Synagogue “Weekend of Twinning”, MPAC http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/foundation_for_ethnic_understanding_national_mosque_synagogue_weekend_of_tw


The photo is from the article Members of Staten Island Muslim and Jewish faith communities build bridges The caption says: “Participants sing ‘America the Beautiful’ during the Building Bridges Coalition of Staten Island Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration at the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center in Tompkinsville.”

Mosque synagogue twinning

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