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We Need to Bridge the Divide Between Jews and Muslims Now More Than Ever

Jewish Muslim cooperation
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES – 2016/01/27: The Interfaith ceremony honoring protectors on the International Holocaust Day was closed with prayers and a candlelight vigil remembering victims of the holocaust. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

By Akbar AhmedChair of Islamic Studies at American University, and Stuart Weinblatt,  Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Tzedek

Why would a senior rabbi and a Muslim scholar engage in dialogue at this moment in history, at a time when relations between Jews and Muslims have reached dangerous levels of tension around the globe?

Barely a day goes by when we do not read of some incendiary terrorist attack by a Muslim claiming to act in the name of Islam. Sometimes the victims are fellow Muslims, and at other times, the acts of violence are perpetrated against Jews or Christians. Muslims have attacked Jewish supermarkets, museums, synagogues and schools, in part causing more and more Jews to leave France and other European countries, where their roots run deep, for Israel for fear of their safety. These acts are neither sanctioned by Islam nor are motivated by the nobler aspirations of humanity.

This article originally appeared in the World Post, a partnership between the Huffington Post and the Berggruen Institute. Read the full article here…

Fractured Narratives & Common Goals in Israel/Palestine

By Julie Gray in the Huffington Post

When I grew up in America, you were either a Democrat or a Republican. Over the course of my life that has come to include more pinpointed terms like the Left, the Right, the Far Left, the Far Right, the Religious Right, the Neoconservatives, the Paleo-conservatives, the Regressive Left (okay that one is just an insult but go with me) the Liberals, the Conservatives, the Intelligentsia (paranoid, veiled insult) the New Libertarianism, Centrism, the New Centrism and who knows what else. I can’t keep up with it.

Right now, you are already thinking that because I said that the Regressive Left is an insulting term, that must mean I share either the beliefs of the “Far Left” or that I support the idea behind the “regressive” bit. But you don’t really know, do you?

I live in the Middle East, where these labels, specifically vis a vis the discussion of the conflict between Israel and Palestinian are especially loaded. There is a Willy Wonka “bad egg” chute under every single conversation we have about this conflict. WHOOPS – wrong answer!

Continue to the full article in The Huffington Post…

NY Mosque hosts seder for Jews, Muslims

Rabbi Jonathan Sachs with Ibraham Al-Halwa
Photo: Eliaz Cohen, from the Jerusalem Post

Some 100 Jews and Muslims participated in a Passover celebration at a Manhattan mosque.

Coordinated by the NYC Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee, the gathering took place April 14 at the Islamic Society of Mid Manhattan in New York, News 4 New York reported.

“I don’t believe anything quite like this has happened in New York before,” said Rabbi Allison Tick Brill of Temple Emanu-El, a large Reform congregation in Manhattan.

“It is particularly powerful to celebrate Passover here at this mosque because unfortunately, Muslim Americans are made to feel strangers in their own country,” Tick Brill said at the event, according to News 4.

“Isn’t it beautiful to have our Jewish brothers and sisters in the mosque?” Imam Ahmed Dewidar said. “I think we should be proud of our community here in New York.”

Read the full article in The Jerusalem Post…

Adventures in the Trump Twittersphere

Zeynep Tufekci
Zeynep Tufekci. Image source: Twitter

Zeynep Tufekci is an assistant professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina and a contributing opinion writer. She is an expert on social media and its use, in particular in the Muslim world. She is from Turkey.

In this article, published Thursday, March 31 in The New York Times, Tufekci discusses how social media is impacting the current election season, through the lens of her Turkish upbringing and experience.

Read the full article here…

Religious institutions form unlikely partnership to aid Syrian refugees

Refugee committee Jewish and Muslim co chairs
Refugee committee co-chairs Andrew Hazen, left, from Temple Har Zion, poses with Alireza Torabian, from the Imam Mahdi Islamic Centre.
(Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail)

For years, the Temple Har Zion and the Imam Mahdi Islamic Centre (IMIC) have been neighbours, even sharing a parking lot, in Thornhill, Ont. Now, the unlikely partners are about to share a major responsibility – sponsoring a group of Syrian refugees.

The religious institutions have united to privately sponsor Syrian refugees to resettle in Canada. Together, they are pooling their resources to raise a target of $60,000 in the next couple of months.

Temple Har Zion Rabbi Cory Weiss says the co-operation is “groundbreaking” for both organizations.

“It brought us together in a way that nothing else has,” Mr. Weiss told The Globe. “The more we learn about each other’s religion, the more we realize we have in common.”

Continue to the full article at the Globe and Mail…

Scholarship and Critical Thinking in the Abrahamic Faiths

By Ilham Idrissi and Matthew Lakenbach, UConn Abrahamic Initiative

While the UConn Abrahamic Initiative does not focus on religion or religious similarities and differences, it is important to emphasize that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all call on human beings to use knowledge and reason. Thus, critical thinking is central to all of the Abrahamic traditions, as articulated in numerous verses within the Torah, New Testament, and the Quran.

The Torah expresses the value of reason and learning in multiple verses: “Come, now, and let us reason together.”(Isaiah 1:18). Torah also states: “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.” (Proverbs 1:5-6).

Likewise, the New Testament addresses critical thinking and the reliance on reason to understand the essence of creation: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans, 12:2). Also in the New Testament: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17).

The Quran also instructs the faithful to seek knowledge and use reason: “and say, “My Lord, increase me in knowledge.” (Surat Taha 20:114). Also in the Quran: ‘’Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason.” (Surat Al Bakara 2:164).

These verses link the use of reason and intellect and the pursuit of knowledge with the religious imperative to understand and live according to the ways and designs of a higher power. These are but a few of the numerous passages from within each religion that emphasize the value of acquiring knowledge, using reason, and acting with wisdom. The UConn Abrahamic Initiative is grounded in this spirit.

What Obama can still do for Israelis and Palestinians

President Obama
US Pres. Barack Obama (R) and Defense Secretary Ash Carter meet at the Pentagon. (photo credit:OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO / PETE SOUZA)

Avi Meyerstein writes that officials should do more to build a supportive atmosphere for future talks by encouraging and empowering the people-to-people movements that build trust and confidence. 

Meyerstein is the founder of the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP), a coalition of 85 NGOs building people-to-people cooperation and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, Arabs and Jews in the Middle East.

For the US president who launched a peace process on his very first day in office, what can become of Israeli-Palestinian peace in his last year? Very little, according to the conventional wisdom.

But, don’t be misled. Yes, the conflict has deteriorated, and Arabs and Jews are dying in the streets. Yes, public figures are too often fanning the flames. Yes, a lame-duck president may have limited political capital at home and little sway abroad.

This is a terrible time to hope for short-term diplomatic progress toward a two-state solution.

But a time of low expectations and few diplomatic options is actually an ideal moment to make long-term investments in Israeli-Palestinian relations and peace. It is a moment not to miss.

Read the full article in the Jerusalem Post



Israelis Lend a Helping Hand to Syrian Refugees in Greece

The Greek Island of Lesvos is a quiet vacation spot where tourists relax and local children play in peace. But on the other side of the island, a very different scene is unfolding.

Every day, thousands of refugees arrive on this shore. Most are fleeing the Syrian civil war, hoping to resettle in Europe.

Waiting to help them on the beaches of Greece are the last people they Syrians might expect. Volunteers from Israel.

This article originally appeared on CBN. Continue reading…