U.S. and Canadian Jews, Muslims seek dialogue

November 21, 2008

Muslim and Jewish leaders across the United States and Canada plan to meet this weekend to discuss ways to fight anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia.

The meetings and panel discussions from Friday to Sunday — dubbed the Weekend of Twinning — are part of a broader movement of interfaith dialogue taking place against a global backdrop of tensions between religious groups.

Several of the rabbis and imams have broadcast a public service announcement on CNN appealing for interfaith understanding (see the video above) and published a full-page ad in the New York Times available here in PDF form.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and co-organizer of the weekend talks, told me in a brief telephone interview that “it was a realization among Muslims and Jews that as children of Abraham not only do we share a common faith but we share a common fate … It is necessary for us to champion the causes and the concerns of the other.”

Asked how he rated Jewish-Muslim relations in America at the present, he replied: “Virtually non-existent” — a response that underscores the task ahead.

Many American Jews are politically liberal and strong supporters of Israel; many American Muslims feel they are regarded with intense suspicion in the wake of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.

The talks, panels and seminars will be held in 50 mosques and synagogues across the United States and Canada. The Weekend of Twinning resulted from a resolution passed at the National Summit of Imams and Rabbis held last year in New York and hosted by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

The Weekend of Twinning is co-sponsored by the Foundation of Ethic Understanding, Islamic Society of North America, World Jewish Congress and Muslim Public Affairs Council. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest Muslim group in North America, says the 50 mosques and 50 synagogues participating in the weekend represent over 100,000 Muslims and Jews.

How effective do you think campaigns like this are? Can Muslims and Jews in North America find the common ground so difficult to achieve in the Middle East?

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