Muslims offer ‘wonderful’ gesture of support to local synagogue after it is daubed with swastika graffiti

etz-chaim-synagogue-0A group of Muslim men have offered a “wonderful” gesture to their local Jewish community, after a synagogue was targeted with racist graffiti.

The swastika and a racial slur were daubed on the sign outside the Etz Chaim synagogue in Leeds on Tuesday night, shocking the community.

In response, four local Muslim men brought flowers to show support and solidarity, where they were welcomed by the synagogue.

A members of the Etz Chaim community, Harry Brown, commented on Facebook: “I was truly humbled by [the] amazing gesture – the gift of flowers and your support.

“This is what we want to see, and equally the Jewish community should reach out not only to Muslim faiths but to all other faiths.

“From an unpleasant episode came a wonderful outpouring of support which the whole community appreciates.”

 The instigator of the gesture was 36-year-old Shahab Adris, the Yorkshire and Humber regional manager of Mend, a not-for-profit company which hopes to reduce Islamophobia and increase engagement and development within British communities.
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Jewish-Muslim relations in the Age of Trump

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The election of Donald Trump as president and the appointment of former Breitbart News chair Stephen Bannon as chief White House strategist have generated a great deal of unease in the Muslim community. As Jews, we have both a moral obligation and an enlightened self-interest to make sure Muslim Americans feel safe and completely at home in America.

Three years ago, North Brunswick resident Sheryl Olitzky launched the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, the only national organization focusing on Muslim and Jewish women with the goal of living in harmony. Of the approximately 50 Sisterhood chapters already running or in the works nationwide, 14 are in New Jersey.

“By providing a safe environment for Muslim and Jewish women to come together to focus on commonalities, respect differences, and create enduring friendships, we find that attitudes toward another religious community improve overall,” she said. In the weeks since the election, Olitzky, who now serves as the organization’s executive director, said, “We have heard from hundreds of women that the Sisterhood is the only place where they feel like they are understood, can be honest about their concerns and feelings, and find support.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NORTH JERSEY JEWISH NEWS 

Muslims, Jews benefit by reading each others’ holy texts

9-Velgenaidi-maha-withnameI recently attended and spoke at an interfaith iftar at Peninsula Temple Sholom, as the Burlingame synagogue opened its doors to celebrate Ramadan. Iftar is the evening meal at which Muslims end their daily fasts during Ramadan, and this event was packed with people from the synagogue as well as from nearby churches and mosques.

Conversation at my table was filled with questions about Islam that I hope I answered to the satisfaction of the guests. Based on feedback from my tablemates and others I chatted with, people were grateful that they were able learn more about Islam and Muslims, and they appreciated our sharing of ourselves.

Many of them left committed to continuing to work toward peace and harmony in our communities while fighting all forms of bigotry, including that which results from Islamophobia.

In turn, I am eternally grateful to Jewish communities and organizations that have consistently spoken out against Islamophobia and bigoted policies calling for banning Syrian refugees or Muslims from entering the United States. Their courage to speak out has given much comfort to American Muslims, showing them that they’re not alone in their fight against the onslaught of bigotry and hatred by politicians and religious leadership.

I am also grateful for the many churches and other Christian institutions, as well as interfaith councils, who have reached out to Muslims to host similar interfaith events or who have attended mosque open houses that have now become regular events during Ramadan and throughout the year.

I remain proud of my American Muslim community for its resilience, courage, openness and ability to adapt, change and improve constantly in its response to growing Islamophobia. I have never in my experience seen such rapid change and growth in such a short span of time — between 9/11 and the present — by any minority community that is under siege as the American Muslim community is.

Once this idea that Muslims are foreign to America is put to rest, I look forward to the time when American Muslims will regularly reciprocate by inviting Jews and Christians to mosques to learn about Christianity and Judaism and to understand better the traditions, practices and values of our neighbors.

I know many Muslims believe that they already know those other religions, since Islam comes after them in chronology of revelation. I, too, thought the same thing until I had the opportunity to actually read the Gospels and parts of the Torah.

FULL ARTICLE FROM JEWISH WEEKLY 

Interfaith ‘sisters’ seek common ground

In New Jersey Muslim and Jewish women gather for a day of dialogue

SalaamWomenAE_300_200_90Days after a massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., drew national attention to the radical ideology of its two Muslim perpetrators, 350 Muslim and Jewish women gathered in Princeton to build bridges and fight hate, negative stereotyping, and prejudice.

On Dec. 6, the women joined together at Princeton University for the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom’s annual Muslim and Jewish Women’s Leadership Conference to learn about each other’s experiences, get pointers on interfaith dialogue and social action, and motivate one another to make change.

Founded by Middlesex County residents Sheryl Olitzky and Atiya Aftab in 2010, the sisterhood now counts chapters in 15 communities, with more on the way.

The Dec. 2 shootings in San Bernardino, which left 14 people dead, weighed heavily on the proceedings, as women discussed how to promote dialogue and social change and how to deal with potential obstacles.

Asmy Ahmed from Robbinsville and Nasreen Rashid from Monmouth Junction, two Muslim members of the Princeton chapter of Salaam Shalom, both recalled their gut response to the San Bernardino violence: “Please let it not be a Muslim who is involved.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NEW JERSEY JEWISH NEWS 

Muslim scholar Focuses on Holocaust Studies

Mehnaz AfridiIn a sane world, there would be nothing in any way eyebrow-raising about a Muslim scholar teaching a course about the Holocaust at a Roman Catholic college.

No, no, scratch that. In a sane world, there would not have been a Holocaust.

But suppose that after the war ended and the camps were liberated, the world came to its collective senses, recoiled in horror from what it saw, and decided that such evil never could happen again. In that world, there would be nothing at all surprising about a Muslim scholar teaching a course about the Holocaust at a Roman Catholic college.

We do not live in such a world. So it is both a surprise and an ongoing act of courage that Dr. Mehnaz Afridi, who is the director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College in Riverdale — and who will give the keynote address at the Interfaith Holocaust Memorial Service in Ridgewood, New Jersey this year  has chosen to devote her life to it.

She lived in Pakistan, Dubai, London, and Geneva. Later, she moved to Scarsdale, N.Y., where she finished high school.

Dr. Afridi speaks an unaccented, colloquial English — occasionally she will come up with usages that are not entirely familiar here, but that is rare. “I feel very native in English, but I learned it when I was 9,” she said. “I worked at not having an accent, because as a teacher, you don’t want to sound like a foreigner.” But the language she spoke at home when she was growing up was Urdu, she had a tutor who taught her classical Arabic, and she “is comfortable in four or five languages,” she said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NEW JERSEY JEWISH STANDARD 

Mideast conflict affects all Muslims and Jews: Marmur

At times such as these it’s impossible for Muslims and Jews living outside the Middle East not to be affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in their relationship to each other. Those living far from the scene often hold even more extreme views than those in the region. Others believe that they can make peace there by acting here.

Shai Har-El, businessman, scholar and rabbi is among the latter. His book, Where Islam and Judaism Join Together, argues contrary to received wisdom that religion doesn’t fuel the conflict but is potentially “a catalyst for action in the battle for peace in the Middle East.” With this in mind he founded the Middle East Peace Network in 1990 and has since also helped to establish the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago.

In a recent interview Dr. Har-El, who was born in Israel and holds degrees from the universities of Tel Aviv and Chicago, outlined his plan that notwithstanding its political agenda would harness the religious forces that make for unity and tolerance in the service of a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis. But despite his seemingly good intentions, his efforts don’t appear to have had much of an impact.

His utopian desire to temper politics with religion isn’t unique. For example, theLevantine Cultural Center in Los Angeles, which was launched more than a decade after the Middle East Peace Network, seems to have a similar agenda. In addition to its religious base it promotes intercultural activities and political discussions that include criticism of Israel and Zionism. As a result, Jewish mainstream organizations have kept their distance and it’s not clear to what extent Islamic groups have embraced it. Again, the effort may be praiseworthy but the results seem meagre.

The proposed House of Prayer and Learning in Berlin aims to be very different. Instead of seeking to solve the conflict in the Middle East, its stated purpose is to establish good relations between Jews and Muslims locally. While respecting religious differences, it stresses the fundamental similarities between the monotheistic faiths. The dialogue it promotes seeks to mirror the multiculturalism of the German capital.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TORONTO STAR

The Muslims who saved Jews from the Holocaust

_67047387_bosnia_hardaga04A new exhibition aims to celebrate the role Muslims played in saving Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

The Righteous Muslim Exhibition is being launched at the Board of Deputies of British Jews in Bloomsbury, central London.

Photographs of 70 Muslims who sheltered Jews during World War II will be displayed alongside stories detailing their acts of heroism.

The exhibition hopes to inspire new research into instances of collaboration between the Muslim and Jewish communities.

Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to victims of the Holocaust, honours nearly 25,000 so-called “righteous persons” who risked their lives to protect the Jewish community during Nazi Germany’s reign of terror.

Some 70 Muslims have recently been added to the list. The exhibition explores their stories.

‘Empathy and cohesion’

Among the “righteous” are the Hardaga family from Bosnia who provided shelter for the Jewish Kavilio family when German forces occupied Bosnia in 1943.

Half a century later, the Hardagas were themselves saved by the Kavilios during the Bosnian Civil War.

Threatened by the continuous shelling of Sarajevo, the Kavilio family appealed to the President of Bosnia to permit their erstwhile saviours to travel to Israel.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BBC