US Muslim community campaigns to repair Jewish cemetery

_94790553_cemetery2A US Muslim-led fundraising project to help repair a Jewish cemetery that was vandalised has raised almost three times its $20,000 (£16,000) target.

The crowdfunding campaign, which calls for “solidarity with the Jewish-American community”, aims to help “rebuild this sacred space”.

More than 170 headstones were damaged at the Jewish cemetery in St Louis, Missouri on Monday.

It comes after a string of anti-Semitic threats targeting the Jewish community.

The fundraising effort, launched by Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi, has received nearly 2,000 donations and has raised more than $55,000 (£44,000).

“Muslim Americans stand in solidarity with the Jewish-American community to condemn this horrific act of desecration,” the fundraising page states.

The project, which is still accepting funds, aims to repair damage at the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in St Louis, but the campaigners said that any additional funds raised would be used to “assist other vandalised Jewish centres nationwide”.


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On Tuesday, the Muslim organisations the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations both spoke out against the vandalism.

“We encourage our members to reach out to their local synagogue and Jewish neighbours to express their solidarity and support and to generously support the rebuilding of the recently desecrated cemetery,” ISNA President Azhar Azeez said in a statement.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BBC NEWS 

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Why Jews are coming to the defense of mosques in America

When Sheryl Olitzky first broached the subject of a Jewish-Muslim women’s group, Atiya Aftab didn’t buy it.

“Why is someone calling me because I’m Muslim?” Ms. Aftab recalls thinking. “This is creepy.”

But as Ms. Olitzky made her case over lattes at a Starbucks in suburban New Jersey, Aftab found herself drawn in.

The success of groups such as the Sisterhood point to a growing – and perhaps unprecedented – desire among American Muslims and Jews to work toward a common goal, some say.

Over the years, “More people have become aware of their common faiths given the rise of toxic anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic hate,” says Haroon Moghul, senior fellow and director of development at The Center for Global Policy, a New York think tank. “There’s been a definite change, and for the better.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR 

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 

Two friends (Jewish & Muslim) find common ground in a divided Holland

muslim jewishRabbi Lody van de Kamp, a bearded, bespectacled, yarmulka-wearing rabbi, is a 66-year-old retired director of an orthodox Jewish school in Amsterdam. He’s pretty well-known in the small Jewish community here. Back in 2010, Rabbi van de Kamp’s students told him that Muslim youths were hurling racist epithets at them. And that it was happening all over the city.

The rabbi is what you’d call “visibly Jewish,” so, together with a couple of his students and a film crew from the local Jewish broadcaster, he walked through Amsterdam’s Muslim-majority neighborhoods to collect footage. At one point, the group walked past a group of teenagers. One of the boys stood up, thrust his arm into the air, and gave Rabbi van de Kamp a Nazi salute.

The interaction was broadcast on Dutch national TV the next day. For a few days after, the incident dominated the larger discussion of the integration of Muslims into Dutch society. One Dutch Moroccan activist saw the program and later facilitated a meeting between Rabbi van de Kamp and the boy who gave him the Nazi salute. They talked and became friends.

But since then, attacks by Muslim extremists on Jews and Jewish institutions have become common in Europe, such as the 2014 attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels and the shooting in the kosher supermarket in Paris early this year. Similar incidents were happening on a smaller scale in Holland too.

Some Muslims have tried to address the problem, like Fatima Elatik, former city alderman for Amsterdam East for the center-left Labor Party. Her colorful headscarves and red lipstick are as recognizable throughout the city as her outspoken views on tolerance.

“The Jewish community is a very small community in our society and when I hear Jewish people say, ‘I want to leave. I don’t feel safe,’ that hurts me,” she says.

When conflict breaks out between the two communities, Elatik makes it a point to call her Jewish friends — among them, Rabbi van de Kamp. She recalls calling him after the supermarket attack in Paris: “I told him, I’m ashamed. … Because someone is abusing my religion that gives me so much inspiration, to hurt people like you who are my friends.”

She says this gesture is one step toward changing the society they live in. And it’s the core of the mission of Salaam Shalom, an organization she founded with Rabbi van de Kamp. Salaam Shalom, which means peace in Arabic and Hebrew, has one simple but ambitious goal: to keep the conflict between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East from spilling over to Amsterdam.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PRI INTERNATIONAL 

Norwegian Muslims volunteer to protect synagogue

CopenhagenIn the wake of a deadly shooting attack at a synagogue in Denmark last week, a group of Norwegian Muslims intends to hold an anti-violence demonstration at an Oslo synagogue this coming weekend by forming a “peace ring” around the building.

One of the event organizers, 17-year-old Hajrad Arshad, explained that the intention was to make a clear statement that Muslims don’t support anti-Semitism.

“We think that after the terrorist attacks in Copenhagen, it is the perfect time for us Muslims to distance ourselves from the harassment of Jews that is happening,” Arshad told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation NRK in an interview cited by The Local News website on Tuesday.

She noted that the group aimed to “extinguish the prejudices people have against Jews and against Muslims.”

The demonstration drew praise from the local Jewish community.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TIMES OF ISRAEL

60 Imams, Rabbis Meet In Washington For Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Summit

thumbRNS-IMAMS-RABBISa-427x320(RNS) Frustrated by dangerously high tensions between Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land, 60 imams and rabbis gathered Sunday (Nov. 23) to hatch concrete plans to bridge the gulf between their communities, minus the kumbaya.

The “2014 Summit of Washington Area Imams and Rabbis,” its organizers hope, will be the first of many such gatherings of Jewish and Muslim clergy in cities across the U.S.

After prayers and a kosher-halal lunch at a Washington synagogue, the clergy resolved to limit the feel-good dialogue and spent the afternoon trading ideas both tried and novel. Among them: joint projects to feed the homeless, basketball games between Muslim and Jewish teens, Judaism 101 courses for Muslims and Islam 101 for Jews.

“Host a Seder in a mosque and hold an iftar dinner at a synagogue,” suggested Rizwan Jaka, who chairs the board at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Northern Virginia.

They threw out tough questions: “Do you invite people in your community who are particularly closed-minded to participate in interfaith dialogue?” asked Dan Spiro, co-founder of the Jewish-Islamic Dialogue Society. “Something to think about.”

And when Jews and Muslims meet, several imams and rabbis advised, do not sidestep the focal point of their mutual pain: the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Rage over the ability of both faiths to worship at Temple Mount — a site holy to Muslims and Jews, has heightened tensions with the violence culminating last week in a Palestinian attack on Jews praying in a Jerusalem synagogue that killed four worshippers and a Druze police officer.

“Discuss things from a spiritual narrative as opposed to a political narrative,” suggested Imam Sultan Abdullah of the New Africa Islamic Community Center in Washington, D.C.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

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