Jewish advocate uses interfaith work to fight discrimination against Muslims

jacob-benderBucks County Courier Times, 7/11/14

By Rebecca Guterman

Although it might seem unusual for a Jew to lead a Muslim organization, it was a natural next step for Jacob Bender.

In October, he became executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Philadelphia chapter -- and the first non-Muslim to head up any of the 30 chapters. The organization focuses on civil rights protection for Muslims and counteracting negative stereotypes about Islam through education and advocacy.

"The question a lot of people ask is: Did I receive opposition in the Muslim community about being a Jew working with their community? And the answer is no, across the board," he said.

But that doesn't mean it was without controversy.

"There has been some opposition to my working here from, let's say, extreme right wing, anti-Muslim elements, both in the Jewish community and not," he said. ...

Bender sees his Jewish faith as motivation for his work at the council.

"I'm very familiar with the history of anti-Semitism and of persecution of Jews throughout history, and I feel an obligation to make sure that other people do not experience that same hatred," he said. "If they do, I want to be part of protecting them, and I feel that's part of my Jewish identity."(Read the full article)