SILVER SPRING, Md. – Differences too often overshadow commonalities that could bring people together. Believing that humanity trumps hostility, two local artists seek to bridge the divide between Muslims and Jews through visionary art and a series of community dialogues.

Having coexisted peacefully for centuries, Jews and Muslims traditionally viewed their holy books, the Old Testament and the Quran, as scripts more about limitations than enlightenment.

Yet within each religion, some believers took an alternate view, explains Karim Chaibi, a Bethesda-based artist born into Islam. Muslim Sufis and Jewish adherents to the Kabbalah rejected the notion of their holy books as chains – instead, these mystics interpreting the scripture as springboards to visionary thought. “These two schools sought to see beyond the texts,” says Chaibi.

Their goal to transcend texts in pursuit of freedom and a more spiritual life infuses “Testament of Laden Bird” and “Spiritual Flight,” two of Chaibi’s works in Convergences: Towards a Jewish/Muslim Renewal, now on view at Heliport Gallery in Silver Spring. The exhibition continues Heliport’s emphasis on art that strengthens community ties and cross-cultural awareness.

The well-traveled painter’s 10 oil on linen works flicker with energy; the timeless spaces entrance with Mediterranean color, protean figures and geometric forms. They’re joined by an equal number of acrylics by Chaibi new brother-in-art, Tom Block of Silver Spring. Several months back, when Chaibi, who is also an author, shared his plan to spark dialog among the region’s Muslims and Jews, Heliport director David Fogel suggested Block as a kindred spirit. The chemistry worked.

“The search for similarities is usually an afterthought, an intellectual exercise,” notes Chaibi. He and Block put it in practice in their lives and art. “Instead of brandishing guns, we use our brushes to draw a modern Eden where Muslims and Jews can live together.”


Convergences: Towards a Jewish/Muslim Renewal
Opening reception: 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. Through April 9.
Heliport Gallery, 8001 Kennett St., Suite 3, Silver Spring


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