NY: JEWS AND MUSLIMS CHUCKLE ALIKE
“You can’t hate someone you’ve shared a laugh with,” said Rabbi Bob Alper, half of the comedic duo One Muslim, One Jew, One Stage. Or, might I add, a good cry.
Alper and his Muslim counterpart, Azhar Usman, tackled politically charged topics, including racial profiling and the Danish cartoon controversy, for 250 people at the Kimmel Center this past Thursday to raise funds for the Islamic Center’s Mission Masjid (mosque).
Co-sponsored by the Islamic Center, Shuruq, and the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, the event hoped to allay a dire situation for Muslim students. Before 1999, the Loeb Student Center housed the Islamic Center, but after NYU decided to build Kimmel, they did not apportion space for the IC in the new student center because NYU does not provide “privileged” and ongoing funding or space for faith-based organizations, although the school agreed to lease space temporarily from the Catholic Center. The Catholic Church then chose to sell the building to a private contractor, so the IC’s future now depends entirely on the savvy of the student-run group.
For the past two years IC members have been churning out one fund-raiser after the next to garner support for their dream: a home on campus. They face an uphill battle, to say the least, when you consider their annual rent of $75,000.
It is not just Muslim students who understand the value of IC’s presence. The partnership between Bronfman and the IC affects all aspects of the interfaith and intercultural climate at NYU. These dynamic Jewish-Muslim relations stem in many ways from Rabbi Yehuda Sarna and Chaplain Khaled Latif’s relationship.
While the actual comedy performance lasted about an hour, the event included a half-hour presentation of the pair’s collaboration on a recent spring break trip to rebuild New Orleans that included videos, slideshows and participants’ testimonials. A month prior to the trip, 15 Muslims and 15 Jews set aside policy and politics to engage in four learning sessions that delved into the obstacles standing in the way of creating real, breathing friendships.