Muslims and Jews, a tiny slice of the U.S. population, are looking for new ways to get along that could set a worldwide example for two ancient but often alienated faiths, religious leaders and experts say.
“I’ve encountered (among Muslims) a more centrist, a more moderate voice that is looking to the Jewish community to help project that voice … to the greater world,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier of New York, speaking of a national summit of imams and rabbis he helped organize earlier this year.
He also cited a recent incident in a New York subway “where four young Jews were being verbally and physically assaulted on a train for wishing the passengers a happy Hanukkah, and the only individual to come to their rescue was a young Muslim man,” Hassan Askari, of Bangladeshi heritage, who was beaten.
“That is a very, very powerful example” of what can happen. The challenge is to try to strengthen Jewish-Muslim cooperation and have it serve as a paradigm for communities around the world,” added Schneier, who founded the New York Synagogue in Manhattan and also the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.
On another front, leaders of the Islamic Society of North America and the Union for Reform Judaism, representing respectively the largest U.S. Islamic organization and the largest organized Jewish segment in the country, have agreed on a tutorial for dialogue.
“We need to get the truth about each other from one another,” said Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic group.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie of the Reform group told his followers the two religions share “ancient monotheistic faiths, cultural similarities and, as minority religions in North America, experiences with assimilation and discrimination.”