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Can Jews and Muslims get along? 60 imams and rabbis meet in Washington to try

Placeholders at a summit of 60 rabbis and imams at Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C. on Sunday (Nov. 23). Organizers hope to replicate the summit at cities across the U.S. in hopes of improving Jewish-Muslim relations, especially in light of continued violence in the Holy Land. Religion News Service photo by Lauren Markoe
Placeholders at a summit of 60 rabbis and imams at Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C. on Sunday (Nov. 23). Organizers hope to replicate the summit at cities across the U.S. in hopes of improving Jewish-Muslim relations, especially in light of continued violence in the Holy Land. Religion News Service photo by Lauren Markoe.

Placeholders at a summit of 60 rabbis and imams at Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C. on Sunday (Nov. 23). Organizers hope to replicate the summit at cities across the U.S. in hopes of improving Jewish-Muslim relations, especially in light of continued violence in the Holy Land. Religion News Service photo by Lauren Markoe

(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.

Along spiritual lines, both Jews and Muslims believe they are descended from the sons of Abraham — Jews from Isaac and Muslims from Ishmael — a point both rabbis and imams repeated. In practice, they noted, similarities between the faiths abound. Both face toward the Middle East at prayer, for example, and share similar dietary laws.

Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat, left, and Rabbi Bruce Kahn at a summit of Washington, D.C. area rabbis and imams on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The group aimed to ease tensions between Muslims and Jews, especially in light current violence in the Holy Land. Religion News Service photo by Lauren Markoe

Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat, left, and Rabbi Bruce Kahn at a summit of Washington, D.C. area rabbis and imams on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The group aimed to ease tensions between Muslims and Jews, especially in light current violence in the Holy Land. Religion News Service photo by Lauren Markoe

“In my view we are the closest two religions in the world,” said Rabbi Gerry Serotta, executive director of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, who sees healing between Muslims and Jews as a blessing that will resonate.

“There is something about a Jewish-Muslim rapprochement that is very important for the rest of the world,” Serotta said. “The perception is that Jews and Muslims are irreconcilable, and when people see that we’re not, it gives them hope.”

The event was sponsored by the Greater Washington Muslim-Jewish Forum, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society and Washington Hebrew Congregation, the synagogue where the meeting was held.

YS/AMB END MARKOE

About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)

8 Comments

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  • Serotta said. “The perception is that Jews and Muslims are irreconcilable, and when people see that we’re not, it gives them hope.”

    I think this complete abandonment of the Biblical
    and Quranic preachments
    IS ABSOLUTELY AWESOME.

    HERE’S WHY:

    ISLAM SAYS TO OTHERS:
    “The only true faith in God’s sight is Islam.” (Surah 3:19)
    “Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it.” (Surah 2:216)
    “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends.” (Surah 5:51)

    JUDAISM SAYS TO OTHERS:
    “Cursed be he who does the Lords work remissly, cursed he who holds back his sword from blood.” (Jeremiah 48:10
    “Seize all the non-believers and execute them before the LORD in broad daylight…” (Numbers 25:1-9)

    CHRISTIANITY SAYS TO OTHERS:
    “To those who would not have me as their king, bring them to me and EXECUTE THEM in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

  • A MAX IS LIVING proof Atheism and truth are not compatible

    .. all one has to do is read Luke chapter 19 up to verse 27 and then read how this Lying atheist known as A–;Max
    took Luke 19=27 out of its context ..

  • Nice try. Christianity says no such thing. You are quoting a parable. Really? “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, thats what Jesus taught.” There is hope for Jews and Arabs. Muslims-that is Islam which teaches “kill the infidel where you find him”. Jesus Christ can bridge the gap between Jews and Arabs and any other race. The love of God that comes into our hearts when we receive God’s forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ and His atonement causes us to love and not hate. Shalom

  • Once again your out-of-context quotes and synopses are inaccurate. The episode from the Torah you’re quoting concerns God commanding the execution of a certain group of Israelites that had adopted the Moabite idol Baal-Peor. Nowhere does the Torah in general command “non-believers” to be executed. There is no such word in the Torah — it’s a American Christian phrase. If anything Judaism and Islam’s theologies are closer to each other than either is to Christianity.

  • clarification…Should say Not between Jews and Muslims, but Jews and Arabs. Muslim is Islam that teaches: “Kill the infidel where you find him”. Jesus Christ is the answer. He can bridge the gap between all races. God Bless

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