Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement

A Partnership between the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion,
Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation, & USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture

CMJE in the News

November 2010

"Visiting Each Other's Holy Places in North America", 22 November 2010.

I can see your stares! I get them every time I say we are twinning our mosques and synagogues this month. "Really?" people ask, jaws dropping. For the third year, this exercise of interfaith exchange has progressed in good faith. Synagogues agree to twin with nearby mosques, with congregants visiting each other during Jewish Sabbath and Muslim Friday prayer services and, in some cases, inviting guest speakers or jointly carrying out a community service project like doing a Hanukkah and Eid party together. Read more...

September 2010

"Fathi Osman Dies at 82: Voice for Modernism in Islam" LA Times, 15 September 2010.

Fathi Osman, an Egyptian American expert on Islam who was a forceful voice for modernism in the Muslim faith, died Saturday at his home in Montrose. He was 82. The cause was congestive heart failure, said his daughter, Ghada Osman, a professor of Arabic studies at San Diego State University. Osman wrote more than 25 books in Arabic and English, including "Concepts of the Quran" (1996), a unique English-language commentary on the Koran that presents the challengingly subtle and discursive text in a format organized by topic.

August 2010

"The Ground Zero-Sum Game", Religion Dispatches, August 26, 2010

Lurking behind suspicion about the new Islamic Center planned to be built near Ground Zero is something much more ominous than would appear. Skepticism about funding sources and concern for the sensibilities of those traumatized by the horror of 9/11—while legitimate concerns—are heightened by a deep-seated bigotry against Muslims and their religion. We come by it naturally because Islamophobia is deeply imbedded in the very culture of Western civilization. But most of us don’t recognize it.

"Hatred and Mistrust Prevent Jews and Muslims from Building Intercultural Bridge", Jewish Journal, 4 August 2010.

We humans have the peculiar habit of demonizing what we fear but don’t understand. When we are uncertain of the cause for our fear and anxiety, we typically make one up. As kids, it’s the monster in the closet. As we get older, we often learn to find the monster in other people, and sometimes we demonize entire communities or populations.

July 2010

"Islam 101? BJE Course on Radicalism Labeled as Basics" Phoenix Jewish News 30 July 2010

Rabbi B. Charles Herring, spiritual leader of Temple Kol Ami in Scottsdale, has been involved in interfaith dialogue for a decade now. Ten years ago, he founded Children of Abraham, a group of about 10 Muslim couples and 10 Jewish couples who meet monthly at one another's homes to socialize and discuss the differences and similarities between the two cultures.

"Waking up in Singapore" by Reuven Firestone, Jewish Journal, 20 July 2010

This is the second in a series on “Moderating Islam.”

I love the feeling of waking up from a deep sleep and wondering where I am. That feeling was arecurring theme these past three days in Singapore. Whenever I looked out the window of my hotel, I felt like I was watching a scene from “Beverly Hills 90210” — glistening high-rises, broad boulevards, too much traffic, late-model Japanese cars and lots of people shopping. But in this Century City of the East, I have been sitting with a group of women in hijab and men in tarbush and black Malay songkok hats at an international conference called “Muslims in Multicultural Societies.” That’s the official name of the conference. The reality is that this meeting is about how Muslims want to practice Islam in the real world today. It’s about an upgrade, something like “Islam 4.0.”

At least one third of the total population of Muslims in this world lives as religious minorities in multicultural societies. That’s about 500 million people in 149 countries around the globe, according to the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. They represent a very large living laboratory of people working out how to live as Muslims in multireligious, multiethnic environments. There’s no better place to work this out than the economic, multicultural marvel that is Singapore, and no better organization to host the meeting than one of God’s hidden miracles, MUIS (Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura), the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.

"Death of a Muslim" by Reuven Firestone, Jewish Journal, 9 July 2010 (for article in german, click here)

A bright light of critical scholarship of Islam was just extinguished last week in Cairo with the death of Professor Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd on July 5. I saw him only last spring at the international conference, “The Qur’an in its Historical Context” held at the University of Notre Dame, where he and Professor Abdolkarim Soroush, the great contemporary Iranian philosopher and intellectual, together gave one of the most intellectually rigorous and emotionally moving keynote presentations I have ever experienced at an academic conference. These two Muslims represent the zenith of intellectual and ethical expression among any people of faith I know.

Abu Zayd is unfortunately best known for being tried by a civil court in Cairo in the mid-1990s and “convicted of apostasy,” after which he was to be forced by the court to divorce his beloved wife before fleeing Egypt for the West. He of course was not an apostate but a true believer who epitomized the intellectual and spiritual life of the classical `alim (plural `ulama’), the archetypal Muslim scholar who combined expertise in jurisprudence with philosophy, rhetoric, theology and Qur’an hermeneutics. Like Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd), and like their contemporaries, Maimonides the Jew and Thomas Aquinas the Christian, Abu Zayd insisted on applying critical thinking to theology and even to what believers have the most difficult time viewing in this light: divine revelation.

June 2010

"Action: The Art of Muslim-Jewish Dialogue" by Jane E. Herman, Reform Judaism Magazine, Summer 2010

One snowy Shabbat afternoon in the midst of last winter’s Gaza War, Rabbi Joshua Davidson and a handful of congregants from Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester in Chappaqua, New York joined a crowd of 50 people on the west side of South Greeley Avenue holding placards that read: “We stand with Israel” and “Hamas are Murderers.” On the east side of the same Chappaqua street, a local pro-Palestinian group of similar size was protesting against Israel’s actions in Gaza. “Among those across the street,” says Rabbi Davidson, “stood faithful participants in Temple Beth El’s dialogue with the Upper Westchester Muslim Society—friends who share our dream of two peoples living peacefully together in the Middle East.” That friendship had begun about five years earlier, when two lay leaders in the local Muslim community, Nada Khalife and Miyase Katirciogolu, joined Rabbi Davidson and other religious leaders on the Chappaqua Interfaith Council. Before long, the two women had become familiar faces at Temple Beth El, breaking the Ramadan fast in the sukkah and celebrating Thanksgiving with the congregational family; for its part, the society’s mosque hosted a joint 9/11 memorial service.

"Report: U.S. Muslim-Jewish engagement growing" JTA, 30 May 2010

Muslim-Jewish engagement is growing in the United States, with the greatest expansion during the past two years, a new report found.Even as the political situation in the Middle East continues to heat up, more groups dedicated to Muslim-Jewish education, dialogue and joint social action are being formed, according to the report issued by the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement in Los Angeles, a partnership between Hebrew Union College, Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation and the University of Southern California. The data were collected from two surveys conducted in November 2009.More than 70 percent of these groups have emerged since 9/11. Of those, half were created in the past 24 months.

The same article was picked up by NBC

March 2010

"Islam and Muslims Should Not Scare You" by Amjad Mahmood Khan, Christian Science Monitor, 23 March 2010

The image of American Muslims is in serious disrepair. A January 2010 Gallup poll found that almost half of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Islam. About the same number of Americans harbor personal prejudice toward Muslims, according to the poll. These numbers become especially troubling when we consider that two-thirds of the Americans polled admit to knowing little to nothing about Islam. Why are many Americans distrustful of a religion and people they know very little about? People tend to fear what they do not understand. Americans, for the most part, have been brought up in a Christian society. They might not agree with it, but they are familiar with it and thus tend not to feel threatened by it.

February 2010

"Banning the Burqa: An Opinion by Reuven Firestone" Jewish Journal, 9 February 2010

While on sabbatical as a family in Egypt a couple of years ago, we quickly became accustomed to seeing women wearing head coverings on the street. Nearly every single Muslim woman over the age of 12 wore one. The general word for these is hijab, which is a quranic term meaning “barrier” or “screen.” In a famous verse (33:53) it refers to a partition in the home of the prophet Muhammad to separate the women of his family from the eyes of the many people who would come to Muhammad’s home seeking an audience with him. Its meaning is basically the same as the Hebrew word mechitzah, the barrier that separates the women’s section from the men’s section in traditional synagogues.

"Jewish/Muslim Study Course Grounds Interfaith Dialogue in Sacred Text" JTA, 9 February 2010 by Sue Fishkin

BERKELEY, Calif. (JTA) -- Judaism is a harsh, exacting faith condemning rebellious children to death by stoning. Islam exhorts Muslims to kill non-believers. Neither statement, according to many Jewish and Muslim scholars, is true. But they are among the most persistent charges laid at the feet of Judaism and Islam by those who are unfamiliar with the basic holy texts of the other’s faith. Hampered by such ignorance, how can Jews and Muslims engage in real interfaith dialogue?

November 2009

"New Ground Kicks Off Muslim-Jewish Film Series" 19 November 2009

Over 40 people attended a screening of the French film "Bad Faith," the premiere event of the Muslim-Jewish Film series at the University of Southern California (USC). The series, co-sponsored by NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement and USC's Office of Religious Life, seeks to use film to provoke productive discussions around sensitive and relevant issues in both the Muslim and Jewish communities.

"Windmueller to step down as HUC dean" JTA, November 16 2009.

"Jewish-Muslim Relations" by Dan Rickman Y-Net News, 8 November 2009.

August 2009

"Where Tzedakah Meets Sadaqa," by Tamar Snyder, The Jewish Week, 5 August 2009.

In recent years, there has been a groundswell in Muslim-Jewish encounter programs. Two weeks ago, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding organized a four-day mission for rabbis and imams. In February, The Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (CMJE) and NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change launched a pilot text-study program where Muslims and Jews studied and discussed Islamic and Judaic religious sources together.

July 2009

"Embracing the Challenge: Reuven Firestone on Jewish-Muslim Dialogue, An Interview by Joshua Stanton," Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, 5 July 2009.

June 2009

"Jews, Muslims Share Sacred Texts" By Laura Stampler, Jewish Journal, 24 June 2009.

On Wednesday night, June 17, a mélange of Angelinos gathered in the downstairs cafeteria of the Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation mosque. Some wore kippot, others kufis, some women wore their hair in long curls and others covered themselves in headscarves, but all united for a shared evening of conversation, dinner and Islamic and Judaic text study.

"Studying Religious Texts Fosters New Connections between Muslim and Jewish Peers," HUC-JIR News Center, 15 June 2009.

Can religious texts be used to unite? The pilot cohort of the Muslim-Jewish Text Study program believes that the answer is “yes.” More than twenty Muslim and Jewish peers and professionals have spent the last four months meeting together to discuss themes from their respective traditions.

April 2009

"Parliamentarians Encourage Jewish Muslim Dialogue in Britain," by Tom Tugend, Jewish, 29 April 2009.

" Dr. Mohamed Fathi Osman to Receive Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Graduation Ceremonies", HUC Press Room, April 2009.

"Peace Talks: Muslim-Jewish Engagement," By Marwa Katbi, The Seventy Faces, 24 April 2009

USC is the first academic institution to launch a Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement. Cool ... and that means what?

March 2009

"Candor and Conflict," by Rob Asghar, USC Public Diplomacy Blog, 16 March 2009.

"An Appreciation of Islam: Q&A with Rabbi Reuven Firestone", by Brad A. Greenberg, Jewish Journal Los Angeles, 11 March 2009

November 2008

"Southern California Jews and Muslims share a Faith in each other's Goodwill" by Duke Helfand and Raja Abdulrahim, Los Angeles Times, 24 November 2008.

Some synagogue and mosque congregants embrace a campaign designed to foster mutual understanding.

"Bridging the Muslim-Jewish divide" by Tom Tugend, JTA, 18 November 2008.

"Mosques and synagogues reach across divide" by Tom Tugend, Jewish Journal, 12 November 2008.

The transcontinental "Weekend of Twinning," under the theme, "Confronting Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism Together," will be held nationally Nov. 21-23, but Los Angeles will get a jump on the rest of the country.

August 2008

HUC-JIR Joins the Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation and USC to Form Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement
HUC-JIR News Center, 8 August 2008

Leaders from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and the Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation joined USC College Dean Howard Gillman to pledge their institutions' support to a unique partnership housed in the College's Center for Religion and Civic Culture.

Celebrating Old Friendships, Forging New Ones, by Wayne Lewis, August 2008.

Omar Foundation luncheon honors USC College Dean Howard Gillman, spotlights new joint center.

March 2008

Islamic Shura Council of Southern California Congratulates CMJE as a 'historic milestone'

On March 26th, 2008, the Shura Council of Southern California made the following statement in its community update:

A historical milestone toward Muslim-Jewish relationship was reached with the formation of the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, a collaborative between USC Center for Religion & Civic Culture (CRCC) with Hebrew Union College (HUC) and the Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Foundation (Omar). This project represents an unprecedented institutional initiative promoted by three proven and successful educational structures. Applauding Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Foundation, a major Islamic institution of Southern California, Dr. Siddiqi, Chairman of the Shura Council said, "this is historic, most meaningful and a need of the day.

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