The work of peace

Hamil Keskin and David Edelstein bonded through an interfaith program. (Quentin Rosso)
Hamil Keskin and David Edelstein bonded through an interfaith program. (Quentin Rosso)


Date posted: February 26, 2016

Jews, Muslims join in River Edge to learn more about each other

Back in 2014, Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge ran a Jewish-Muslim interfaith program as an elective for high schoolers in its religious school.

The program brought the synagogue’s students together with Muslim teens. They learned about each other’s religions. The Muslim teens came to the synagogue, and the Jewish kids visited a mosque. And the two groups forged friendships.

Now, the parents are carrying on.

A seven week series starting Thursday night will offer Jews and Muslims a chance to meet and to discuss some of the tough issues facing the communities, including extremism, jihad, and Jerusalem.

Like the teen program, this is a joint venture with the Peace Islands Institute, which seeks to brings Muslims into interfaith dialogue.

“We’re trying to build a bridge between all religious communities,” the institute’s New Jersey director, Ercan Tozan, said. “Interfaith dialogue is really crucial, especially nowadays.”

Mr. Tozan is originally from Turkey; the Peace Islands Institute likewise has Turkish roots. He said that there are about half a million Muslims of Turkish descent in the United States, two thirds of them in the New York metropolitan area.

The series, called “Spectrum of interpretation: Addressing critical issues within Islam and Judaism,” has been organized by Mr. Tozan and Temple Avodat Shalom’s Rabbi Paul Jacobson.

“The first week is a chance to do what is necessary in terms of icebreaking, to explore stereotypes, prejudices, and beliefs we have heard about each other,” Rabbi Jacobson said.

In later weeks, a guest lecturer will speak for half an hour or so, followed by questions and dialogue.

The roster includes three guest rabbis, the director of interfaith affairs at Peace Islands Institute, and a Muslim magazine editor. “We’re trying to go deeper in the interfaith dialogue than discussing what day do you keep the sabbath and what foods do you eat,” Rabbi Jacobson said.

“The class is meant to be text-based,” he said. “How do we read our own texts and what they present to us, whether it’s the Torah and rabbinic texts, or a text from the Quran? How is it possible to interpret the texts in a different light than from what contemporary media culture happens to show us? How do we as people with different faith backgrounds approach these issues? Can we approach them together?”

After the opening session come sessions on “extreme perspectives” in Islam and Judaism. The group will examine the sources of extremism in the two religions, and look at how Jewish and Islamic sources present peaceful alternatives. Then the course will look at the concepts of jihad in Islam and war in Judaism.

In its penultimate week, the course will look at Jerusalem in the two religions. Finally, the podium will return to Rabbi Jacobson and Mr. Tozan, and the discussion will look at next steps. The series, Rabbi Jacobson said, is open to the wider Jewish community beyond the congregation.

Within the congregation, the parents of the Muslim and Jewish teens who took part in last year’s program recently gathered for a breakfast. David Edelstein of Paramus was one of the leaders of the Avodat Shalom’s teens. He’s very glad he took part in the dialogue.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to meet other people of another religious group and really talk about the differences and also the similarities our religions have,” he said. “This was an opportunity to meet other people our age, with similar life styles, and to be able to just talk with each other. There are so many things I learned from that program I never would have thought to ask. It gave me an opportunity to go to a mosque and feel the ambiance of their sacred space.”

Mr. Edelstein is now a student at Syracuse University, as is one of the Muslim teens he met, Hamit Keskin. Being at school together has tightened their friendship, and they’ve started talking about doing interfaith work together, whether through a campus interfaith club or through local chapters of Hillel and the Peace Island Institute.

Rabbi Jacobson said that the series “may be pushing some boundaries and challenging people. But if our knowledge of our own faith only stays at a superficial level, there’s a problem there. We need to push, to see if it’s possible to deepen our relationship. If you can’t have the conversation in a synagogue, I don’t know where you can have the conversation.

“People of faith don’t generally want to promote war and violence and intolerance,” Rabbi Jacobson added. “We want to promote the opposite, to find ways for peaceful coexistence, understanding, and living together.”

Source: The Jewish Standard , February 25, 2016


Related News

Five new mosque-cemevi projects on the way

There are plans to launch joint mosque-cemevi (Alevi house of worship) projects in five other Turkish provinces in addition to the recently launched project in the Turkish capital city of Ankara, the Radikal daily reported on Tuesday. According to the daily, the locations of the new mosque-cemevi projects will be the Kartal district in İstanbul, […]

UN-DESA 53rd Commission for Social Development

Journalists and Writers Foundation, Albert Schweitzer Institute, and Peace Islands Institute held a panel discussion titled “Peaceful and Cohesive Societies for Social Development,” during the UN DESA 53rd Commission for Social Development.

Journalists and Writers Foundation to hold peace conference at UN

The first peace conference, titled “Mobilizing Civil Society for Building Peace,” will be held at the United Nations Center in Geneva with the participation of keynote speakers such as peace activist Ela Gandhi, the granddaughter of iconic activist Mahatma Gandhi, German Ambassador Dr. Heinrich Kreft and political affairs officer at the UN Andres Smith Serrano, as well as GYV President Mustafa Yeşil.

Roundhouse Roundup: A Turkish Friendship Dinner

U.S. critics of Gulen claim that an extreme Islamic fundamentalist lies beneath his public statements and that he is someone who wants to bring Sharia law to both Turkey and the U.S. In Turkey, though, his enemies portray him as a Zionist puppet of the CIA and Israel.

French editor says Gülen’s messages on anti-terrorism revolutionary

A French editor-in-chief has praised the anti-terrorism messages in an article written by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and published by a prestigious French daily last month, describing them as revolutionary and one of the “signs of hope” in 2015, which he said was marked by terror and fear.

Dialogue and Friendship Dinner in Portland, Oregon

On November 13th, 2013, Pacifica Institute’s Portland chapter held its 5th Annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinner having the author-journalist Mustafa Akyol as its keynote speaker. The dinner was attended by Turkish and American academics and businessmen. In his keynote speech centered on his book “Islam without Extremes,” Mustafa Akyol pointed out the fact that Islam is misrepresented.

Latest News

Crimes Against Humanity in Erdogan’s Turkey

Exiled journalist warns of a genocide in the making in newly released book

Vague terrorism charge used to target supporters of the Gülen movement: UN special rapporteurs

ECtHR urges Albania not to deport Gülen follower to Turkey

Woman detained over links to Gülen movement after giving birth

Formerly Gülen-linked schools in Albania face growing gov’t pressure

Exclusive: Turkey, Kosovo violated fundamental rights of expelled teachers, UN body says

Sacked policeman’s grim death sparks debate on COVID-19 data in Turkish prisons

Dissidents of the Turkish government are living in fear in Canada

In Case You Missed It

Turkish scholar Fethullah Gulen receives Manhae Peace Prize

Pakistan’s Senate body to summon officials over missing Turkish family

Nigerian Turkish Nile University: Moulding the Lives of Young Nigerians

Steller: For Turks, post-coup purges make U.S. safe harbor

Turkish NGO sends aid to Syrians

NJ Legislature recognized Turkish-American organizations for accomplishments, contributions

Police wait outside delivery room to detain woman who just gave birth

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News