Jews and Muslims have much in common. Both faiths are profoundly monotheistic and values-driven, which also means that both can be profoundly iconoclastic. Muslims and Jews trace their spiritual lineage to some of the same ancestors; indeed, Muslims accept the Jewish Patriarchs as prophets of God. Muslims and Jews additionally share many of the same core principles, including honesty, justice, mercy, generosity, respect for the sanctity of life, and the commitment to scholarship.
Unfortunately, the common ground between the two groups doesn’t stop with the above. Muslims and Jews have also come to experience what it means to live as minority groups in societies where they are frequently viewed with distrust, fear or even hatred. This experience has heightened their respective appreciation for the benefits of having their own homeland. Tragically, this appreciation has brought these two peace-loving peoples into conflict with each other over precious Middle-Eastern land.
For all of these reasons, it would seem impossible for either Jews or Muslims to understand their own civilization and faith without coming to understand their “cousins” and fellow children of Abraham. And yet, even now in the 21st century, the level of ignorance that each of these groups has about the other is staggering. It is that ignorance, above all else, that we are determined to confront.
Many times a year since early-2009, JIDS has conducted dialogues that bring together dozens of Jews and Muslims for friendly, yet frank, encounters. We encourage participants to speak their minds, but to do so respectfully. We believe that if participants cannot find a way to make a point with love in their hearts, it is better saved for another day.
Our members come from different mosques and synagogues. We represent different denominations within these faiths. We include men and women, members of clergy and laypeople.
JIDS takes seriously the statement in the book of Exodus that the Jewish people are to become “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” only we apply that statement to the Islamic people as well. We challenge all participants to acquire the minds of scholars and the compassion of prophets.
Moreover, whether this goes by the name of the Hebrew “tikkun-olam” or the Arabic “islah,” we at JIDS care as deeply about repairing the world at large as we do about eliminating ignorance within our own communities. It is our hope that JIDS dialogues, as well as the social action events we occasionally sponsor, can serve as a catalyst for other Muslim-Jewish and interfaith organizations to engage in projects that uplift our communities, our nation and our world.