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Women gather to build alliances for peace
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Women gather to build alliances for peace

Among the participants were New Jerseyans Maris Chavenson, far left, standing, and Reza Green, far right.
Among the participants were New Jerseyans Maris Chavenson, far left, standing, and Reza Green, far right.

At a time when relations between American Muslims and Jews have been strained by increased conflict in the Middle East, more than 100 women of both faith communities gathered at Temple University in Philadelphia on Nov. 2 with the aim of declaring solidarity with each other. 

The Muslim-Jewish Women’s Leadership Conference was cosponsored by the Sisterhood of Salaam-Shalom, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, and the Dialogue Institute of Temple University. About 15 women from New Jersey attended the conference, which was the inaugural event of the seventh annual Weekend of Twinning, an FFEU-sponsored program held every November in which Muslims and Jews in more than 30 countries around the world participate in joint events.

According to SOSS executive director Sheryl Olitzky of North Brunswick, her organization plans to convene an annual leadership conference and an annual peace mission. “We held this conference because we believe Muslim and Jewish women have a critically important role to play in spearheading the process of strengthening ties of communication and cooperation between our two faith communities. Women tend to negotiate the world through relationships, and are more focused on establishing trust and celebrating commonalities than arguing over who is right or wrong. 

“We were gratified to have leading Muslim and Jewish scholars and activists in North America make presentations,” she said. “It was so amazing to look out across the room; there were women of all ages, cultural backgrounds, and levels of observance. None of that mattered; what was critical was that they all shared the desire for peace.”

Among the notable scholars and activists who spoke at the conference were Blu Greenberg, Daisy Khan, Rabia Chaudry, Johanna Neumann, Racelle Weiman, Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Celene Ayat Ibrahaim Lizzio, Inas Younis, Atiya Aftab, Donna Cephas, Brenda Rosenberg, Samia Bashoun, and Ellen Frankel. Among the topics discussed were Being a Woman of Faith Change Agent, Understanding Our Foremothers Sarah and Hagar, Entering the Tough Discussions-Including the Middle East Conflict, Muslims Who Saved Jews during the Holocaust, and Using Social Media to Promote Peace. 

According to SOSS board director Atiya Aftab, “Muslim and Jewish women can be each other’s strongest allies as all of us confront the challenges of being observant women within our respective faiths and within society, juggling career, family, and tradition. 

“We are here to strengthen and support each other based on sharing the specific challenges facing each of us.”

FFEU president Rabbi Marc Schneier said his organization was “proud and honored” to cosponsor the conference “at a moment when both anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish sentiment are on the rise in North America and internationally. Working together, Muslim and Jewish women can make a powerful contribution to the process of reconciling our two faith communities so that we can stand together to confront the difficult challenges facing Muslims and Jews alike.”

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