Calls ring for a new Muslim/Jewish era

Might we be seeing the first sign of a thaw in Muslim/Jewish relations?

Just an itty-bitty sign?

Last year, 138 Muslim scholars from dozens of countries called for a new era in Muslim/Christian relations. Their open letterA Common Word Between Us and You — was well received by many Christian leaders, and the Vatican plans to host several of the signatories for a conversation.

jewish_star.pngNow the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations in the UK has issued an open letter to the international Jewish community, calling for the end of “stereotypes and prejudices” that divide the Muslim and Jewish worlds.

The letter says, in part:

This Letter is important for non-Muslims and Muslims because it illustrates that the Muslim world has diversity of opinion and that Muslims are willing to engage in a conversation with Jews, a conversation that is not wholly dominated by the conflict in Israel-Palestine. Although many Muslims and non-Muslims only know of Muslim-Jewish relations through the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there needs to be an awareness of other positive encounters at different stages of our history as well as the pioneering work of inter-religious dialogue being undertaken by contemporary Muslims and Jews outside of the Middle East.

starmoon_yellow.gifThree significant American Jewish leaders — of the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist worlds — have issued a joint response (which I received by press release and can’t find on the Web):

We deeply appreciate the hand extended in a letter from Muslim scholars at The Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations, and we clasp that hand willingly. That we have much to learn from and about each other is clear – sometimes painfully clear. We look forward to the shared work of thoughtful dialogue.

We appreciate in particular the letter’s assertion, regarding the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, that “The loss of every single life is a loss to humanity and a bloody stain on the tapestry of history. We call for a peaceful resolution that will assure mutual respect, prosperity and security to both Palestinians and Israelis, while allowing the Palestinian people their rights to self-determination�. We whole-heartedly share that perspective, and hope that our exploration of the troubling issues will enable us to understand each other’s narratives and to come together in explicit and stern denunciation of terrorism.

Clearly, the time for a respectful consideration of the issues that unite us and also of the issues that divide us has come; indeed, it has been too long postponed.

The response is from: Rabbi Jerome Epstein, Executive Vice President of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Dr. Carl Sheingold, Executive Vice President of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation; and Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Additionally, the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations — which often represents Judaism in talks with other faiths — has issued a call for a new dialogue between Muslims and Jews.

It says, in part:

As believers in the One Creator and Guide of the Universe, referred to in both our Traditions as the Merciful One, who demands mercy and compassion of us all, it is essential to recapture and develop the spirit of Jewish-Muslim dialogue and mutual respect. True love of God demands this dialogue, not only to uphold the aforementioned sublime teachings and to recapture the historical memory of mutual cooperation, but in order to facilitate genuine reconciliation among the different faith communities, between Muslims and Jews everywhere, and also for the sake of relations between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world at large.

The language in the latter letter brings to mind the language in the Muslim letter to Christians…

What does this all mean? Many will throw water on these efforts, no doubt. But you have to start somewhere…

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.