NYC seminary to host Jewish/Muslim forum

Just announced: The Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC will host a forum on the Jewish and Muslim experiences in America and how to foster Jewish/Muslim cooperation on Oct. 25.

The 7:30 p.m. program is being sponsored by the seminary (the main seminary of Conservative Judaism), the Islamic Society of North America and Hartford Seminary.

The seminary is hailing the event, called “Judaism and Islam in America Today: Assimilation and Authenticity,” as a “landmark program.”

In 2007, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the Reform Jewish movement, addressed the Islamic Society of North America.

According to a release:


The participants in the roundtable include Arnold M. Eisen, chancellor of JTS; Sherman Jackson, professor of Islam at the University of Michigan; and Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary. The moderator will be Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America and director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary. The panel will discuss the shared challenges faced by Jews and Muslims who live in this country, focusing on the delicate balance between assimilation into a predominantly secular and Christian society and the desire to retain one’s religious and cultural authenticity.


When Eisen became chancellor of the seminary a few years ago, he said that one of his priorities would  be to make JTS a center of Jewish/Muslim dialogue. This would appear to be a step in that direction.

The release also says:


Despite a history of close relationships and religious dialogue spanning more than a millennium, the difficult recent relations between Jews and Muslims have created a degree of mistrust and misunderstanding that many religious and communal leaders are eager to resolve. Both the workshop and public roundtable will offer an opportunity for Jewish, Muslim, and Christian religious leaders to come together and discuss the points of commonality in Jewish and Muslim experience in this country. Participants will also explore ways in which American Jews and Muslims, with all that they share, can work toward better cooperation.

Budget crisis extends to death

From the Associated Press:

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s medical examiner warns that proposed budget cuts could threaten Jewish and Muslim burial rites.

Dr. Charles Hirsch says the cuts could hamper his office in its efforts to expedite the burials of observant Jews and Muslims, whose religions call for burials within 24 hours of death.

The city has ordered the medical examiner’s proposed operating budget of about $80 million for the fiscal year beginning in July cut by $7 million. And the state has threatened to withhold about $18 million in reimbursements.

Hirsch told a City Council committee hearing Wednesday the budget cuts could delay the issuing of death certificates needed for burials and force his bureaus outside Manhattan to close.

The city’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner opened in 1918 and was the first such governmental agency in the United States.

Muslim inmates get their meals

A settlement that will allow Muslim inmates at Westchester County Jail to have halal meat — specially prepared according to Islamic dietary laws — is apparently of international interest.

My colleague Shawn Cohen wrote about the settlement after a judge signed off on it. It seems that it took three years for the case to be decided after Muslim inmates said they were being discriminated against. They have had to eat vegetarian meals instead of meat dishes that were not prepared in accordance with their faith.

Now Muslim inmates will be able to have four halal meat dishes a week. Actually, the jail began offering halal meals in September.

The Associated Press picked up the story, and the International Herald-Tribune ran it. The IHT, the international, English-language daily, is very popular in Europe. And these days, Europe is keenly interested in all aspects of assimilating Muslims into the wider culture…

What vegetable is your personal jihad?

A Muslim website called One Nation For All has a very interesting short film called A Land Called Paradise.

It features American Muslims holding signs with messages for non-Muslims. The filmmaker, 23-year-old Lena Khan, asked over 2,000 American Muslims what they wished to say to the rest of the world.

Among their messages…

One young boy holds a sign that says “Broccoli is my personal jihad.�

A black man: “My forefathers were Muslim slaves.”

A smiling woman, her head totally covered except for her face: “I, too, shop at Victoria’s Secret.”

A young girl: “I hope Justin Timberlake will be in my heaven.”

A woman holds a sign that says: “Islam tells me to help the less fortunate.” Then we see her on a couch, where her next sign says: “But sometimes I’d rather watch Grey’s Anatomy.”

It’s very funny, insightful and appealing. And here it is:

<object width=”400″ height=”370″><param name=”movie” value=”″></param><param name=”wmode” value=”transparent”></param><embed src=”″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” wmode=”transparent” width=”400″ height=”370″></embed></object>

Obama the ‘Muslim’ not going away?

A couple of weeks ago, my wife got one of those mass emails alleging that Barack Obama is some sort of Muslim in disguise or a Muslim sympathizer or something very, very bad.

I kind of dismissed it. But it seems that the whole “Obama is really a Muslim” smear campaign is not going away.

tjndc5-5ivzkz3ruv61co6d81rg_layout.jpgOf course, the instantly famous photo of Obama wearing the local garb while in Kenya in 2006 has caused tremendous controversy. The Drudge Report says the photo, taken by the AP, is being circulated by Clinton staffers (which the Clinton people deny).

Retired Air Force Gen. Scott Gration, an Obama adviser who went on the trip to Kenya, told reporters that Obama was trying to learn how tribes organize themselves:

And in the course of this, Senator Obama was given an outfit and as the guest that he was, the great guest, he took this outfit and they encouraged him to try some of it on. It was a thing that we all do.


The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of The Interfaith Alliance, said this in a statement:

If it is true that this photo was circulated by the Clinton campaign, then they should be ashamed of themselves, and Senator Clinton should apologize. This incident is the latest example of presidential candidates using religion to divide this nation rather than to unite it. Senator Obama is not a Muslim and never has been; but even if he were, it should not matter. Candidates should be judged on their merits, not on what house of worship they attend.

The circulation of this photo is clearly not aimed at promoting better interfaith relations, and it has the broader impact of marginalizing the Muslim community as a whole. It is a modern day scare tactic in the tradition of the Willie Horton ad.

The executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations wrote in the Chicago Tribune that the smear campaign raises all sorts of ugly questions:

Whenever I address young Muslim audiences that may be struggling with identity issues, I remind them that this is their country, too. I tell them they should observe their civic duties, vote and, if it behooves them, run for public office and help bring about the positive reform they often passively expect of others.

It goes against all that I advocate that the mere rumor of a person being a Muslim — let alone actually being one — could be a tool to destroy political aspirations. This in a nation that prides itself on being the heart of the free world.

And, boy, it can’t help things that Louis Farrakhan is talking up Obama. If anything will feed the conspiracy theories out there, it’s the Nation of Islam leader coming out of health-related hiding to praise Obama.

In case we forget, Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ.



New mosque approved near Albany

Several new mosques and Islamic centers are planned in this region, so here’s news of one that has been approved in the town of Colonie, N.Y. (near Albany).

Capital News 9 reports that the town has approved a 50,000-square-foot facility after five years of reviews.

Abdulkadir Elmi, a trustee of the Masjid Al-Hidaya Mosque, said:

“It’s a great accomplishment really, for Muslims in this area to have a place of worship that’s decent and that can accommodate our functions and services for the next 50 years or so. Where our kids can be proud of, where they can invite other kids and reciprocate the faith with our Christian and Jewish (neighbors), and other faiths.”

You can watch the TV report “here.”: