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N.Y. rabbis pull out of Muslim-Jewish twinning project

(JTA) — Two rabbis in western New York have pulled out of a Muslim-Jewish outreach effort, charging that the national sponsor is involved in Islamic fundamentalism.

The "twinning" project, which has been held each November since 2008, is a project of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding in cooperation with the Islamic Society of North America, which was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation terrorist financing case.

Rabbi Irwin Tanenbaum of Temple Beth Am and Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein of Temple Sinai, both of Amherst, declined to participate in Buffalo-area twinning events this month despite participating last year, citing concerns about the Islamic Society’s links to Islamic fundamentalist groups, the Buffalo News reported Nov. 11. Rabbi Drorah Setel of Temple Beth El in Niagara Falls, N.Y., is the only area rabbi to go forward with the program, according to the newspaper.

“The conflict in the Middle East ends up affecting passions here," Lazarus-Klein told the Buffalo News. "The issues are very close to people’s hearts, and it’s difficult to separate the world politics from local politics, and that’s unfortunate."

A national group based in Boston last year warned Buffalo-area Jews that radical Muslims posing as moderates had infiltrated the area.

“What we found was that the entities behind the Buffalo interfaith effort are anything but moderate,” Ilya Feoktistov, research director of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, wrote in an online publication. 

One event held last week in western New York had to be moved from a small synagogue to a private home after objections by members of the congregation, the Buffalo News reported.

Other twinning events are being held around the United States through the end of the year, involving some 100 synagogues and 100 mosques.
 

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