(JTA) — Dozens of Jewish and Muslim student leaders are meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia to promote inter-religious dialogue through backdoor channels.
The gathering, which began Sunday, was launched to allow young leaders to bypass community establishments and encourage direct dialogue, according to Ilya Sichrovsky, who founded the Muslim Jewish Conference, an Austria-based nonprofit, three years ago.
"Many people from the establishment of Jewish and Muslim communities are not on the same page on the issue of dialogue," Sichrovsky, a Viennese Jew, told JTA. "We had big trouble with the Austrian Jewish community when we told them we would not let them steer the conference."
Sichrovsky’s involvement with the Muslim Jewish Conference Lynn Schusterman began when he attended a summit of the ROI Community, a global network of Jewish innovators created by the Jewish-American philanthropist Lynn Schusterman.
"I decided to participate in this conference after one of my Muslim pupils told me he hated all Jews," Anna Magnand, a Muslim French teacher, told JTA. "I was offended. Beyond it, I think this anti-Semitism inevitably goes on to manifest itself in Islamophobia — the two are interconnected."
Sichrorvsky said the conference topics will be general. "Discussion on specific issues like anti-Semitism in France or the effect of Israel’s actions on anti-Semitism levels must be broached by the participants themselves," he said.
The conference, scheduled to end on July 15, has brought together young leaders from some 30 countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. Supporting the event is a host of organizations, including the European Union of Jewish Students.