WASHINGTON (JTA) – Some 60 rabbis and imams in the Washington area agreed to hold events together during a summit designed to strengthen ties between mosques and congregations.
The participants in Sunday’s summit — part of the seventh annual Weekend of Twinning throughout the world — included 20 rabbis from across the religious spectrum.
The Jewish and Muslim clergy said they would join in an upcoming event to package food for the hungry and homeless.
The afternoon also featured frank discussion about the Middle East conflict and how to stress the two religions’ similarities rather than their differences.
“The point of this event is to bring together rabbis and imams as a first step toward the goal of bringing our congregants together,” Rabbi Bruce Lustig of the Washington Hebrew Congregation said in a statement issued by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which sponsors the twinning weekend. “It is vital that we bring together grassroots Jews and Muslims to do acts of social service together while connecting on a human level. We need to a great deal more to connect our young people.”
Dr. Sayyid Syeed, the national director for the office for interfaith and community alliances of the Islamic Society of North America, agreed in his statement.
“We realized that we cannot afford to wait years for the Middle East conflict to be resolved before strengthening ties between Jews and Muslims in Washington and across the U.S.,” he said. “We are two important communities living alongside each other that need to learn about each other’s cultures and faith traditions, while building friendships along the way. This wall has to be broken first.”
Rabbi Rachel Laser, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, noted that “both of our communities are beneficiaries of the openness of America, but at the same time we both suffer as victims of hate crimes and should be there for each other. We really don’t have a choice.”