November 2 was a history breaking day. It was the first time that a group of Muslim and Jewish women from all over the US gathered together to learn from each other, study together, build new friendships and then go out to their communities to be advocates of Muslim-Jewish relationship building. The women were of all ages, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and observance levels. But we were also all the same — all sisters of one God in pursuit of improving the world through peace.
At a time when relations between American Muslims and Jews have been strained by increased conflict in the Middle East, more than 100 Muslim and Jewish women gathered at Temple University in Philadelphia on Sunday, November 2 to declare solidarity with each other.
The Muslim-Jewish Women’s Leadership Conference, the first ever national gathering of Muslim and Jewish women, was cosponsered by the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, a fast-growing grassroots organization committed to developing relationships between Muslim and Jewish women, the Foundation For Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), and the Dialogue Institute of Temple University. The conference was the inaugural event of the 7th Annual Weekend of Twinning, an FFEU-sponsored event held every November in which thousands of Muslims and Jews in more than 30 countries around the world participate in joint Muslim-Jewish events.
“We convened this conference because we believe Muslim and Jewish women have a critically important role to play in spearheading the process of strengthening ties of communication and cooperation between our two faith communities,” said Sheryl Olitzky, Executive Director of the the Sisterhood of Salaam-Shalom (SOSS).
SOSS has an expanding list of chapters of Muslim and Jewish women located throughout the United States. The organization is committed to an annual leadership conference and will be sponsoring a January 2016 peace mission trip.
“Women tend to negotiate the world through relationships, and are more focused on establishing trust and celebrating commonalities than arguing over who is right or wrong,” continued Sheryl. “We were gratified to have the leading Muslim and Jewish scholars and activists in North America making presentations at our conference. It was so amazing to look out across the room. There were women of all ages, cultural backgrounds and level of observance. None of that mattered. What was critical was that they all shared the desire for peace as on group of God’s children.”
Among the renowned scholars and activists who spoke at the conference were Blu Greenberg, Daisy Khan, Rabia Chaudry, Johanna Neumann, Racelle Weiman, Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Celene Ayat Ibrahaim Lizzio, Inas Younis, Atiya Aftab, Donna Cephas, Brenda Rosenberg, Samia Bashoun, and Ellen Frankel. Topics discussed included Being a Woman of Faith Change Agent, Understanding Our Foremothers, Sarah and Hagar, Entering the Tough Discussions–Including the Middle East Conflict, Muslims who Saved Jews during the Holocaust and Using Social Media to Promote Peace.
“Muslim and Jewish women can be each other’s strongest allies as all of us confront the challenges of being observant women within our respective faiths and within society,” said SOSS Board Director Atiya Aftab, “juggling career, family and tradition. We are here to strengthen and support each other based on sharing the specific challenges facing each of us.”
Stay tuned for news of our 2015 retreat! We’ll gather on December 6 at Princeton University.