We Stand Up for Each Other: Atiya Aftab, Co-founder and Board Chair

Proud of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom® and Atiya Aftab, Co-founder and Board Chair, for their support of and participation in the November 1 “Stand Up for the Other” Interfaith Program at Rutgers Douglas Student Center. Atiya was a presenter and shared the following words:

Good evening, salaam, shalom and peace be with you all! About seven years ago Sheryl Olitzky, my co-founder, had a life-changing trip to Poland after visiting concentration camps. When she returned to the States and heard anti-Muslim sentiment and rhetoric she was compelled to act — to build bridges. She sought out a Muslim woman and found me. When we finally met, we hit it off immediately. We put together a group of six Jewish and six Muslim women. We intentionally chose not to work within our places of worship. Our idea of interfaith was not me presenting Islam 101 and her presenting Judaism 101 and shaking hands and going our separate ways. Our objective was simple: plant seeds of friendship and peace. Our group shared family weddings, holidays — breaking fasts, dinner under the sukkah — and even funerals.

We were compelled after four years or so to take it to the next level.  We had so many women asking us if they could join our chapter so we decided to form a non-profit tax exempt organization– the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom®. It has been only a few years but today we have over 50 chapters around the country; we are hosting our third annual conference at Drew University on December 4 and note — Rutgers students can register for free! The conference is the largest gathering of Muslim and Jewish women in the world and we are expecting about 400 women!

We have also traveled together on a Building Bridges trip visiting the Balkans. We witnessed the effects of genocide in Bosnia and we met with Muslim families who saved Jews fleeing from the Holocaust in Albania.  We are looking forward to our next trip in the spring to Azerbaijan, a Muslim majority countries with decades long consistent Jewish community. Sheryl and I and the sisters of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom® have refused to be enemies.  We are waging peace one Jewish woman and one Muslim woman at at time!

Atiya Aftab, Co-founder and Board Chair, the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom®

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