A letter from our Executive Director on changing perceptions
In 2010 I went on a trip to Poland. I was not prepared for the impact that this trip would have on my emotions. Nor was I prepared for the enormity of the planned hate and destruction that I saw.
I left Poland knowing that I had to do my part to stop hate and negative stereotypes. It was the hate of the “other” that created the devastation of the Holocaust. The Talmud (oral law) asks, “Who is a hero?” and answers “One who makes one‘s enemy into a friend.” The Rabbis communicated that it’s possible to change people’s attitudes and that it is desirable to strive to do so. I knew I had to change attitudes.
During the summer of 2010, I co-founded the first chapter of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom with Atiya Aftab. This group has blossomed into a real sisterhood; we share in public advocacy, participate in life cycle events and holiday celebrations, and have regular get-togethers. As other women heard about our group, they regularly asked us to help them start a new chapter. It was clear that there was a need to take this successful model and expand it to include more women. We had proven that you could take women from two faith groups who had little, if any, contact with one another, and bring them together to create something much greater than the sum of their parts! That is how the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom started and it is my personal vision to build chapters of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom throughout the U.S.
Women navigate the world through relationships. The relationships that are built by bringing together Muslim and Jewish women, who share so many practices and beliefs, are life-changing and can help put an end to anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish sentiment. We influence family, friends and the general public about our strength in coming together to build bridges and fight hate, negative stereotyping and prejudice. We are changing the world, one Muslim and one Jewish woman at a time!
Sheryl Olitzky, Executive Director