2015-12-23 / Columns

JCRC’s interfaith dialogues remind us to ‘love thy neighbor’

JCRC Executive Director

We are undoubtedly living during a time when our sensibilities as Jews are tested by a world in which a young mother can become a terrorist and leave her daughter an orphan. But as a steady succession of Israel’s Prime Ministers have echoed the prophet Isaiah’s pronouncement that Israel shall serve as “a light unto the nations” and be a moral and social beacon to the world, our JCRC strives to embody this pursuit as well.

For it is at times like now, with terrorist organizations like ISIS, Boko Haram, Hamas and Hezbollah continuing their efforts to destabilize democracies or create an Islamic caliphate, that we must do our part to call out these destructive ideologies and encourage those whose voice has influence to speak up and speak out.

Probably the number one criticism I hear from our community is the question of, “Why aren’t the Muslims speaking out against these groups and their actions?” My response has been swift and consistent—they are—you just need to take a minute to find them.

Let me save you that minute. In case you have not seen it, I share with you a statement that happened to be released on the second night of Chanukah by the Imams and leadership of 10 local mosques and masjids in South Jersey:

“We, the American Muslim community of Southern New Jersey, do hereby voice our strong condemnation of the mindless murders in San Bernardino, CA, and elsewhere. We hold in our sympathies and in our prayers the victims, with whose families we mourn. Renowned Islamic scholars everywhere have condemned ISIS and related groups.

Given the increasing frequency of these senseless acts in the name of Islam, we recognize that mere condemnation can no longer suffice. We urge Muslims everywhere, particularly Islamic organizations and mosques in the US, to initiate concrete measures to combat the ideologies of violence and extremism that falsely profess themselves to be Islamic.

We ourselves are undertaking several measures, which include (1) maintaining an ongoing rapport with law-enforcement officials and legislators; (2) monitoring closely the religious education and activities of Muslim children; and (3) increasing educational and outreach initiatives into schools, local neighborhoods, as well as churches and synagogues.

We ask our

American brothers and sisters to help us in these endeavors so that together we can create a safer, more tolerant, and peaceful nation.”

If one was to take the time to look online, you would find the story of what took place in Germany, where this past Chanukah, Jewish and Syrian children joined together to light a giant Chabad menorah, while being joined by the head of the Central Council of Muslims and representatives of numerous Berlin mosques who were also in attendance.

Or another event closer to home that took place last month in which over 40 religious and civic leaders of all faiths, including yours truly, assembled in Trenton as part of a program titled “We Refuse to Be Enemies,” and took the following pledge, “While interacting with members of my own faith or ethnic community, or with others, if I hear hateful comments from anyone about members of any other community, I pledge to stand up for the other and challenge bigotry in any form.” We encourage you to take and sign this pledge by visiting the JCRC website at www.jcrcsnj.org

I am proud of the Interfaith and Intergroup work our agency engages in to build relationships with our friends from other faiths as we work together to combat prejudice, bigotry, intolerance, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia throughout our communities.

To learn more about getting involved with our Interreligious Dialogue committees, please contact me at dsnyder@jfedsnj.org and help us continue to be a good friend and neighbor to those who strive to make this world a better place. .

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