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Finding Commonalities Amidst Differences

I agree with all that has been said by rabbis Stern, Hirschfield, and Waxman about agreeing to enter into dialogue with those with whom we disagree while being careful not to be duped or give up articulating our own concerns just to get to or stay at the table.
There are some other things we can do, particularly on the local level. I recently attended a Jewish-Muslim interfaith dialogue which focused on the challenges of raising Jewish and Muslim children in a majority culture which is different from our own. We shared real and personal concerns and strategies, as well as identified potential areas in which we might be able to work together. Good feelings and a sense of hopefulness pervaded the evening. Last year my congregation hosted a Roads to You Tour concert by Jordanian musician Zade. He has brought together Jewish, Christian and Muslim musicians who not only perform together but dedicate themselves to talking about tolerance in their own ethnic communities. They work with students in communities across the country and hopefully offer them a model for how people of different faiths can indeed work together. Zade’s work here is so critical because, if we can’t build a commitment to tolerance among the Muslim community in the United States, chances are we won’t be able to do so anywhere. Some of my congregants were wary of working with Zade, so as not to give the impression that most Muslims would be as willing to work together with the Jewish community. They missed the point: that we need to support such courageous Muslims who are bringing forth the message of cooperation.
There are limits to such an approach, of course. The Second Intifada deflated the Israeli peace movement in such a visceral way because well-meaning Jewish peace activitists (myself among them) had thought that dialogue and cooperative projects with Palestinians would build mutual trust and ultimately result in the means to build a cooperative peace. The problem was not with what we said together but what was being said behind our backs and the willingness of those in the peace party to ignore it. This is probably what Rabbi Stern was referring to in his warning that we not allow ourselves to be duped.
I think we have learned something in the last few years. We have to talk together, but we also must be vigilant and willing to confront–in a respectful and calm manner–contradictions and inappropriate contentions whenever presented. In this way we can start rebuilding the steps towards interfaith dialogue that have worked elsewhere: first deal with what you have in common to build a recognition of shared humanity, then begin to deal with what is unique to each group in order to begin to appreciate our differences, and only finally deal with where we actually differ, to find some ways of showing respect for each side.

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posted June 19, 2007 at 11:10 am

1/ Common ground? Well let’s see, a lot of Muslims believe Israel should be wiped off the face of the map and a lot of leftie Jews agree.
That’s a start.
2/ As to musicians, most (male) of them do what they do to get chicks. In any event people who live a lot of their lives in a drug-induced haze may not be the best people to handle negotiations.

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posted June 19, 2007 at 11:31 am

Common ground? The only common ground as per the Rambam is that both Judaism and Islam are monotheistic religions. That is where it begins and ends! When I was living in Israel a taxi driver immigrant from an Arab country told me that he would never believe an Arab even if he said someone was dead. This was in the 1980’s well before intifada and all the current terrorism. I thought the driver was extreme until….I saw on TV how in a funeral procession with a “dead” person covered on a gurney JUMPED OFF OF THE GURNEY AND WALKED AWAY! [Of course, the journalist’s life was threatened.] Now I understand that the driver was not so extreme in his assessment of the Arab world. Read the book, “Because They Hate Us” by a Lebanese Christian. It is right on. There will be peace when Moshiach is here. Not before. This is a religious war not a political war solved by negotiations. When Moshiach is here all the nations of the world will recognize HaShem as G-d. May Moshiach come speedily in our days.

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Rick Abrams

posted June 21, 2007 at 11:34 am

Judy expresses one idea — that we have to wait until Moshiach arrives — which is not supported by many Jews. I would say that a vast majority of Jews do not support this idea. It is akin to waiting for the Second Coming of Christ, another idea which most Jews do not endorse.
We have to deal with other human beings ourselves. During the High Holidays, if we have offended somone, we need to ask them and Not G-d, for their forgiveness. Nor can I as a Jew expect any Jewish leader to intervene and handle my personal relationships with other people. The entire idea that we will simply let someone else set things straight, be it Moshiach or Jesus, is not accepted by most Jews.
Presently there is a huge faction of the Arab and Muslim world with whom dialogue is impossible. Other parts of the Arab world are exemplary. I point to the news reporting of The Jordan Times. It is vastly more professional than either New York Times, The L.A. Times, or any other major American newspaper. The anti-Semitic lunatics may still rant in the Opinion Section, but that it O.K. That is the place for opinions. The Jordan Times news sections are objective. The Jordanian government is rational and we can communicate with them, but they do not cause the problems.
But there can be no dialogue with someone like Hamas, Hizbollah, and Iran, who refuses to talk with you and who insists on one goal — your death.

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Kris C.

posted July 1, 2007 at 10:59 pm

The reason dialogue will never be possible among many of these people is due to the fact they are ignorant,uneducated and stubborn.They only know what little they have been taught by their prejudiced leaders.They have no desire to listen to anyone else,nor to learn anything new and certainly not to consider any other “opinion”.OH yeah,Dave–not all muscians live in a drug-induced hazes.

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posted July 3, 2007 at 7:57 pm

Well maybe not all…

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posted July 5, 2007 at 5:41 pm

I’m a left-leaning Jew but I don’t believe Israel should be wiped off the map. But then, I don’t believe Palestine should be wiped off the map either. Five women were gunned down at the Jewish Federation in my city. I see a backlash against Jews everywhere because of Israel’s actions.

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posted July 5, 2007 at 9:07 pm

Six million Jews were murdered during a 12 year period (albeit not at the Jewish Federation in your city which granted is the important thing) before Israel was created.

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Dyantej Yuumih

posted July 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm

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