I agree with Rabbi Waxman that we must be proactive in working towards strengthening the relationships between our various Jewish movements to facilitate closer cooperation and deeper respect within the Jewish community here and in Israel. However, I also agree with Rabbi Stern that we need to more actively cultivate a dialogue with the Muslim community.
In addition to the Children of Abraham, another important project is Roads to You, a foundation of tolerance founded by the young Jordanian pianist, Zade Dirani. Dirani has brought together Muslims, American and European Christians, and Israeli and American Jews to perform together and to work together on tolerance issues through their music. Their concert at my synagogue helped spark other Muslim –Jewish cooperative projects and dialogues.
That said, I must note that Ari Alexander (as quoted by Rabbi Stern) is wrong about one important thing: while it is true that much of the Muslim world is being taught to hate Jews in the most virulent of ways, the same cannot be said about what Jews are being taught about Muslims. In fact, it has been the Jewish organizations, such as ADL, who are in the forefront of fighting against stereotyping or discriminating against Muslims. In my community, it has been the Board of Rabbis and the Jewish Council who have supported the Muslim community in debates about head coverings and Friday religious observances in our public schools. In contrast, I do not know of even one organization of Muslim clerics anywhere in the world which has stood up to decry the defamation of the Jewish people in school texts and public media. The one monumental exception is King Abdullah II of Jordan, who is trying to make advances in the area of tolerance. He should be in all our prayers this coming week.
We have a long way to go before Jewish-Muslim dialogue approximates the advances that the 1960s-80s saw in Jewish-Christian dialogue. The biblical story of Abraham that we read on Rosh Hashanah ends when Isaac and Ishmael come together in peace to bury their father. At gravesite they recognize their shared lineage and stand side by side, cooperatively in a great purpose. Hopefully the day will come when Jews and Muslims will be able to stand side by side cooperatively in a great purpose, the purpose of peace and tolerance. But it can only happen if we have a partner with whom to stand, and that is up to the Muslim community. In the meantime, let us be brave enough to take the small steps we can with our neighbors. Perhaps someday they can become our friends as well.