Conventional wisdom has it that Jews and Muslims are implacable foes. But this past weekend, in Minnesota and around the country, mosques and synagogues were writing a very different story.
Four pairs of synagogues and mosques in our community participated in joint programming this weekend, honoring the national effort, "Muslim-Jewish Weekend of Twinning™," sponsored by the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. When the FFEU had its first Muslim-Jewish Weekend of Twinning in 2008, 50 pairs of mosques and synagogues participated. This year, over one hundred pairs joined the effort. Of those one hundred, four were here in the Twin Cities.
Each program was different, each one created uniquely by the leaders of the two participating congregations. In two cases, the program was part of an ongoing Jewish-Christian-Muslim dialogue program:
Adath Jeshurun of Minnetonka and the Islamic Center of Minnesota in Fridley, together with Pax Christi Catholic Community in Eden Prairie explored the topic, "How does our belief in the afterlife affect our life in this world?" Sunday evening at Pax Christi. This joint event was part of the Interfaith Conversations Project, a program of the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, now in its third year. (Full disclosure: I direct this project.)
In downtown Minneapolis, Temple Israel participated in Friday prayer at Masjid An-Nur, along with members of downtown Christian congregations, as part of the fall series, "Come Pray with Us: An Interfaith Experience in Worship." This series is a project of the Minneapolis Interfaith Forum, still going strong after 15 years of collaborative interfaith programming.
In the East Metro area, Beth Jacob Congregation of Mendota Heights and the Muslim American Society of Inver Grove Heights co-created the program, "Rabbi and Imam Read Scripture Together." A rabbi (i.e. me) and Imam Asad Zaman discussed parallel texts on the near-sacrifice of Abraham's son in the Torah and the Qur'an on Saturday at the synagogue and on Sunday at the mosque, to enthusiastic and overflowing crowds.
In the Western suburbs, members of Anjuman E-Asghari Islamic Center of Brooklyn Park came to Beth El Synagogue of St. Louis Park for a Sabbath dinner program, "Dine and Dialogue about Faith and Daily Life," on Friday evening at the synagogue.
Will these efforts mark the end of tensions between Jews and Muslims around the world? I wish it were that simple. But with such human encounters, in which Muslims and Jews (and others) come to know one another as neighbors and human beings, as fellow people of faith in a troubled world, all of us are one step closer to a world of peace for all people.