Debunking conventional wisdom, Muslim and Jewish groups throughout the United States are dialoguing with one another in increasing numbers. A report on the field of Muslim-Jewish engagement issued by the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (CMJE) indicates that the number of organizations and groups with missions to build relationships between Islamic and Jewish communities in the United States has been growing since 2001 and has risen significantly in the last two years.
This CMJE report marks the first comprehensive survey of this burgeoning field and offers recommendations to strengthen and expanded the work done by practitioners.
"To grow the field of Muslim-Jewish engagement, we first need to understand it," says Dafer M. Dakhil, CMJE founding co-director. CMJE represents the only academic think tank and resource center in North America dedicated specifically to Muslim-Jewish relations.
The study collected data from organizations in the United States and Canada and from participants in the second annual Weekend of Twinning (SM), a program that partners mosques, synagogues, and other organizations for a weekend of interfaith programming.
The surveys revealed the following trends:
- There has been a significant increase in the formation of these groups after 2001.
- Nearly half of the groups founded since then were formed within the last 24 months.
- While these groups largely rely on a small core of volunteers, they have extensive networks.
- Over half of responding groups reach 100 people or more annually.
- Over a quarter report reaching over 500 people.
- The tech-savvy nature of these groups allows them to reach expanding numbers. Nearly two-thirds possess a website.
- The groups have aspirations to expand their public presence but lack financial and staff resources.
- Groups desire online educational, leadership-building and programmatic resources.
- Events like the Weekend of Twinning (SM) lead to ongoing organizational relationships that extend beyond formal programming.
Groups engaging in this movement range from intimate groups to national collaborations. In Atlanta, for example, the Jewish-Muslim Women's Baking Circle brings women of all ages around a kitchen table to bake and build relationships across religious boundaries. The group describes itself as "an informal gathering of women who meet from time to time to bake and talk."
The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding—the organization responsible for the annual Weekend of Twinning (SM) has created the largest Muslim-Jewish initiative to date. Groups' objectives include everything from basic education and combating hate to community action and policy advocacy. While much of the focus is external, "the deepest change that students of Muslim-Jewish engagement experience is in their own self understanding," says Rabbi Reuven Firestone, founding co-director of CMJE.
Click here to download the final study results.