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December 20, 2014 | 28th Kislev 5775

Introductory Letter from Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, URJ

Interconnected since the time of Abraham, we Jews and Muslims share much in common: ancient monotheistic faiths, cultural similarities and, as minority religions in North America, experiences with assimilation and discrimination. Having said that, there also exists profound ignorance between Jews and Muslims. Jews are not well educated about Islam, and Muslims are not well educated about Judaism.

In our increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, we can ill afford to segregate ourselves within our mosques and synagogues. Rather, we must educate ourselves and each other, thus taking a necessary first step toward global understanding and religious harmony.

In the pages that follow, you will find 11 lessons that the Union for Reform Judaism, in concert with the staff of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), has created to achieve this goal. I am proud that the Union is working with ISNA to conquer the mutual ignorance that exists among our adherents and I am deeply touched by the commitment of our synagogues, clergy, and lay leaders to participate in The Children of Abraham: Jews and Muslims in Conversation. Let these lessons serve as a springboard for ongoing cooperation and dialogue to which we can all be committed.

There are many tough issues that we need to address—terrorism, Israel, the plight of the Palestinians, and human rights, among others—and this will not be an easy task. But neither is that a reason to desist. Instead, the challenge should serve as a catalyst, an impetus to do more and to more fully commit ourselves to this dialogue. Let us agree, on the one hand, to approach these issues with humility; on the other hand, let us also agree that we will assert our convictions with passion, even as we remain respectful of our disagreements.

We know from experience that if this endeavor is to succeed, it must not be one-sided. As Jews, we will share our faith with Muslims, and Muslims, in turn, will share their faith with us. As a community we must see each other as partners, equal in weight and stature, in this venture. This means we must share equally the costs of the program, the responsibilities of facilitation, the hosting of dialogue sessions and above all, commitment to its success. It is my sincere hope that as we learn about each other’s belief and practices and as we tackle the tough issues that lie before us, we will learn to see one another as human beings created in the image of God.

The leadership and staff of the Union are deeply committed to the success of this program. If, as you prepare to dialogue with your local Muslim community, we can provide assistance, including helping you find a mosque to work with, please do not hesitate to contact the Commission on Interreligious Affairs of Reform Judaism at 202-387-2800 or by email at interreligious@urj.org.

We wish you much success as you take on this sacred endeavor.

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism

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