We as Reform Jews are committed to building relationships and gaining mutual understanding with our Muslim neighbors through dialogue and shared experiences because of our deep conviction that America is different, one of the very few places where the promise of true pluralism is not too wild a hope. We know as religious Americans that in this great country, we are stronger and safer when we transcend our fears and work together, rather than apart.
As a once-persecuted minority in countries where anti-Semitism is still a force, we understand the plight of Muslims in North America today. Although most American and Canadian Muslims are treated with dignity, since 9/11 we do not lack for purveyors of hate who see Muslims as a fifth column and who engage in the ugliest form of stereotyping, casually ascribing to all the guilt of a tiny minority.
At the same time, we live in a world in which religion often is manipulated to justify the most horrific acts, a world in which Islamic extremists constitute a profound threat. For some, this is a reason to flee from dialogue, but in fact the opposite is true. When killing is carried out in the name of God, sensible religious people have an obligation to do something about it. This makes Jewish-Muslim dialogue and relationship building in North America particularly urgent. Our task is to find the voices of moderation and to reclaim from the fanatics the true essence of religious belief.
In the North American Jewish community there are voices that criticize outreach efforts because of the perceived need to maintain “the unity of the community.” We have had quite enough of the shrill voices who profess to speak in our name and who use the slogan of “unity” to impose their views on the moderate majority. North American Jews remain now what they have always been—centrist, reasonable and ready to reach out to their neighbors.
We recognize that there exists in our community a profound ignorance about Islam, along with a real desire to learn about what moves and motivates Muslims today. Serious educational efforts to address this ignorance must be a high priority.
Therefore, the Union for Reform Judaism resolves to:
- Work with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and other appropriate partners to promote a new program of Muslim-Jewish dialogue – Children of Abraham: Muslims and Jews in Conversation – based on building relationships through mutual understanding and shared experiences between congregations, and including a structured dialogue guide for use in such conversations.
- Urge every Reform congregation to:
- Offer a course on Islam, utilizing the Union’s new curriculum, as part of its adult education program.
- Engage their local Muslim community in dialogue using Children of Abraham: Muslims and Jews in Conversation
- Commend Rabbi Eric Yoffie for his historic address to the 2007 Convention of the Islamic Society of North America, and welcome ISNA President Dr. Ingrid Mattson to our 2007 General Assembly.