Article on The 3rd Abrahamic Roadtrip

In a week in which Anne Coulter visited our campus it was nice to read this article published in the Canadian Jewish News on the Abrahamic Roadtrip organized by the Centre for Catholic-Jewish Learning (soon to be Jewish-Catholic-Learning in May). It is great to see the positive programing and activities happening at UWO get the press they deserve.


Muslim Jewish Conference, Summer 2010 in Vienna – Registration now Open!

This conference looks very interesting as I do not believe anything like this has ever been attempted before.The conference is highly subsidized and is looking for students who are interested in Muslim-Jewish relations.

Muslim Jewish Conference August 1st to the 6th of 2010 in Vienna/Austria:

In recent times, most Jewish and Muslim youth have not had constructive  contact with each other, so their opinions regarding one another are mainly based on stereotypes and prejudices dispersed both by their media and society. There is a considerable lack of motivation in recognizing and understanding the wishes, fears, problems, and hopes of their communities.

We are strongly convinced that young individuals around the world would more than welcome such a multi-cultural and multi-religious dialogue. By offering a forum, we  wish to go beyond the borders of our dogmas and enter a phase where Muslims and Jews can see each other again as friends and allies who can together face the challenges that lie ahead. Our collective faith has no name, but is the faith in the possibility of a peaceful coexistence. Although we all clearly know there wont be an easy and fast solution for problems such as armed conflicts throughout the Middle East, we feel determined and convinced to address the topic of lacking communication and contribute to a long term change towards mutual appreciation.

The MJC aims to initiate as well as maintain a platform for discussion and networking about and between Jewish and Muslim communities, to contribute to a peaceful globalized world. This conference also aims towards identifying future needs, challenges and opportunities for finding and formulating shared positions and recommendations.

As such, MJC is a dialogue and leadership project that targets the leaders of tomorrow from sectors of economics, academics and politics in the start of their careers. The expectations are that this conference will:

1. develop an inter-cultural and inter-religious language and interaction between young academics of both religions to reduce preconceived bias by facilitating a platform for discussion and exchange.

2. strengthen a vital interest in improving dialogue and cooperation between Muslims and Jews by reducing and preventing stereotypes and prejudices.

3. establish a contact and networking framework, used by the participants personally as well as professionally and additionally by committees and the annual MJC conference.

It must be pointed out, that the main agenda of the conference is not a political one nor is it a debate upon the validity of our religions. It is rather an interdisciplinary exchange based on mutual respect and tolerance where differences are being acknowledged and moved beyond.

The participants represent a new generation of thinkers, doers and allies, who are connected by their faith in the possibility of a new era of cooperation. Our aim is to establish MJC as a well known name providing real change in the interaction of Muslim and Jewish communities around the world. This conference will be our first step together creating the power to forge a link between possibility and reality and actively shape our future

From Plowshares to Music – A Sunday Read (From the Blog of Glen Pearson, MP)

An amazing post from the blog of Glen Pearson, MP for London North Centre.

From Plowshares to Music – A Sunday Read

March 7, 2010 by glenpearson

Israel Apartheid Week, as predicted, stirred up a dust storm in various regions of the world, including Ottawa. The government’s penchant for permitting its support for Israel to push this country off the cliff of its historical balancing act between Israel and Palestine has resulted in Middle East skirmishes all over the capital and in its policies.

And then along comes Tzedaka/Sadaqah Project. Difficult to pronounce, its actions are nevertheless clear and unassailable. It’s actually a group of Jewish and Muslim students from the University of Western Ontario who have decided that history moves on, even when the prejudices of others remain stilted. Their practical mandate states: “The Jewish and Muslim communities share many important values that originate from common religious teachings. As students, we want to illustrate the importance of working together through shared values to make a difference in our local community, despite our religious and political differences.” Not very complicated, nor hopelessly political either.

This week, some 75 Muslim and Jewish students did what they’ve been undertaking all year: providing and preparing food for those who can’t provide for themselves by assisting local churches with their “Out of the Cold” program. Muslim and Jewish young people helped Christian institutions, there’s a concept. And it continues to work because these students have the sheer ability to blow past all the rhetoric that swirls around their respective faiths these days and actually put their beliefs into action.

In seen and unseen ways they have followed in the footsteps of their elders, who broke some historic ground by creating Salam/Shalom – a joint effort by both communities to raise funds for the Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario. This effort was so innovative that it caught the attention of CNN. But times are moving on and the older leadership is giving way to a newer generation of pathfinders. These remarkable people, young and old, represent some of the finest hope for our city. They are neither ashamed of their faith or their willingness to use it to heal the wounds (and prejudices) of others.

The vision statement ofTzedaka/Sadaqah is remarkably simple:

1. Give back to the community
2. Focus on mutual values within our faiths
3. Gain an understanding of one another’s faith
4. Build bridges between our communities
5. Encourage an inclusive and respectful atmosphere on campus
6. Acknowledge that differences exist in political views
7. Have fun!

Does this sound like language from the Torah and the Koran to you? But in every way it represents the absolute essence of both faiths and the ability to see past differences to build and protect life. Imagine concluding a modern religious plan of action by concluding with “have fun.” Remarkable.

A while back, I penned a blog post on the recent passing of Rabbi Joel Wittstein. A remarkable man in so many dimensions, he moved the Jewish community to a place of peace the same way Faisal Joseph, Mohammad Yassein, and others, led by example for their Muslim friends. At Rabbi Wittstein’s deeply moving service, the leader said that we must go beyond beating our weapons into plowshares. We must then form those plowshares into musical instruments, so that when moments of tension and struggle emerge between peoples and anger results, they would be forced to beat their instruments into plowshares instead of weapons. I was so moved by that insight that I was breathless.

Well, these young people are singing and have moved beyond the plowshares. Their music moves us and their actions point the way, not only for their future, but for Canada’s return to peace and an honest broker for it in the Middle East.

Neve Shalom/Wahat Al Salam

Banding together to help others

Banding together to help others

By NICOLE VEERMAN, Special to QMI Agency

INTER-FAITH RELATIONS: Western’s Jewish and Muslim students strive for positive change

Smack dab in the middle of Israeli Apartheid Week at the University of Western Ontario, a group of Jewish and Muslim students have joined together for positive change.

“It’s a very politically charged week,” said Ben Rosen, a student organizer for the Tzedaka/Sadaquah Project — an initiative that began a year ago to unite Muslim and Jewish students through charity.

This is Western’s first year participating in Israeli Apartheid Week, an event organizers say is devoted to the respect and protection of the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

The use of the term apartheid has been criticized by Jewish communities and condemned by MPPs in Ontario.

“Those kinds of events are the ones that get all the exposure. We think it’s very important to have some positive exposure . . . about Jewish and Muslim students building a relationship,” Rosen said.

As part of their effort to create a positive bond, more than 75 Jewish and Muslim students joined together Wednesday at the University Community Centre in the spirit of charity — a value important to both cultures — to make more than 250 sandwiches for the Out of the Cold program at the Dundas Street Centre United Church.

The group has been volunteering with the program that provides hot meals to the needy for more than a year, but Wednesday was the first time both making and serving the meals, said Aisha Birani, a Muslim student organizer for the project.

“This is our first annual sandwich-making day,” she said. “Students came to the event and made a sandwich and literally helped an underprivileged person in London.”

The students also baked cookies and provided fresh fruit, while the church was responsible for a light soup, said Fred Faas, Out of the Cold co-ordinator.

Faas has happily accepted the group as regular volunteers and has even had to limit how many come each week to six, so his other volunteers can still participate.

“They’re really great people to work with,” he said. “They asked if they could come and volunteer, and in that way the group can overcome their differences.

“There’s always a bit of tension between the Jewish and Muslim communities, so to share in this way, the differences don’t seem that great.”

The group doesn’t overlook their differences though; they recognize them and even discuss them, said Rosen, who’s working to start a group at McMaster University in Hamilton.

“We recognize the uniqueness in the relationship between the Jewish and Muslim faiths . . . because of the history and distrust that exists, students are prevented from working together,” Rosen said.

“We wanted to find some shared values between the communities.”