Oct 03 2014

Muslim-Jewish Solidarity During the Holy Days

Image Source: salem-news.com

Image Source: salem-news.com

by Hesham El Meligy
October 2014

Muslims and Jews have much in common.  Yes there are differences, but there’s much more in common than what you think.  The differences, especially as of late, are more political than religious.  There are those who are fanning the flames of these differences; And there are those who would like you to think that there has been a war between Muslims and Jews for 1400 years.  Of course that couldn’t be farther from  the truth.

A quick search about Muslim Spain and the Spanish Inquisition of the 15th Century would show how Muslims and Jews who escaped the Inquisition, escaped by fleeing to Muslim lands in the Middle East. They lived and flourished there together (not without problems), for centuries to come. And this is just as both communities lived together, along with Christians and others, in Muslim Spain before the Inquisition.

This past summer we witnessed events that led to a rise in tensions and a spike in hate crimes against Muslim and Jewish communities and houses of worship in the United States.  In response to that, and as a way to show the commonalities and solidarity between the two communities, a group of American Muslim and Jewish leaders, Mosques, Synagogues, and organizations, released a statement on the occasion of the Muslim and Jewish High Holy Days, that coincides together this week.  As part of my years of interfaith service and building bridges of understanding, respect, and peace between people, I was privileged and proud to be a signer to the statement on behalf of Muslims For Liberty. Here is the statement, and the list of signatories:


October 1, 2014
P. Adem Carroll   
Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub 
Let us not bind them on any altar!
On the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShannah, (this year on September 25-26) Jews worldwide read the story of the Binding of Isaac, which describes the Patriarch Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his beloved son, Isaac, to the Almighty.
On Eid al-Adha, which this year coincides with Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement, on Oct. 4), Muslims worldwide will celebrate the Feast of the Sacrifice, marking the willingness of Ibrahim to offer his beloved son, Ishmael, to Allah.


But in both cases, the punchline is “Don’t harm your child!” –
because God is not a God of death but of life.
So this year, we join in the middle of these holidays to affirm:
No child — Jewish, Muslim, or any other — should face death, destruction, and despair.
Let us heed our shared Creator.
There is only One God and One Humankind.


Signed by Jewish, Muslim, and Other American Organizations, Schools, Community Centers,  Houses of Worship,  and Leaders:
Imam Shamsi Ali, Spiritual Leader, Jamaica Muslim Center (Queens, NY); President, Nusantara Foundation
Imam Samir al-Raey, Chaplain, Baruch College
Linda Sarsour, Executive Director, Arab American Association of New York
Arab American Family Support Center, Brooklyn, NY
Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies, Lee Sherman, President/CEO
Lisa Attias, Unitarian Universalist Church of Queens
Brotherhood Synagogue, NYC, NY, Rabbi Daniel Alder
Congregation Beth El, Sunbury, PA, Rabbi Nina Mandel
Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, Rabbis J. Rolando Matalon, Marcelo R. Bronstein, and Felicia L. Sol
Cordoba Initiative
Dawood Mosque, Brooklyn, NY
The Dialogue Project, NYC
Flushing Interfaith Council (Queens, NY)
Naomi Paz Greenberg, Flushing Interfaith Council*
Chaplain Rabia Terri Harris, Scholar in Residence, Community of Living Traditions, Stony Point Conference Center
Hesham El-Meligy, Founder, Islamic Civil Association;  Co-founder, Muslims for Liberty
The Interfaith Center of New York
Islamic Center of Long Island, Westbury, NY
Islamic Circle of North America
Stephanie Ives, Director, New Israel Fund NY /TriState
Rabbi Steve Gutow, Jewish Council on Public Affairs
J Street NYC
Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives, Brooklyn, NY, Rabbi Ellen Lippmann
Rabbi Serge Lippe, Brooklyn Heights Synagogue*, Brooklyn, NY
Masjid Omar ben Abdel-Aziz, Imam ‘Abdul ‘Azeem Khan (Jamaica, Queens, NY)
Muslim Community Network
Muslim Progressive Traditionalist Alliance
Imam Muhammad Musri, President, Islamic Society of Central Florida
National Disaster Interfaith Network
Partners for Progressive Israel
Rabbi Jason Klein, President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College & Jewish Reconstructionist Communities, Philadelphia, PA, Rabbi Deborah Waxman
Romemu, NYC, Rabbi David Ingber
The Shalom Center, Rabbi Arthur Waskow
The Society for the Advancement of Judaism, NYC, Rabbi Michael Strassfeld
Temple Beth El, Stamford, CT, Rabbi Joshua Hammerman
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, LCSW, Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services*, NYC
*for identification purposes only




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  1. Ken Kaplan

    Mr. Slepian, how you can be so upset with such a benevolent and life affirming statement is beyond my comprehension. Your fault finding with what you label the ” uneducated (or mis-educated), non-Torah observant Jewish-American population” is an affront to all Jews. The Lubavitcher Rebbe stated you should always look at another Jew with a right eye. Don’t be so quick to judge Jews whose views differ from yours. Torah and Talmud have been subject to rabbinic interpretation for centuries. How dare you set yourself up as the arbiter of all things Torah related. How could you possibly be open to friendship with Muslims when you even despise your fellow Jews? Your attitude is entirely counter-productive in the quest for good relations between Muslims and Jews, both in Israel and in America.

    1. Phillip Slepian

      Dear Mr. Kaplan: Pot – meet kettle. It is not the non-Muslims who are “not open to friendship” with Muslims, but precisely the other way around:

      As for my opinions regarding uneducated or mis-educated, non-Torah observant Jewish-Americans, I hope you realize that your post is guilty of the same thing. I stand by my opinions, and you are welcome to yours. If history has taught the Jews anything, it is that no gesture from the Jews, short of national suicide and complete submission to Islamic rule, will be seen as a “quest for good relations between Muslims and Jews”. I have nothing but love for all Jews, but that does not mean those Jews who lack basic knowledge of their own faith or of the Islamic faith get a pass and a gold star from me. Nor would they have gotten a “participation trophy” from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose insistance on study and learning were well known. On the contrary, it is out of love for my fellow man that I encourage everyone to study the classical texts, to learn the truth about Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and thereby reach their own conclusions.

      Based on your post, Mr. Kaplan, I can only assume that you have yet to acquaint yourself with either classical Islamic texts or modern Islamic thought and ideology. Go to the sources, not to the leftist apologists or those Muslims seeking to trick the world into submission to Islam. Also based on your comment, you either do not understand or you reject normative Jewish views on the Torah and Talmud, which hold that all of the conclusions reached by the sages have divine authority. Put simply: I don’t deal in “feel-good politically-correct” versions of pop-culture religion. I look to the normative, accepted forms of all religions for their true message and intent, for those are the versions that survive when the pop-culture versions inevitably devolve into something unrecognizable to the original. Doing so has awakened me to the threat posed to our way of life by the spread of Islam. Take some time and read some books on Islam by Bernard Lewis and other unbiased scholars. You can also start here:

      Then you can comment from a position of being well-informed and not simply being a naive and emotional dreamer.

      1. ramy

        Phil, Chill , Pill.
        you should take a hint from Ken Kaplan. Stick to interpreting your own scripture and dealing with deviants in your own religion. You’re no authority on the Quran or the Torah. Yes you might have some information, but you clearly lack any understanding of it. You’re too emotional and scared of Muslims to have a normal conversation with anyone.
        You know nothing about Ken Kaplan except one small paragraph that he wrote where he tried to briefly talk some sense to you. And how do you respond? By going off on half a dozen tangents while foaming at the mouth and accusing him of being an ignorant Jew (but still loving him and all Jews).
        Ken, Phil isn’t interested in having good relations with Muslims. He thinks we’re all liars and that we’re going to take over America and apply Shariah on 300 million Americans.. But you quoted a Rabbi so its safe to assume that you do have some knowledge of Judaic interpretations. And if you do, then you would know Maimonides, one of the most towering Talmudic scholars in Jewish history. He developed his ideas while living in Muslim lands his whole life. He was critical of Muslim politics (despite serving as the personal physician to to the Caliph Saladin) , but he was clear in saying that Islam is a monotheistic religion and is not evil per se (whereas Phil says the opposite of this). Maimonides’ criticism of Islam was that it’s a false religion. However he said that Christianity is not only false, but that it’s an idolatrous religion as well. So I wonder if Phil loves that Jew too?
        Phil you need to go find an alqaeda or ISIS jihadi website and spend your time commenting there. They’d love to halve you, I mean have you…

    2. Phillip Slepian

      Ramy: It’s hard to “chill” when people are being machine-gunned, beheaded and stabbed to death in the name of the religion you claim is all peace, love and tolerance. For the record, I have never, ever, claimed to be an “authority” on any religion. But I can read. And I can read the credentials of people who do indeed claim to be, and are accepted as, authorities on various topics. Mr. Kaplan’s problem is that he either hasn’t read, or rejects out of convenience, the things that I have.

      I am indeed “scared” of Muslims, Ramy. I know what many (not all) Muslims teach their children, what their worldview is, and how they wish to deal with non-believers like me. I am concerned, therefore, and feel that dealing with Jihadists requires a particular approach. My reply to Mr. Kaplan, who basically said “how dare” I say what I said, was to restate that I am familiar with many of the signatory organizations on the press release, and that I found the list of signatories highly informative, as the many of the Jewish organizations listed do not represent normative Judaism, but rather leftist offshoots which are known to be apologists for Islam in general and for the Muslims who are working to destroy Israel in particular. Likewise, my familiarity with several of the Islamic groups that are signed on to this release suggests to me that this attempt at Jewish-Muslim unity is less than genuine. And yes, it is possible to hate the message and love the messenger.

      As for your caution to Ken, a few points for both you and Ken: I have never claimed that Islam is not monotheistic. It is well known that a Jew may enter a mosque, but not a church, which is viewed in Jewish law as polytheistic. My point, that Ramy apparently missed altogether, was that, as to the concept of that One God, the God of Israel differs in substantial ways from Allah. The differing attributes of the God of Israel and the attributes of Allah have implications for each faith that make them much more different than alike.

      As for Maimonides’ true views on Islam, here is a useful piece: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/maimonides-islam-good-christianity-bad-muslims-bad-christians-good/2013/11/15/

      As for Maimonides’ fortunes under Islamic rule, I suggest Ken read this piece:

      (Ramy will probably accuse the author of being an “Islamophobe”, but it is difficult to argue with the source-based research in this specific piece.)

      Ramy wonders if I “love that Jew too”. I assume he is referring to the Jew Jesus of Nazareth (with apologies to Palestinian Arabs who now claim that Jesus was a “Palestinian”). Once again, it is possible to love the messenger and hate the message. Although this will sound like a cliché, one of my best friends is a far-left, Reform Jewish Rabbi. He and I agree on almost nothing, but we are cordial, friendly and enjoy speaking with each other. That does not mean I regard his version of Judaism as authentic or durable.

      I know that my posts (as with those of some other commenters here) are inconvenient for you, Ramy, and that you would prefer to spread M4L’s messages without dissent. But it is precisely because of the nature of your message that I am compelled to comment here. Nobody has to comment on the Inspire web site, for example, that Islam is really out to conquer the world by force, since that is exactly what Inspire calls for. It is the Muslim Brotherhood groups, the M4Ls, the CAIRs of the world that are much more careful and subtle in their approach to Dawa and the achieving of the Islamic goal of world-wide hegemony (although I have to say that some of the recent contributions at M4L lack that subtlety). It is the Ken Kaplans that encourage me to present another viewpoint to counter what I do indeed feel is a disigenuous attempt to lull the Judeo-Christian world into thinking that they have nothing to fear from the ascendancy of Islam in West. Sorry, Ramy, I will not voluntarily walk away from what I feel is my small part in an important effort to spread the truth.

      1. ramy

        Really Phil, so you love Jesus? You’re the one being disingenuous. You don’t love Jesus Christ. And you’re a liar if you say you do. I didn’t know that Jews are allowed to love a “false Messiah”..

        I respect that you admit you’re scared of Islam and Muslims. Your phobia won’t be cured in online comment sections.
        The problem I have with your comments is that you start from a position where you consider me and other M4L members as liars and as enemies. We’ve never wronged you in any way, never tried to force to you to believe in Islam, never forced you to prostrate to God, never stole your lunch money, etc. Rather we advocate the non-aggression principle, and teach that libertarian ideas are not just compatible with Islamic teachings, but that they have roots in Islamic doctrine. We tell Muslims that politics is not the solution to the problems they’re experiencing. Rather, seeking power and dominion only breeds arrogance and violence. M4L doesn’t speak for the Muslim brotherhood or for CAIR. And they are far far off from understanding our perspective and approach.
        Your fears are unwarranted; Especially since you’re a Jewish advocate for Western imperialism, and especially since you, other Jews (and ultimately Israel) have benefited immensely from Western dominance over and manipulation of Muslim countries. You can care less about the harm that comes to America because of its constant meddling and bombing of Muslim countries. You view the American war machine as a tool that you can use to fight Islam and Muslims. Well, it hasnt been working out now has it?. America is in a far worse global position today than it was the day after 9-11. And that’s thanks in part to fools like yourself.
        In the end, you’re as militant and vile as al Qaeda and ISIS. You’re not brave enough to face who you are. And you’re not brave enough to go to al Qaeda websites or to ISIS websites and post your comments there. You’re simply a coward.

        1. Phillip Slepian

          Point-by-point, Ramy: Once again, try to understand the concept of separating the message from the messenger. Jesus, insofar as I am familiar with his life and message, and insofar as what we know about him is accurate, said little that I could object to, aside from claims that he was the Christ or a prophet. Most of the things that separated normative Judaism from Christianity came later and from other people. But none of that makes me hate Jesus. Now, those in the church who may have encouraged the harm of Jews or the denial of their rights based on their rejection of Jesus’ messianic status is another story. When the talk goes from theological debate to denying the rights (even the right to life) of the unbelievers, that’s where my love for my fellowman ends, and my hatred for the enemy begins. In other words, I am not obligated to tolerate the intolerant. This applies equally to all belief systems and all of mankind. I can love Jesus of Nazareth the Jew, even if I reject his message and the message others have ascribed to him. But the line that is crossed when the beliefs are used to justify physical harm and/or the denial of basic human rights to outsiders is a solid, thin line. There is no grey area. You go from being my fellowman to being my mortal enemy. Historical figures, like Jesus, who did not act to harm or deny the rights of non-believers (with the possible exception of some of the traders in the Temple compound), cannot be regarded as a historical enemy, and therefore can be “loved” insofar as it is possible to love someone you have never met and whose message does not resonate with you.

          “Phobia” is defined as an irrational, excessive, and persistent fear of some particular thing or situation. While my fears may be persistent, they are hardly irrational or excessive. Would you have said the same about the 2000 Christians just slaughtered by Boko Haram? Were they “Islamophobic”, irrationally fearing Muslims until one of them plunged a knife into their chests? My fears are based on my own knowledge of Islam, acquired by reading a great deal on the topic, and observing the actions, both violent and non-violent, of those who claim to act in accordance with Islam. Not to fear people who have sworn to either kill you or remove your liberties, whether by force or deception, wheterh suddenly or gradually, is true foolishness, foolishness of the Liberal sort.

          As for you and M4L, as I have said before, if you are genuine in your beliefs and mission, it would be admirable. What I have not seen, however, is a firm rejection on M4L of all Muslims who interpret Islam and its holy writ differently. When I ask you to reject the Muslim Brotherhood and CAIR, you reply that you do not “speak for” them. I never accused of you of speaking for them. I don’t speak for J Street, but I am happy to reject and denounce J Street on the basis of their publicized positions. Why wouldn’t you do the same for Muslim groups that endorse Jihad, like the Ikhwan? Saying that is not your purpose at M4L is just more diversion. You don’t exist to argue with people like me, either, but you do it anyway.

          Now, if you are indeed working to de-politicize Islam, that is also admirable. However, given the many Muslim leaders who speak in vague doublespeak about peace, tolerance and coexistence to Western audiences, while speaking of Jihad against the kufars to Muslim audiences, I remain suspicious. I am sorry if you feel my suspicions are groundless, but I have not seen from M4L the kind of push for reformation I hear from al-Sisi or Zuhdi Jasser. When I hear Muslims speaking in platitudes, but reluctant to denounce Muslims and Muslim groups who call for Jihad (in all or any of its forms), my antenna go up. When I have some more free time, I will try to point out the posts on M4L that I find cause for concern. And if M4L is supporting a sort of soft Jihad, accomplished via demographics, taqqiya, legal challenges, and the placement of covert or overt operatives within the governments of Western democracies, you are indeed working towards steeling my lunch money (jizya). Using the freedoms of the West to bring down its house, to paraphrase the Muslim Brotherhood, is probably the most dangerous and potentially successful form of Jihad there is. And I am not convinced that this form of Jihad is not the form M4L prefers. Perhaps it is the Jihad of Dawa, whereby you grow Islam organically, so that the U.S. becomes an Islamic republic in a peaceful, democratic way. The end result is the same, though; the rise to hegemony of Islamic law. Can you honestly tell me that this outcome would not be a happy one for you? After all, don’t you want the prophet’s message to be supreme, even if you reject violence as a means to make it so?

          As for the “western imperialism” charge, I refer back again to history. You cannot ignore the Islamic challenges to the West when decrying the Western push-back. Will you deny that from Mohammed’s life onward that the reality of Islam has been one of conquest, colonization, taxation and subjugation? Please, show me something in the Koran or Hadith, that has not been abrogated by later entries, that calls on Muslims to accept hegemony only in some portion of the world, and that there is no goal of Islamic hegemony over the entire earth. In that context, I don’t have any issues with Western actions in the uma that serve to keep the fight “over there”. I agree that, at least in the last 30 years, most of the U.S.’s efforts in the Middle East have been disasters. But they were disasters not because of the “insult” to the Muslims that they presented, but because they were done more to win friends than to neutralize enemies and establish effective deterrence. “Fools” like myself? Trust me, the aftermath of 9-11 under President Phil would have been vastly different than either Bush or Obama. Why? Because I understand Muslims better than most Americans, and I don’t project my Judeo-Christian mindset onto Muslims. I know that the Muslim mother shouting for joy over the martyrdom of her son does not want what most American mothers want. I am not interested in making the Uma into a beacon of freedom and democracy, Ramy. I am interested in making sure that the Uma does not threaten our allies anywhere in the world. I am not interested in getting anyone to love us, but rather to fear us, and thusly safeguard Americans and American interests at home and abroad.

          I am as “vile as al Qaeda and ISIS”? Really? Well, I am glad to hear you refer to al Qaeda and ISIS as vile. But you are telling me I am as bad as people who crucify children, rape little girls and behead anyone, even other Muslims, because they disagree with one version of Islam. It’s the old moral equivalence argument, and it is now, as always, a complete and total failure. Evil is evil, good is good, and Islam defines these differently than the Judeo-Christian world does. I will repeat: What can I possibly say on an al Qaeda web site or ISIS web site that would cause readers to alter their reactions to what they read on those sites? Anything I could say would be obvious, just as what those web sites probably say are just as obvious. They don’t hide their beliefs or speak in platitudes in order to lull infidels into accepting their arguments. Who is the real coward, Ramy? Who is afraid to denounce CAIR or the Muslim Brotherhood? Who is afraid to say that Islam, not “radical” or “extremist” Islam, calls for the uncompromising conquest of the entire world, by any means practical, and the imposition of Islamic legal and social systems on all people, Muslim and infidel? Methinks the lady doth protest too much. I think it is cowardly to resort to name-calling and trying to send away people who post comments that ruffle your feathers rather than addressing the substance of those comments without ad-hominem attacks.

  2. Phillip Slepian

    Oh, and that photo of the Jewish and “Palestinian” boys was a copmplete fake:



  3. Phillip Slepian

    Well, I was able to find someone who dared to look a little closer at some of the signatories to that declaration. I am not surprised by the results, which should be an inconvenient truth for Hesham:


    1. Phillip Slepian

      Ooops – wrong declaration. But it is still an interesting read!

  4. Phillip Slepian

    I do not know much about the various Islamic groups that signed on to this declaration (although I am familiar with, and suspicious of, some, such as the Cordoba Initiative), but I am familiar with most of the Jewish ones. Suffice it to say that this list represents a cross-section of the uneducated (or mis-educated), non-Torah observant Jewish-American population in the United States. This is no surprise, as only one who is unfamiliar with either Judaism or Islam (or both) could possibly claim that the two faiths have a lot in common, or that they even worship the same diety. Indeed, if one has faith in either Judaism or Islam, the other is, of a necessity, wrong. It is what each faith, and its various leaders, prescribes for dealing with these differences that truly shows the contrast between them. And just because the Jews of Spain were not slaughtered by the Muslims they encountered as they made their way across North Africa does not indicate that they were welcomed as equals and not as dhimmis. In other words, claiming Jews and Muslims are best buds because the Muslims allowed the Jews to live, while the Christians were forcing them to convert, is a bit of a stretch.

    On a theological level, those who have some education into the philosophies that define God or Allah in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic contexts understand that there are certain basic differences between the attributions of the God of Israel and the attributions of Allah that have large implications for each faith. This, in my opinion, is the root-cause of the conflict between Jew and Muslim, which, despite your claims to the contrary, is real and durable.

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