On Muslims, Jews And Sephardim

On Muslims, Jews And Sephardim

Attending the Shalom Hartman Institute seminal Martin Luther King Day forum on Jews and Muslims in America was transfixing and invigorating.

Permit me to explain why your Editorial, “Muslims and Jews Could Be Allies” (Jan. 20), only begins to capture why I felt so heartened by the day. Three of the panels resonated with me as a Sephardi Jewish woman: “Jewish and Muslim Feminism” presented a nuanced discussion among an Orthodox Jewish journalist and rebbetzin; a Muslim American academician and scholar; and a Muslim American human rights activist. It was moderated by a Hartman research fellow of Iraqi descent. Even as the women differed, their conversation elucidated that women’s experiences, whether as Muslims or Jews, are different from men’s. To both religious traditions’ lasting shame, consensus emerged that neither Muslims nor Jews sufficiently include or reflect women’s voices.

I was grateful for a session on Sephardi perspectives on Muslim-Jewish relations.SHI’s president, Yehuda Kurtzer, noted that “it would not be a conference on Judaism without Sephardi voices.” How obvious and true, yet observed in the breach by other extant Jewish organizations.

I related to Muslim journalist and playwright Wajahat Ali, whose pointed humor during a session on Jews and Muslims and the media exposed a litany of stereotypes and litmus tests he and other Muslim Americans encounter. His impatience with those who cannot fathom that a person of Arab descent could be an assimilated American yet remain distinctly “brown” and Muslim, mirrored my own.

The Hartman forum demonstrated that marginalization of women and minorities is not only unjust but inefficient. American Muslims and Jews are duty-bound to talk to one another, to hear one another and to be — if not yet allies — then witnesses to one another’s lived experiences. Inshallah.

Great Neck, L.I.

read more: