Symi Rom-Rymer, 32
As a child, Symi Rom-Rymer heard stories about her great-grandfather’s 1911 journey from Russia to the U.S.
“I was very aware of the immigrant experience,” says Rom-Rymer, who is a founder and director of the Global Muslim Jewish Friendship Forum, an Internet-based grassroots organization that tries to unite members of both faiths in discussion about politics, culture and religion.
Following this winter’s killing of both Jews and North African Muslims by a self-confessed al-Qaeda follower in Toulouse, France, “it’s more important than ever for Jews and Muslims to work together,” says Rom-Rymer, a world-traveling freelance journalist who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Her interest in inter-ethnic dialogue was kindled while working in France in 2005, when a government ban on women wearing the Islamic burqa became a controversy in French society.
Since founding the Forum last year with three international partners — two are Muslims, one besides Rom-Rymer is Jewish — the number of people participating in its Facebook postings, Twitter updates and live chats has steadily grown to more than 550 people in some 50 countries. “Every continent.” The Muslim-Jewish ratio: “50-50.”
The online discussions have fostered the shattering of suspicions and stereotypes among member of both groups, Rom-Rymer says. Some Muslims have expressed criticism of dialogue with Jews – particularly because of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, discussion of which is discouraged — but they’re a minority, she says. “The majority don’t feel that way. Muslims are not a monolith.”
Vocalist: A trained opera singer, Rom-Rymer performed with the New York Opera Theater in Carnegie Hall this summer. The place was nearly full. “It was exciting,” she says. Minority interests: Besides covering Jewish-Muslim issues as a journalist, Rom-Rymer has also written about the Roma (Gypsy), Latino and other ethnic groups. “I don’t want to pigeonhole myself too much.”