Building Bridges

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The audience was at attention
The audience was at attention

The cold weather did not stop up to 150 Roslyn residents from attending a talk, “Building Bridges: Jewish-Muslim Relations,” held on Thursday, Jan. 29 at Temple Sinai. 

Representatives of two faiths, Judaism and Islam, served as spokesmen for their respective religions. Rabbi Jerome Davidson presented the Jewish viewpoint. He is the retired Head Rabbi from Temple Beth-El of Great Neck. The temple is a Reform congregation.

Dr. Faruque Khan presented attitudes and beliefs from a Muslim point of view.

Both speakers have, for a long time, been involved in a dialogue between the two religions. In the mid-1990s, Davidson felt a need to reach out to American Muslims. Khan, a pulmonary physician, answered the call.

Attendees greet Khan
Attendees greet Khan

An important dialogue commenced when informal meetings began between members of Temple Beth-El and members of the Long Island Muslim community. They met at their respective houses of worship. The tradition has continued to this day. In fact, there are times when members of one group celebrate their holidays with the other group.

Khan’s family had come to the United States from Kashmir. They settled in a small Ohio town. Khan’s father attended and graduated from Harvard Medical School. He was the first Muslim to have accomplished this. Khan was obviously proud of his father.

Davidson, on the other hand, has been at the forefront of civil rights and social justice movements.

Current events were touched upon during the meeting. These included the dangers of Muslim extremism and terrorism. Khan said, “all Muslims should not be held responsible for the recent Paris killings. They don’t represent Islam.”

Similarly, although murderers attacked a Jewish Deli, the Rabbi urged the Jewish community to not paint Islam with the same broad brush.
Khan proposed a “million man march” in Washington, DC, be organized by Muslims to show that adherents of that religion are reasonable and to repudiate the extremists and terrorists.

In respect to the Middle East, Khan proposed a two state solution as the best way to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. He surprisingly blamed the rise of ISIS on the United States. He said that ISIS is composed of defeated Iraqi troops who remained in Iraq after the defeat of Sadaam Hussein.

Davidson and Khan prepare for meeting
Davidson and Khan prepare for meeting

The chairman of the meeting committed to civility and politeness. When a woman spoke up without being called on, she was told to be quiet or he would call the police and have her thrown out. In general, each side showed respect and empathy for the other and it is clear that the dialogue will continue into the future.

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