September 18, 2019 — Chicago
An AJC leadership delegation met with key Muslim organizations and individuals in Chicago. The two-day visit was part of AJC’s national “listening tour” aimed at deepening engagement with American Muslim community institutions and leaders.
“Jews and Muslims are natural allies in the United States to fight bigotry against both groups and protect our shared democratic freedoms,” said Ari Gordon, AJC’s U.S. Director of Muslim-Jewish Relations. “As Americans, we must overcome mutual suspicion and work together for the common good of our communities, our country and our world.”
Greater Chicago is home to approximately 10% of the American Muslim population. More than 70 Islamic centers serve communities with diverse ethnic and national backgrounds.
The AJC delegation held substantive encounters with leadership of prominent groups in Chicago, including the Muslim Community Center, Muslim Education Center; The Mosque Cares: Ministry of Imam W.D. Mohammed; the Nigerian Islamic Association; and Suzy’s Place, a domestic violence shelter founded by Muslims.
Topics addressed included the joint fight against bigotry and hate crimes targeting Muslims and Jews, identifying and combatting misperceptions of the other within the respective communities, and navigating intercommunal challenges arising from different understandings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Challenges and opportunities for Muslim-Jewish relations on campuses were discussed with Muslim chaplains and institutional leaders supporting Muslim students and interfaith relations in higher education.
In addition, the AJC delegation’s meeting with local Palestinian Americans opened a conversation about barriers to achieving a just and secure peace between Israelis and Palestinians and how to improve Palestinian-Jewish relations in the United States.
Roberta S. Baruch, Chair of AJC’s Interreligious Affairs Commission, led the 13-member group of AJC national and Chicago leaders who are involved with the leading global Jewish advocacy organization’s pathbreaking work in interreligious affairs.
The AJC “listening tour,” launched in March in Washington, DC, seeks to inform AJC’s national leadership on the most constructive approach to build bridges and partner with American Muslims. The visits also aim to open channels of communication to discuss the most difficult aspects of Muslim-Jewish relations in a substantive, candid, and productive way. Chicago was the second venue for the AJC tour.
Muslim-Jewish relations is a top priority for AJC. Three years ago, AJC launched the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC) in partnership with the Islamic Society of North America. MJAC is a bipartisan national civil society coalition that advocates on issues of shared domestic concern to both Muslims and Jews. With nine regional affiliates across the country, the MJAC network reaches hundreds of Muslim and Jewish leaders, modeling effective intercommunal partnership during a time of political polarization.