First Comprehensive Report on Muslim-Jewish Engagement Released by USC Think Tank

Friday, May 14, 2010

Debunking conventional wisdom, Muslim and Jewish groups throughout the United States are dialoguing with one another in increasing numbers.  A report on the field of Muslim-Jewish engagement issued by the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (CMJE) indicates that the number of organizations and groups with missions to build relationships between Islamic and Jewish communities in the United States has been growing since 2001 and has risen significantly in the last two years. 

This report marks the first comprehensive survey of the burgeoning field and provides recommendations for strengthening and expanding the work done by practitioners. As Dafer M. Dakhil founding co-director of CMJE states, “To grow the field of Muslim-Jewish engagement, we first need to understand it.”

CMJE represents the only academic think tank and resource center in North America dedicated specifically to Muslim-Jewish relations. The Center collected data from organizations in the United States and Canada and from participants in the second annual Weekend of Twinningsm, a program that partners mosques, synagogues, and other organizations for a weekend of interfaith programming. The surveys revealed the following trends: 

  • There has been a significant increase in the formation of these groups after 2001.  Nearly half of the groups founded since then were formed within the last 24 months. 
  • While these groups largely rely on a small core of volunteers, they have extensive networks.  Over half of responding groups reach 100 people or more annually.  Over a quarter report reaching over 500 people.
  • The tech-savvy nature of these groups allows them to reach expanding numbers.  Nearly two-thirds possess a website. 
  • The groups have aspirations to expand their public presence but lack financial and staff resources.
  • Groups desire online educational, leadership-building and programmatic resources. 
  •  Events like the Weekend of Twinningsm lead to ongoing organizational relationships that extend beyond formal programming.

Groups engaging in this groundbreaking movement range from intimate groups to national collaborations.  In Atlanta, the Jewish-Muslim Women’s Baking Circle brings women of all ages around a kitchen table to bake and build relationships across religious boundaries.  The group describes itself as “an informal gathering of women who meet from time to time to bake and talk.”  The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding – the organization responsible for the annual Weekend of Twinningsm has created the largest Muslim-Jewish initiative to date.  Groups’ objectives include everything from basic education and combating hate to community action and policy advocacy.  While much of the focus is external, “the deepest change that students of Muslim-Jewish engagement experience is in their own self understanding,” says Rabbi Reuven Firestone, founding co-director of CMJE.

CMJE represents the only academic think tank and resource center in North America dedicated specifically to Muslim-Jewish relations and is a unique partnership between Hebrew Union College, Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation and the University of Southern California.   CMJE offers free online resources for  educational and non-commercial use and purposes.

Please click here or visit www.usc.edu/cmje to view the report.  For additional information, contact Sarah Bassin, Program Manager of the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement at cmje@usc.edu or 213.740.6900.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu