Interfaith Effort Boosts Latin Ties

Jews and Muslims Meet To Work Out Differences

Latin Leaders: Rabbi Daniel Goldman of Buenos Aires, Argentina, left, meets with Dr. Juan Suquillo, chair, Islamic Center in Quito, Ecuador, center, and Rabbi Marc Schneier, right, President of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) in New York at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
Miriam Lomaskin
Latin Leaders: Rabbi Daniel Goldman of Buenos Aires, Argentina, left, meets with Dr. Juan Suquillo, chair, Islamic Center in Quito, Ecuador, center, and Rabbi Marc Schneier, right, President of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) in New York at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

By Nathan Guttman

Published March 30, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

While international attention is focused on relations between Jews and Muslims in Europe, following the Toulouse shooting, attempts are under way to strengthen ties between the two religious communities in another region: Latin America.

A group of Muslim and Jewish leaders from Latin American and Caribbean nations came to Washington on March 26 as a first step in an effort to forge partnerships between the communities.

The program is an initiative of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which has been organizing Muslim–Jewish dialogue events in the United States and in Europe in which synagogues twin with mosques, and leaders of the two faith communities work together on issues relating to anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Middle East peace.

“It is a natural extension of our program,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier, the group’s president.

The delegation to Washington included Jewish and Muslim leaders from Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, Barbados and St. Croix. Its members met with representatives of the White House office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and with the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal. They also met with Farah Pandith, the special representative to Muslim communities. Co-hosting the group, alongside the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, was the Islamic Society of North America, a national Muslim organization that has been leading the way in interfaith dialogue between Jews and Muslims.

In discussions during the three-day visit, Rabbi Michel Schlesinger of Sao Paulo, Brazil, noted that Muslim – Jewish dialogue is more challenging in Latin America than in Europe or the United States because a large majority of Muslims in Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries are from Arab origin and many are first generation to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. This background adds more tension to the relationship between the two religious communities.

Rabbis and imams attending the mission to Washington, however, did not delve into the details of the conflict and spoke of the situation in the Middle East only in general terms. In a joint statement issued following the visit, the group expressed “sorrow and pain over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the great suffering it has brought to both peoples involved in that conflict.” The statement focused on a pledge to work together against any expression of hatred to either community. ”Bigotry against any Jew or any Muslim is an attack on all Muslims and all Jews,” the statement reads.

Rabbi Schneier, in a March 30 interview, said the purpose of the mission was double: to make clear that Muslims and Jews in Latin America stand willing to “fight for each other” and to work on what he calls a “parallel peace process” in which Jews and Muslims build trust in each other while leaders of Israel and Arab countries work to reach peace.

Latin America has seen, in recent years, a growing influence of Iran and its supporters, with strong ties between the regime in Tehran and leaders of Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba and with a suspected presence of Iran-sponsored terror group Hezbollah in the region. Muslim participants in the mission, Schneier said, expressed their concern over Iran’s increasing role in Latin America.

Beyond the statements, the first test to this new partnership between Muslims in Jews will be in November, when communities in Latin America will join, for the first time, the Weekend of Twining, in which synagogues and mosques spend time together learning about each other’s faiths and challenges. Leader participating in the mission to Washington promised they will “endeavor to take part” in the events, which have been taking place in the United States and Europe for the past four year.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.