Detroit Jews Aim for Closer Ties to Muslims

Joint Conference Hopes To Build Cooperation

By JTA

Published April 02, 2014.
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Jewish and Muslim officials in the Detroit area examined areas where they could cooperate more closely.

The daylong event, “A Shared Future,” was co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee’s Detroit office and the Michigan Muslim Community Council.

Panelists at Sunday’s event included state lawmakers of both faiths, officials from the local Arab American National Museum and the Holocaust Memorial Center, journalists from each community’s newspapers and social welfare officials from each community.

A survey conducted by the University of Michigan-Dearborn ahead of the conference showed that majorities in both communities had engaged with members of the other community and that overwhelming majorities favored such experiences.

“About 90 percent of respondents agreed they were willing to consider activities with the other community such as with being colleagues, visiting someone’s home, eating with someone, or being friends with someone,” said a summary of the survey of 600 people.

Kari Alterman, the director of AJC’s Detroit office, told JTA that there was a need to cooperate in part because the impression that area Jews and Muslims live in separate zip codes was increasingly a myth.

“I live in a very Jewish neighborhood and literally across the street from me is an Islamic day school,” she said.

Alterman noted tensions between the communities in recent years stemming from perceptions of the second intifada in Israel, but said the communities were moving toward closer cooperation.

“We were prepared for less positive results” from the survey, she said. “The survey really showed us there were a lot more positive feelings.”


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