Sunday, November 16, 2014

Time to Twin

We are now smack dab in the middle of November.  And that means we’re at the heart of Twinning season.   The “Twinning” I’m referring to involves interaction among Jewish and Muslim congregations.     Twinning started several years ago as the brainchild of an organization called the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.   FFEU’s website indicates that this phenomenon has now spread to 30 countries and is especially active here in the United States.  

I am proud to say that my hometown of Washington, D.C., is one of the world’s most active “Twinning” cities.  This weekend in D.C., a number of Jewish and Muslim congregations will be getting together.  I plan to attend one of those events in the morning at the Bethesda Jewish Congregation.  In the afternoon, I will be in Boyds, Maryland, where the Jewish-Islamic Dialogue Society of Washington, D.C. (JIDS), will be bringing together teenagers from various Jewish and Muslim congregations around the area.  The teenagers will be removing invasive vines from a public park and will be engaging in a dialogue activity that has been designed and will be facilitated by the teenagers themselves.   Next Sunday, the 23rd, the pro-Twinning forces are planning a summit meeting of sorts.  That event will be held at the Washington Hebrew Congregation, the city’s largest Jewish congregation, and will bring together Washington area imams and rabbis for the purpose of convincing clergy and congregants to place a higher priority on deepening Muslim-Jewish relations. 

Twinning may sound like it exclusively involves Jews and Muslims, but that is not the case.  JIDS, which I have coordinated since its inception in early 2009, has a number of dedicated members from a number of faiths, including different Christian denominations as well as the Baha’i and Unitarian-Universalist movements.    They come for the same reason that heterosexual people show up at gay rights activities: because they are allies.  In the case of Jewish-Islamic dialogue, these “allies” care about the need for Jews and Muslims to reconcile, work for peace in Israel/Palestine, and help to usher in an era in which religion can be a unifying rather than a divisive force in our world.  

As long as the planners of a Twinning event take care to engage the participants at a high level, the event can be inspiring.  It will remind all who attend that when members of different faiths truly encounter one another, they learn not only that our common ground dwarfs our differences, but more importantly, that once our differences are embraced and accepted, rather than feared, they can be a source of tremendous enlightenment.   I would never have been the Jew that I am today had I not been exposed to faiths like Islam, Christianity and Hinduism.   

No matter where you live, even if it’s a place like New York or D.C. where Twinning is relatively active, your community is surely just scratching the surface when it comes to Jewish-Muslim reconciliation.    The Interfaith movement is essentially a small child that still needs to be nurtured and that easily can be overwhelmed by more powerful forces.   But the good news is that this is a cause in which each of us can make a difference.   All we have to do is walk into a Twinning or other Interfaith meeting, and no matter who we are or what community we represent, we’re likely to be embraced as a member of the Interfaith family.  And if there is no Twinning event or Jewish-Islamic dialogue society in your town, then you can start one.   Just find yourself a “twin” or a triplet.   The need is there.   You can help fill it.   If not now, when?

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