DI Engages Local, National Muslim-Jewish Advocacy

At a recent "Circle of Friends" meeting, May 23, 2017,  are (pictured left to right): Majid Alsayegh (DI Board Chair); Marcia Bronstein (Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee's Philadelphia/Southern NJ Office); Leonard Swidler (DI Founder & President)

At a recent "Circle of Friends" meeting, May 23, 2017,  are (pictured left to right): Majid Alsayegh (DI Board Chair); Marcia Bronstein (Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee's Philadelphia/Southern NJ Office); Leonard Swidler (DI Founder & President)

In a social and political climate marked by increasing anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, the Dialogue Institute remains committed to fostering a climate of pluralism and religious freedomincluding through both national and local Muslim-Jewish advocacy efforts.

Dialogue Institute (DI) Board Chair Majid Alsayegh is a member of the national Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC), a recently formed advocacy group of leading American Muslims and Jews co-convened by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Islamic Society of North America. MJAC's work is currently focused on defending immigration and combating hate crimes and workplace discrimination.

In addition, both Majid and Dr. Amid Ismail, ex-officio member of the DI Board of Directors and Dean of Temple University's Kornberg School of Dentistry, are members of Circle of Friendsa Philadelphia-area Muslim and Jewish men's dialogue group facilitated by the AJC's Regional Office in Philadelphia. DI Founder and President Leonard Swidler presented a lecture on dialogue and critical thinking at the group's most recent meeting.

Dr. Ismail currently co-chairs the group along with Tom Tropp, a member of AJC Philadelphia's Executive Committee. The two met at an AJC program several years ago and that friendship led to the creation of a small, informal group of Muslim and Jewish men who met for dinner and discussed issues of mutual interest.

With an interest in expanding and formalizing the group, they sought the help and guidance of local and national AJC staff. With approximately 30 members representing diverse backgrounds and professions., the "Circle of Friends" group now meets bimonthly, rotating between Muslim and Jewish hosts. They are currently focused on expanding hate crimes legislation locally and nationally, and most recently met with Congressmen Charlie Dent and Brian Fitzpatrick to discuss hate crimes and other issues affecting both Muslim and Jewish communities.

The mission of Circle of Friends is to build relationships between current and future leaders of the Muslim and Jewish communities in the Greater Philadelphia area based on mutual respect, understanding, trust and friendship, for the purpose of working together (including promoting and supporting public policies and laws) to combat acts of prejudice and bigotry directed at either group and/or its members.

Circle of Friends is currently focused on the following objectives:

  • Creating forums to promote open dialogue on contemporary issues that particularly affect Muslim and Jewish communities;
  • Engaging in social and civic activities to promote understanding and respect among members of the two communities and stand united to fight hate and discrimination, while creating a culture of respect for equality, religious freedom and inclusion; and
  • Promoting and supporting policies and laws that prevent hate crimes against Muslim and Jewish communities.

See also Journal of Ecumenical Studies Volume 51, Issue 2 (Spring 2016), a special issue on Islamophobia drawn from a national Conference on Religious Freedom and Islamophobia which the DI co-sponsored and hosted in October 2015.