Against the backdrop of the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, faith leaders from the Muslim and Jewish communities are coming together with a shared mission: promoting peace. Their journey led them to the diverse student body of the City University of New York’s Lehman College, where they engaged in meaningful conversations about unity, understanding, and the pressing need to combat rising threats against students of both faiths.
Common Goal Amidst Adversity
Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center and Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, recognized the need for dialogue and cooperation as they witnessed an alarming surge in threats against Jewish and Muslim students on college campuses across New York. The recent incident at Cornell University, where a student was charged with making threats against Jewish students, serves as a reminder of the challenges they face. Both communities, they emphasize, are victims of rising anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. As Rabbi Schneier succinctly put it, “Antisemitism is rising, Islamophobia is also on the rise. And that’s the reason why we feel that we must come together because this is our common enemy.”
Power of Dialogue
The faith leaders began their mission by engaging with students from different backgrounds, highlighting the importance of peace, unity, and understanding. Their initiative started with discussions with Jewish students from Baruch College, John Jay College, and Pace University. The emphasis was not only on highlighting the importance of freedom of expression and peaceful protest but also on drawing a clear line against violence, intimidation, harassment, and confrontation. As Schneier put it, “We can agree to disagree without being disagreeable.” This message of civil discourse and respect is at the heart of their mission.
Coming Together for a Cause
At CUNY’s Lehman College, over two dozen students came together to participate in the interfaith dialogue. They listened attentively and engaged with the two religious leaders who, despite their different backgrounds, share a common cause. Compassion, advancing human dignity, and a deep respect for justice were the guiding principles of their discussion. As Imam Shamsi Ali noted, “That’s what we want.” It’s a message that transcends boundaries and seeks to bridge divides.
Commitment to Continue
Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali are not stopping at Lehman College. They are committed to reaching out to students on various college campuses to promote peace. In a world where conflicts often lead to divisions, this initiative showcases the power of faith leaders to inspire hope, unity, and positive change. As their mission continues, more students and individuals will have the opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue, fostering a culture of mutual respect and understanding.
In a time when conflict and polarization can dominate the headlines, the collaboration of faith leaders from the Jewish and Muslim communities in New York provides a beacon of hope. Their commitment to promoting peace, understanding, and unity, especially among the younger generation, demonstrates the enduring power of dialogue and cooperation. In the face of adversity, Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali remind the public that even amidst conflict, compassion and respect can serve as bridges to a more peaceful world.