Religious Identity

AJC Organizes “Tradition and Modernity: Religious Identity and Civic Engagement in the United States” at Yeshiva University

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A groundbreaking Muslim-Jewish Encounter to build spiritually resilient, intellectually open, and civically-minded religious identities

Today, at the age of free expression and freedom to walk different communities are coming together to share common interests. Truth be told, a significant portion of harmony happens when we start talking on issues. American Jewish Committee (AJC), a longstanding pioneer in interreligious relations, organized a high-level delegation of American Muslim religious leaders hosted at Yeshiva University, the most prestigious Modern Orthodox institution of higher education in the U.S.

This groundbreaking encounter was the first of its kind bringing together mainstream American Muslim religious leaders and American Modern Orthodox Jewish institutions. The theme of the conversations was “Tradition and Modernity: Religious Identity and Civic Engagement in the United States.” The delegation met with faculty, students, rabbinic leadership, and top administration officials to discuss how Jewish and Muslim communities navigate traditional and modern values to build spiritually resilient, intellectually open, and civically-minded religious identities.

These meetings took courage on both sides, but there is really no replacement for first-hand encounters,” said Dr. Ari Gordon, U.S. Director of Muslim-Jewish Relations at AJC, and a YU alumnus. “American Muslim communities are very engaged in interfaith activities, but exposure to the Orthodox Jewish community is still rare. Likewise, many Orthodox Jews only know Islam through the lenses of Jewish history of the news.”

The discussion focused on the common goal of fostering spiritual growth among youth while embracing the best of American culture and featured Salanter Akiba Riverdale’s unique and open approach to navigating the challenge.

Led by Imam Mohamed Magid, Executive Imam of ADAMS Center, the 12-member Muslim delegation included imams and university chaplains from Chicago, Detroit, Long Island, New Jersey, and New York. Several members of the Muslim delegation observed that the method of studying Talmud is very similar to the setting where they had studied the Koran and Islamic law.

Many conservative voices in our communities perceive irreconcilable differences between us, but when religious Muslims and Orthodox Jews came together, we easily saw how much we have in common,” said Imam Magid. “We share the challenge of preserving religious identity while promoting engagement with American society and culture, and we have a lot to learn from one another on how we respond to the challenge.”

One of the core values of Yeshiva University is the role faith can and should play in contributing positively to the broader society. Rabbi Ari Berman, YU President said, “Our conversation with Imam Magid and his fellow Islamic American leaders on the opportunities our respective traditions can and should play in the betterment of mankind was inspiring for all involved, and we look forward to building a brighter future together.”



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