On January 15, 2012 I flew to Birmingham, Alabama and joined up with the 15 other participants on the Bridges: Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue @ NYU Alternative Break trip. We were there to aid in the disaster relief work after the April 2011 tornadoes, and helped to build a house with Habitat for Humanity. On MLK Day, we had the opportunity to attend a memorial service at the 16th Street Baptist Church, and afterward we reflected as a group, for it was the first time any of our students had been to a church service, and we discussed our impressions with the NYU Chaplains Rabbi Yehuda Sarna and Imam Khalid Latif. The next night we held a dinner in the local Jewish Community Center for over 50 people, including leaders and students from the Birmingham Muslim and Jewish communities. On the following evening, we visited a local mosque where the Muslim students from the University of Alabama have their programs. On the way to the mosque that night, the friendships that had sprung up and the bonds that had been formed were palpable, as the Muslim girls taught the Jewish girls how to tie their hijabs, and the Jewish students dispensed Hebrew names to the Muslims, while they gave us Arabic names in return. After Hurricane Katrina, the Rabbi & the Imam led a group of students to help with recovery, and it was there that the spark of interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Jews at NYU was born- they even kept a scrapbook with Polaroid’s and written entries. That scrapbook had sat in a drawer until our trip, when it was once again filled with memories, and from which we were able to ascertain just how far we’d come, and how much more exciting work lies in our path.
On February 9, Bridges: Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue at NYU launched its first event on the NYU campus in over a year and enthusiastically announced that Muslim-Jewish interfaith dialogue at NYU is back. This event paired Rabbi Yehuda Sarna and Imam Khalid Latif on a panel to discuss the significance of Jerusalem to each respective faith, and more specifically, to students of both faiths practicing their religion on NYU's campus. The event drew over 100 people from numerous campuses across New York City, including students from Brooklyn and other NYC boroughs.
The event discussed the significance of Jerusalem from three perspectives; historical, theological and sociological. These categories allowed both Rabbi Sarna and Imam Khalid to discuss numerous aspects of students' particular relationships with Jerusalem.
Both Rabbi Sarna and Imam Kahlid provided insightful and thought provoking historical accounts of the history of Muslim and Jewish engagement with Jerusalem. They also shared personal stories that highlighted themes that they saw as important to understanding the significance of Jerusalem in their personal lives. Rabbi Sarna joyfully recounted proposing to his future wife Michelle at the foot of the Western Wall as a symbol of the Jewish attachment to this ancient symbol of history and religious service. Imam Khalid, while never having had the privilege of visiting Jerusalem himself, provided the students with insightful comments on the difficulties many Muslims across the world face when trying to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He also provided accounts of difficulties he has dealt with while traveling internationally as a identifiably Muslim traveler.
Ultimately, this event was a tremendous success and created buzz around the Mulsim and Jewish communities at NYU that Bridges would be running numerous similar programing in the future. Stay tuned for future programs and for future blog posts about all upcoming Bridges events!