Haaretz (Tel Aviv, Israel) , March 5, 2014
Even in the easygoing, laid-back environment of modern-day Los Angeles, bringing Muslims and Jews together to talk about the Arab-Israeli conflict is viewed as playing with fire.
For decades, “the Muslim-Jewish dialogue that existed in L.A. only took place at the leadership level, among a handful of left-leaning Muslim and Jewish leaders,” recalls Edina Lekovic, policy and programming director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
When it happened, the conversation would usually stick to religion and stay away from politics.
In 2007, Lekovic’s organization, together with a Jewish group, decided to change that, co-founding what would evolve into what is known today as NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change.
Over the past seven years, the group has grown and thrived, proving the skeptics wrong. Lekovic describes a celebration of the Muslim Iftar feast during Ramadan hosted by the Wilshire Boulevard Synagogue, in which 250 Muslims and Jews sat together and listened to a Palestinian man describe his feelings of loss when visiting his family’s former home in Israel, and an American Jew describe being at the Hebrew University cafeteria just before it was bombed in 2002, and the trauma of losing a friend, Marla Bennett, in that terror attack.
“When they share the stories and are forced to recognize the suffering on the other side, and put themselves in the shoes of the other person, it becomes a transformational moment,” said Lekovic.
Subjects Covered: diversity