BY KATIE GOSS ’23
Mount Holyoke’s Interfaith Council held a panel discussion titled “Navigating Muslim-Jewish Relations in the Current Political Climate” on Sept. 15 in Hooker Auditorium. The crowd included many community members from outside the College, along with a handful of current Mount Holyoke students.
Facilitating the event were Paula Green and Mehlaqa Samdani. Green is the founder of the Karuna Center for Peace-Building, which helps people divided by conflict understand each other and make peace; Samdani is the founder and director of Critical Connections, an organization which works to improve the public’s understanding of Muslim communities.
With them were two speakers, Rabbi Or Rose, who currently works as the director of interreligious and leadership rabbinic ordination at Hebrew College in Boston and Mount Holyoke Professor of International Relations and Politics, Sohail Hashmi.
The goal of the event was to give perspective on the truth about Jewish and Muslim relations to people within and outside the two communities.
The panel discussed the struggles of discrimination and prejudice both Muslims and Jewish people have experienced in the United States, such as being attacked by white supremacists, especially in recent years. Also, how geopolitics have impacted intercommunal relations between the two.
Panelists also gave advice on how to navigate these challenges by identifying anti-Semitic and Islamophobic groups along with developing strategies for connecting with one another.
“We want to dismantle misinformation here you may have heard,” Samdani said in her introduction to the crowd, referring to common assumptions made about the two groups and their interactions with one another.
This meeting was only the first of many local opportunities to bring these two groups together.
After introductions from Green and Samdani, Rose and Hashmi answered questions for over an hour. The group then gathered into groups with people to get to know their neighbors and discuss what had just been talked about.
Each group was then asked to come up with a question for the panel. The activity of mingling with new people reflected the panel’s goal to initiate conversations across boundaries.
“I’m Jewish, and I think it’s really important to talk about relationships between Jews and Muslims in America,” Abbey Bufford ’23 said. “There’s a lot happening specifically within this community and within our two groups that I didn’t really know about, but I would like to get involved more.”
Mount Holyoke has been recognized on a national level for its interfaith relationships, as it is part of only a few liberal arts colleges in the country to support nine faith groups.