Two years ago EUJS was invited to take part in the ‘Weekend of Twinning’. The mission of this event was to bring together Muslims and Jews from around the globe for one weekend. As I really liked the idea I decided to organise it in Vienna. Together with my new partner Moussa Al-Hassan Diaw, a pedagogue and longtime activist for inter-religious dialogues and deradicalization, we started planning this unique event. Since it was a sensitive time (when is it not) in the Middle East – after the end of another violent round of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – we knew that we had to choose our participants wisely in order to ensure that the meeting would not turn into another endless political debate. Naturally, Moussa was in charge on bringing Muslim participants, mainly from the Egyptian and Bosnian youth organizations. As a JÖH board member (Jüdische Österreichische HochschülerInnen) I invited our members and a Rabbi as a presenter. The JÖH has kindly sponsored the event.
Rabbi Kigel explained about circumcision and its importance to Judaism. Moussa and the Muslim participants explained how it is conceived in Islam. The event went really well, quite beyond our expectations. The atmosphere was really positive and the participants showed an ethusiatic curiosity and will to know more. Since then, we have organized a few more events, in which we talked about interesting topics such as: Women in religion, Kosher vs. Halal, the Holy Land, and more. We try to stay away from the current political conflict, as we prefer to point out our shared values and traditions. Our new organization EMJD (European Muslim Jewish Dialogue) received positive feedback from the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the JÖH won an award from the WUJS for this programme. Our last event was in a ‘World Café’ format with the focus being on refugees and immigrants. We used Old Islamic and Jewish texts and tried to reflect upon the current situation in Europe.
The last events in Israel demonstrate what happens when there is a failure to communicate. I urge you all: go out, reach out your hand and try to meet and talk with your neighbours. We have to make the change, it depends only on us.