By Kayla Higgins
JMCBI Fellow, JCUA
Representatives of the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative (JMCBI) from JCUA, CAIR-Chicago, and CAMP Chicago met with a delegation of Israeli and Palestinian artists on Monday, Oct. 4 to discuss ways of using the arts to facilitate dialogue in general, and interfaith dialogue in particular.
The exchange was hosted by WorldChicago (formerly the International Visitors Center of Chicago), a non-profit organization that provides the local community with opportunities to build relationships with visitors from across the globe.
The delegation consisted of professional artists in areas such as film, theater, plastic arts and more. The purpose of their trip was to explore the American art world and take home with them some lessons from American non-profit organizations that utilize the arts to promote dialogue and social justice.
JCUA’s Asaf Bar-Tura, JMCBI coordinator, shared lessons he has learned about promoting effective interfaith dialogue through arts-themed programs, such as JMCBI’s Café Finjan (Read More), with the delegation.
Gerald Hankerson of CAIR-Chicago explained that although CAIR’s focus is on civil rights and has no specific arts & culture programming through its outreach program, it often partners with other organizations that incorporate arts and culture into their work.
The meeting then culminated with questions and comments from the delegation, who brought up their views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the complexities of dialoguing about it.
Hankerson said he thought it was “rare for CAIR to have the opportunity to speak to a group with a focus on the arts, as opposed to law enforcement or public policy.” He also added that “the fact that WorldChicago chose to invite JMCBI to this meeting is indicative of Café Finjan’s success as a key program for promoting dialogue across political and religious differences.”
Tawfiq Farraj, a JMCBI leader and the CAMP representative at the meeting, said after the meeting that he was “impressed by the willingness of the delegates to give us advice on our next projects even though they won’t necessarily be involved.”
As the meeting went on, the dialogue opened up more and more and then continued in the WorldChicago lobby after the meeting had officially ended where delegates exchanged contact info with the JCUA, CAIR, and CAMP JMCBI representatives, and continued to ask more questions about the work of the organizations.
Overall, the exchange was very friendly, energetic and heartfelt. Bar-Tura said that “though JMCBI does not focus on the conflict in the Middle East, engagements like these demonstrate the wide-ranging effects of our work and the inspiration it provides.”