Reflections on Jewish-Muslim Discussion of “The Role of Youth in Social Change”

By Kayla Higgins

On a very snowy afternoon, Jews and Muslims gathered at the KnockBox Café in Humboldt Park to take part in interfaith dialogue on the topic of “The Role of Youth in Social Change.”

[Get a glimpse of what happened in this video]

Kayla Higgins, JMCBI Fellow

The Dec. 12 discussion was organized by representatives of the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative (JMCBI) from JCUA and CAIR-Chicago, and led by Rabbi Shoshanah Conover of Temple Sholom and Abdul Sattar Ahmed of the Islamic Learning Foundation.

Rabbi Conover and Mr. Ahmed began by telling of the story of Joseph and how the lessons learned in youth can make us greater leaders.

They also pointed out the differences between the story of Joseph in the Torah and the Qur’an.

Mr. Ahmed pointed out that a key difference between the two holy texts’ perspectives is that the Qur’an tends to have a more idealized view of its biblical characters, turning them into role models, while the Torah tends make biblical characters flawed and more humanized, turning them into people with whom we can relate.

However, both versions of the story of Joseph have the same basic message–that in his youth Joseph only uses his unique gifts to help himself.

It is when he realizes how he can use his gifts to help others that he begins to rise to prominence and save his brethren.

This message resonates with our work with youth at JCUA, where we see them not as tomorrow’s leaders, but as today’s leaders.

Following the initial text study, the group broke up into two discussion groups, each led by one facilitator.

It was in these discussion groups that the participants really got involved in the interfaith dialogue by asking the facilitators questions and responding to each others’ questions.

The facilitators each prepared handouts with thought-provoking quotes, which participants used as springboards for discussion.

When the event concluded, many attendees lingered and talked to the facilitators about how much they had enjoyed the discussion.

However, interfaith exchange between the facilitators themselves seemed equally moving and meaningful to them.

After the event both facilitators expressed that they would be excited to work together again in the future since it is events like these that will hopefully go a long way in improving relations between faith communities.

[Get updates about upcoming JMCBI news and events]

[See more photos from the event]

One Response to Reflections on Jewish-Muslim Discussion of “The Role of Youth in Social Change”

  1. Howard Prager says:

    This is excellent to see this happening. More and expanded dialogues are needed around this very topic.


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