Contact: Michelle Soffen
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AS RELIGIOUS TENSIONS RISE WORLD WIDE, THESE YOUNG NYC JEWS SEEK TO BETTER UNDERSTAND
Event Open to the Public with Registration – Register Here: http://conversationsremixmje.eventbrite.com
NY, New York, Jan 8, 2016 – A Rabbi, an Imam and a Pastor walk into bar… it’s not the start of a joke, but rather the tagline for a daring new lecture series hosted by Manhattan Jewish Experience this January, which will do just that – bring together clergy from the three Abrahamic religions to discuss similarities, differences, and ways we can better understand each other’s communities. And yes, drinks are involved.
The timing of this series is critical. Each passing day brings news of more terrorist attacks in Israel, troubling BDS/ Anti-Semitic acts on college campuses, and hateful videos and rants on social media. It’s a new year, but the problems of 2015 carry over and interfaith tensions are on the rise. And yet with the new year, there is a renewed sense of hope that things will get better.
As a place where less affiliated and unaffiliated young men and women explore Judaism, many for the first time, MJE understands first hand that there is a lack of knowledge and understanding about religion, and in particular about Islam. And so in an attempt to educate and enlighten, which can only make for a better 2016, MJE has launched the special 3 part series “Interview the Expert” within the highly popular “Conversations Remix” weekly class taught by Founder and Director Rabbi Mark Wildes. The series leads up to and celebrates Martin Luther King Day, keeping in spirits with Dr. King’s message of tolerance and interfaith cooperation. The lectures are held at MJE West – 131 W 86th Street, 10th floor. Light dinner and wine is served at 8pm, class begins at 8:15pm.
“We wanted to provide a platform to help foster understanding, commonalities and a fun open dialogue where young Jewish professionals can ask their burning questions,” said Atara Neuer, MJE’s West Side Director and organizer of the lecture series. “I envision a world where Rabbis speak in mosques and Imams speak in synagogues – we all believe in the same God and the same vision of peaceful co-existence.”
The first expert featured this past Monday, January 4 was Etzion Neuer – NY State Policy and Deputy Director of Anti-Defamation League on Fighting Hate. To a packed room of young Jewish professionals, Neuer discussed the Anti-Defamation’s league dual mission to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all citizens alike. He revealed alarming facts about the status of Anti-Semitism worldwide, and provided the room with useful tools to fight this very real phenomenon.
Next up in the series, Imam Benjamin Bilal will be interviewed by Rabbi Wildes this Monday, Jan 11, on Interfaith Relations. Imam Bilal is a charismatic, rising star in the modern-day Islamic community who believes his mission and destiny is to reach out to people of every race and religion. He is also the subject of a fascinating documentary by Israeli-American filmmaker Joshua Faudem. The film,BILAL, tells his personal story about growing up as a Black Israelite and being raised as a Jew in Harlem, to becoming part of the Nation of Islam, to his fight against Islamic extremism on the rise in Europe.
“There needs to be greater awareness and a deeper knowledge as to the different types of Muslims and their basic philosophies” explained Rabbi Wildes. “If people were saying or doing awful things in the name of Judaism which I believed were not true of my faith, I would speak out and try to set the record straight. Yet we do not often hear from more moderate Islamic clerics and leaders about the growing threat of radical Islam and its links to terrorism. Our guest, Imam Bilal speaks at many Mosques arguing for a more peaceful Islam. He addresses many young and disenfranchised youth to pull them away from the grips of ISIS and other branches of radical Islamism. His message of coexistence and religious tolerance is a very important one today and so I look forward to our discussion”.
Rabbi Wildes isn’t the only one anticipating the lecture on Monday. Michelle, an MJE participant who will be in attendance on Monday remarked that this will be her first time meeting a Muslim cleric – a long overdue event. “I was a Middle Eastern Studies minor in college. I took multiple classes on Islam, and yet I have never actually met an Imam or anyone from the Muslim clergy,” she admitted. “I find myself often debating with friends the level of violence or lack thereof inherent in the Qur’an, and yet I have never had the opportunity to ask a practicing Muslim, let alone a Muslim leader, what he or she thinks. I don’t think any of my Jewish friends have either, and yet I know none of us would want someone talking about the nature of Judaism without consulting Rabbis or at least practicing Jews.”
On Jan 18, Martin Luther King Day, the series will conclude with guest lecturer Reverend Gregory Jackson of the Mount Olive Baptist Church in Hackensack, New Jersey. When Rabbi Wildes’ brother Michael Wildes was Mayor of Englewood, NJ he introduced the Reverend to Rabbi Wildes and the two have had a connection ever since. Rabbi Wildes will lead a Q and A with the Reverend on Civil Rights in honor of Dr. King’s memory. Reverend Jackson believes in a gospel that is reflected in one’s personal life as well as one’s social and political life. With a journey that began in the segregated schools of South Carolina, he knows personally the true meaning of civil rights.
“The struggle for civil liberties and self- determination is a narrative the Jewish people have always shared with the Black community. This is why we marched in solidarity, side by side with Martin Luther King in the fight for civil rights,” Wildes said. “As a religious leader I have always admired Dr. King and his ability to bring people of different backgrounds together to serve a greater cause. I am thrilled we are doing this series and can’t think of a better way to honor his memory.”
Journalists interested in covering the upcoming events (January 11 with Imam Bilal and/or January 18 with Reverend Jackson) should contact firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain a press pass.
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