With each conference, Sichrovsky and his team of more than 30 volunteers hone their focus.
July’s gathering in Bosnia — the first held in a Muslim country — featured six content themes: conflict transformation; anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in cinema; hate speech and its influence on public opinion; introductions to Judaism and Islam; gender and religion; and education and the effects of historical narratives.“We create a safe platform for young members of both communities to talk to each other instead of about each other,” Sichrovsky said. “We’re bringing together young change-makers and creating a project incubator for their ideas.”
For most MJC participants, the experience is both intellectually and emotionally challenging. During the 2011 Kiev conference, participants visited and prayed at Babi Yar, where the Nazis and their collaborators murdered more than 33,000 Jews in two days.
Last month, participants visited Bosnia’s Srebrenica massacre site, where more than 8,000 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces. Following the tour, participants offered prayers for the lives lost — the Muslim prayer, Sura al-Fatiha, was recited, followed by the Jewish prayer of Mourner’s Kaddish.
“The wounds are still raw, and people are still burying their dead,” said MJC participant Alexis Frankel. As director of the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) ACCESS program for young adults, Frankel accompanied a delegation of Jewish leaders to the conference.
“MJC is about Jews and Muslims talking to each other as peers and human beings,”
Frankel said. “Our generation has a lot of value to add to the conversation, including through social media and informal ways of interacting with each other.”
In response to critics of Muslim-Jewish dialogue projects, Frankel references AJC’s work in Germany following World War II. Although some Jews reacted with outrage when AJC opened a Berlin office, the early groundwork was pivotal for Jewish-German relations and Germany’s ties to Israel, said Frankel.
I'd feel a lot better about the whole thing if topics such as Zionism, jihad, sharia and historical dhimmitude were also being discussed. Without a rigorous understanding of and willingness to air those subjects, this "dialogue" strikes as little more than an exercise in vanity, backslapping and vapid feel-goodism.“With Muslim-Jewish dialogue, we’re thinking of the long-term future of the Jewish people,” Frankel said...