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January 15, 2014 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-01-15

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Synagogue and Mosque: uniting communities on campus and beyond
by Carolyn Gearig

the thought bubble

While Muslim-Jewish relations have,
at least in the modern era, been marked
by conflict, MuJew, an interfaith campus
organization composed primarily of Mus-
lim and Jewish students, strives to create
an alliance between the two campus com-
munities through dialogue, intercultural
events and community service work.
LSA sophomore Saara Mohammed, LSA
junior Jesse Moehlman, LSA junior Laura
Katsnelson and LSA senior Mariam Khan
make up part of MuJew's executive board.
Moehlman and Katsnelson are Jewish
while Khan and Mohammed are Muslim;
Moehlman and Katsnelson are co-chairs
of the organization and Mohammed is
outreach chair, coordinating work MuJew
does around campus and with other orga-
nizations. Khan was a chair in 2013.
"The goal is to create a community and a
safe space for Jews and Muslims, and real-
ly anyone who's interested on campus,"
Khan said. "Both of us come from margin-
alized communities in the US - you see a
lot of anti-Semitism, a lot of Islamophobia.
So I think there's a lot of value in our com-
munities coming together in creating a
new community and being able to support
each other."
MuJew was founded in October 2010 by
University alums Jenna Weinberg, Molly
Mardit and Husnah Khan in an effort
,.-to create dialogue, understanding and
friendship between Muslim and Jewish
students. The organization was born out
of the yearly MuJew Alternative Spring
Break trip, which was previously the only
formal medium where Muslim and Jewish
students formally worked together.
Muslims and Jews are comparatively
small minorities in the United States,
both practiced by fewer than 2 percent
of the population. They are minorities on
campus as well, with around 3 percent of
University undergraduates identifying as
Muslim and 12 percent identifying as Jew-
MuJew meets once a week to engage in
a dialogue centered around weekly top-
ics that have previously included gender
relations, members' relationships with
religion, holy books, fasting and person-
al stories about religion. Members are
encouraged to share thoughts, experienc-
es and insight. Between 10 and 20 students
attend dialogue meetings, depending on
the topic.
However, according to Khan and
Mohammed, the most important MuJew
traditions are the the Juma'a Shabbat
event once a semester and the yearly
Alternative Spring Break trip.
Juma'a Shabbat aims to expose people
of both faiths to each other's religious tra-
ditions. On Fridays, Jewish students are
invited to traditional Muslim afternoon
prayers and Muslim students are invited

Students participating in the 2013 MuJew Alternative Spring Break trip prepare to demolish a house dam-
aged in a tornado in Joplin, Missouri.

to Shabbat services and dinner before
the weekly holiday in which some Jews
abstain from using technology and do not
work from sundown Friday to sundown
After the Friday prayers and again after
Shabbat dinner, Hillel assistant director
Rabbi Seth Winberg, assistant director of
Hillel, and Muslim Chaplain Mohammed
Tayssir Safi lead discussions and answer
questions. As the first endowed Muslim
Chaplain at a public university, Safi works
with students of all faiths, but primarily
the approximately 850 Muslim students
on campus. He works
with other religious "There'
leaders on campus as
well as the Muslim Stu- OUr COmn
dent Association.
This is Winberg's together i
third year at Hillel. Community
The Rabbi who previ-
ously held his position suppOI
was involved in creat-
ing MuJew, so Winberg MARIAM KHAN
became involved in
ASB, accompanying them on trips he also
helped organize.
MuJew runs one ASB trip a year. Mus-
lim and Jewish students plan a community
service trip to a distressed area: Through-
out the school year, they learn about the
culture and history of the area and com-
munity they will be serving. During
spring break, they travel to the area and
engage in manual work and toward under-
standing the issues at hand. One Muslim
and one Jewish leader advise the group
and travel with students - Winberg has
been the Jewish adviser since 2012 along


with a different Muslim graduate student
each year.
LSA senior Jesse Moehlman, the
MuJew co-chair, said he, applied to go on
his first MuJew ASB trip because of the
interfaith focus.
"The different discussions related to
our faiths, our reactions to the work we
were doing, and our conversations with
different members of the Joplin commu-
nity proved to be an incredible and diverse
experience," he said in an e-mail inter-
view. "I especially enjoyed meeting with
local Muslim and Jewish congregations,
and hearing their
s a lot of value in experiences
after the tornado
nunities coming and as members
of the Joplin
n Creating a new community. The
and being able to trip built new
each other" friendships both
with the com-
, 2013 MUJEW CO-CHAIR munity members
we spoke with
and among the
ASB participants, and created a new kind
of community fostering continued service
and intercultural understanding."
The 2011 and 2012 ASB trips involved
disaster relief after tornados. In 2011,
MuJew went to Birmingham, Alabama, to
provide help after the April 2011 tornado
that killed 64 people and injured more
than 1,500 - leaving thousands of dam-
aged homes, buildings and communities
in its aftermath. In Birmingham, students
stayed in a synagogue and worked with
the Islamic Circles of North America's
disaster relief unit, the Jewish Disaster

Response Core and Habitat for Human-
ity in rebuilding two houses that had been
Less than a month after the tornado in
Birmingham, there was a tornado in Jop-
lin, Missouri that killed 158 and resulted
in $2.8 billion in damage. MuJew trav-
eled here in March 2013 and worked again
with the Jewish Disaster Response Core
and the Islamic Circles of North America.
"The thing about disaster is there
are usually needs in the community for
rebuilding long after the disaster," Win-
berg said. "It's also a compelling service
project because it's a time in a community
where you don't need to have expert man-
ual labor skills. If you can hold a hammer
and put on gloves, there's usually some-
thing to do. It's always been important
to me that the service trips Hillel is part
of meet a real need in a community, the
kind of service that can be a short term
commitment because they need whatever
help you can provide for as long as you
can provide it - not like some other ser-
vice projects that raise moral questions
of dropping in and build something the
community may or may not need, and then
going back to Ann Arbor."
In Joplin, MuJew students stayed in a
church set up to house volunteers. They
worked on demolishing a damaged house
so it could be rebuilt. Both trips involved
manual labor during the day and bonding
activities at night. On Fridays during ASB,
MuJew had lunch and afternoon prayers
with local Muslims and Shabbat dinner at
a nearby synagogue.
For Mohammed, participating in a
MuJew trip was her first experience with
MuJew. She joined the organization soon
after she traveled to Joplin.
"It's a unique space where both groups
come together," she said.
Mohammed and Moehlman will lead
seven other students in the 2014 MuJew
ASB trip. Nine students and two advisers
will travel to the south side of Chicago to
work with the Inner City Muslim Action
Network, which advocates for social jus-
tice and runs a variety of programs in the
city including health and youth services
and art programs.
"The MuJew ASB (is) a unique opportu-
nity to serve with both Muslim and Jewish
students and to have a meaningful impact
on the community," Moehlman said.
Winberg said he thinks the work
MuJew does has the potential for greater
societal impact.
"Judaism and Islam have much in com-
mon that Jews and Muslims don't realize,"
he said. "You go down to Birmingham and
Joplin to help others, and the added bonus
is you discover that your peers of another
religion and culture have similar experi-
ences and traditions. It's very powerful."

on the record
"The show's current conception of love resembles that of
a pre-teen who still doesn't know or understand anything
about this nebulous concept beyond the borders of their
- KAYLA UPADHYAYA, Daily Arts Columnist, on the fifth season
of"The Vampire Diaries."
"We hope that Governor Snyder will see this and reflect
with his team the impact that his decisions have had
on the environment. We think that he has not been
primarily concerned with that."
- MIKE BERKOWITZ, legislative and political director of the
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, on Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's
environmental negligence.
"Getting the highest-ranked recruits and more stars
to fill up an elementary school bulletin board doesn't
mean a damn thing if those recruits don't get developed
properly. That is where Hoke and company have failed
so far."
- EVERETT COOK, Daily Sports Writer, on overestimating the
significance ofathletic recruitment.

Japanese scientists have discovered a way to
levitate small objects using sound waves. Four
speakers are set on either side and ultrasound
waves act as the moving force. Look out: You
might just own a hoverboard by 2016.

When are you
most likely to find
celebrities at a
bar at 2 p.m.? The
Golden Globes,
of course! The
Golden Globes
kicked off the 2014
award season, and
celebrated some
of the best talent
in Htlywood on
AP PHOTO/ PaulDrinkwater Sunday night.

"You're never out of touch with (history). It's always living and breathing
... Understanding history is not just about understanding yourself, but about
understanding why we are the way we are - currently. And maybe where
we're going."




It's about time that TV bigwigs got with the
times. HBO has announced that itwill upload
the firsttwo episodes of the newseason of
"Girls" onto YouTube only 12 hours after its


Has the looming
nuclear threat been
dissolved? On Jan.
2t, Iran will take
some big steps
toward locking
down its uranium-
program and per a
deal with six world
powers, begin to
destroy several of
its stockpiles.

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