Gathering of European Jewish and Muslim Leaders 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy Alain Azria/European Jewish Congress)
PARIS – Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, told Jewish
and Muslim leaders on Tuesday that “an attack on one of us is an attack on all
of us,” referring to recent rulings in Europe against circumcision and ritual
Speaking at the opening session of the Second Gathering of
European Jewish and Muslim Leaders in Paris, Kantor added that such attacks were
against “all people of faith,” and contradicted not only the principle of free
expression but also the very basis of modern European society.
conference – organized by the European Jewish Congress, the Grande Mosque de
Paris, and the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding – drew around
100 religious leaders and lay participants from nearly 20 European countries,
and was also attended by delegates from Morocco, Israel, and the United States.
The first such gathering was in December 2010.
Kantor’s urgings for
religious unity were echoed by the grand mufti of Sarajevo, Dr. Mustafa
Ceric. “Jews and Muslims aren’t the ghosts of Europe; they are the hosts.
They helped shape Europe.”
Speakers at the two-day conference highlighted
the role of education in breaking down barriers between the
In a declaration entitled “A Zero Tolerance For Religious
Bigotry,” the participants called for the initiation of “sustained dialogue and
cooperative projects between Muslims and Jews; [and] replacing mutual fear and
resentment with a continent-wide movement of Muslims and Jews committed to
communication, reconciliation, and cooperation.”
The need for such
projects was underscored by the chief rabbi of Toulouse, Rabbi Harold
Weill told the conference that after the terror attack by a local
Muslim extremist on a Jewish school in Toulouse in March 2012 – which took the
lives of four people, including three children – he received about 1,500
messages of condolence and support.
Not one of them came from Toulouse’s
He described this as the “third dagger blow” he
received, the first two being the killings and the discovery that a Muslim had
Weill added that he had felt safer as a Jew in Morocco on
a recent visit there than he did in Toulouse.
Delegates at the conference
described local initiatives and projects that had fostered cooperation and trust
between Muslims and Jews. Former Manchester lord mayor Afzal Kahn praised the
introduction of professional and business networks linking both communities. The
chief rabbi of Nice, Rabbi Joseph Abittan, said that he had won the respect of
local Islamic audiences by speaking to them in mosques in Arabic about religious
themes common to both the Torah and the Koran.
The Holocaust was
referenced as a source of unity between the communities.
the rector of the Grande Mosque de Paris, said that the mosque had saved
hundreds of Jews from the Nazis. The Dutch human rights advocate Rabbi Avraham
Soetendorp was hidden by a non- Jewish family during the war, and said he felt a
sense of “inner wholeness” when present at such gatherings.
“Let us draw
strength from one another,” he urged.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, the president
of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, congratulated the participants on
the progress they had made.
“We have created the brand, we have a great
brand, and now we must market the brand,” he said.
The conference was
told that three synagogues and three mosques in northern Israel would take part
in what was described as a twinning event in November.
Imams in Majd
el-Krum, Acre and Haifa would exchange pulpits with their rabbinical
counterparts in Atlit, Acre and Haifa. The imams and rabbis would speak at local
schools, and take part in other interfaith events.
The plan, initiated by
Rabbi Schneier, is being implemented by Bahij Mansour, director of the
Department of Religious Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, and Ya’acov Salameh of
the Department of Religious Communities at the Interior Ministry.