My inter-faith experience

Talking about stuff you feel inside is always better than keeping it there.

tomer orni 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
tomer orni 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Though many often talk about the importance of Jewish-Muslim dialogue, few actually do something about it. First, I'd just like to calm everyone and say that this won't be a political column. I will only tell you about my personal experience during an event organized by the European Council of Jewish Communities (ECJC). At the end you'll even find a connection to what I usually write about - the Internet, what else? The ECJC is the European Jewish umbrella association. It is managed by Tomer Orni. The resemblance to my family name is no coincidence - he is my brother. So I just wanted to set the record straight on that. Tomer invited me to Berlin to take part in an interfaith gathering. He explained that any process that involves more than one side should include dialogue (regardless of political identity). The idea is to map out and understand the other side's interests, while aiming to reach what we call a win-win situation. Besides, any beginner psychologist will tell you that talking about stuff you feel inside is always better than keeping it there. Even if there are no common interests, talking never hurts... The ECJC initiated a program called Passport Europe, chaired by two: Ruhi Uysen, a Muslim-Turkish businessman from Istanbul, and Lena Posner-Körösi - the head of the Jewish community in Sweden. Tomer's vision was to "duplicate" the strong Jewish-Muslim ties from Turkey to Europe. To do that, three discussion anchors were determined: to focus on culture and not religion, to discuss things from a pan-European point of view, not a local one and to base the experience on the successful relationship formed between Jews and Muslims in Turkey. One of the main reasons behind the conference's success was the positive atmosphere and an easy-going flow from the onset. Such a process of dialogue must be held according to a thought-out strategy that includes goals, targets and schedule. Like in the business world. The event itself, concentrated on, well... dialogue. Just sitting around a table and talking. Raising subjects and discussing them. All done in an easy-going fashion. There were also moving visits to a synagogue and a mosque. Rina Barbut, a 26-year-old Jewish participant from Turkey, told me that one of the Jewish participants spoke about an anti-Semitic text in a Turkish newspaper. Its dreams decipher was asked by a reader to explain his dream in which a Jewish man appeared. The expert replied that all he had to do was to take a bath so as to purify himself. Ruhi, the Turkish co-chair was shocked by this story. He found it hard to believe that such expressions of anti-Semitism still exist in Turkey. But they do, and more such accounts came up during the conference. The fact that the problem was raised is a very important first step: it's all about recognition, not simply sweeping it under the rug. To conclude, just think of such an event without the Internet. Logistics would be extremely hard. But much more important is the ability to keep in touch after the event. In the coming days, a Passport Europe Web site will be launched with all the great interactive features the Web has to offer - sharing photos and videos, engaging in dialogue in forums - all to keep the momentum going long after the actual event ends. The writer is the CEO of