Weekly Feature

2011-01-26 / Local News

Online magazine designed to promote Jewish/Muslim understanding


A new online magazine, Jewish Muslim Friendship in WNY, was the brainchild of Enid Bloch, who saw the need for a vehicle to communicate peace and understanding.

Bloch, who is the editor, said she had been considering creating the magazine, and about two months ago decided to go ahead with the initiative.

She has attended a number of interfaith events and said she wants to reach out to people of goodwill in both the Jewish and Muslim communities. The online publication will be geared toward families and won’t contain anything that would disturb or make someone angry, she said.

According to Bloch, the magazine, which is independent, will feature stories, news articles, historical and archeological explorations, philosophic essays, spiritual insights, recipes, poetry, and book and film reviews.

It can be accessed at www.jew ish-muslim-friendship-wny.org.

Anyone of any faith is invited to make submissions to the magazine, but they must be in goodwill and written with a desire to foster trust and understanding, said Bloch. Those who are interested in contributing to the publication or wish to be on the recipient list are asked to e-mail editor@jew ish-muslim-friendship-wny.org.

For now, the magazine will be published three times per year and will be available online only. Bloch said it has already garnered interest from people in other states, and she would like to print it if there is sufficient funding for it in the future.

Bloch contacted other people she believed might be interested in becoming part of the project and has developed an advisory board of Julia Cohan, Sarah De- Bruin, Babs Hirschorn, Hodan S. Isse, Gunilla Kester, Fatima Lodhi, Amber Shaikh, Nadia Shahram, Bekah Starr, Sawsan Tabbaa and Susan Udin.

Kester is the co-editor of “The Empty Chair: Love and Loss in the Wake of Flight 3407,” and “The Still Empty Chair,” a second edition of the book, which features poetry and reflections from the community honoring the victims of the tragedy.

Kester said she is inspired by the interfaith efforts of friend Susan Wehle, a cantor who was killed in the crash. Wehle’s parents were survivors of the Holocaust, and Kester also had loved ones impacted.

“One thing I learned from the Holocaust is we must not hate each other,” she said.

Buffalo is home to many immigrants who sometimes face discrimination. Kester, who is originally from Sweden, said she knows what it feels like to be a foreigner.

“Prejudice is something you learn, and it’s hard to unlearn,” she said. “What are we going to leave to our children? What is our legacy going to be?”

The first issue of Jewish Muslim Friendship in WNY is dedicated to Wehle.

Shaikh said she jumped at the chance to get involved with this project. She said she’ll be looking for positive news related to Jewish/ Muslim interaction and has a “killer” curry chicken recipe she may volunteer for the magazine.

She has been involved with interfaith meetings and part of a faith club in Buffalo that meets to discuss books and concepts relevant to its participants.

She said there are many contentious issues, such as the conflict in the Middle East, that can divide people.

“We don’t want that to affect our friendship here in this count ry,” she said, adding that she hopes the magazine will provide a good example of cooperation.

Hirschorn, who has attended a number of interfaith events with Bloch, said she hopes the positive expression through the magazine speaks louder than the negative. Anger is a burden to those that carry it, she said.

This is the first interfaith project that Lodhi has been part of. She is the communications director of wnymuslims.org, a website that aims to provide a media outlet for Muslims and the community at large. People can discuss issues they think are important.

She said a goal of Jewish Muslim Friendship in WNY is to create understanding.

“I hope people are open to it and really read it ... and learn that there are people in the community that are trying to create dialogue and mutual respect,” she said.

Shahram said she plans to concentrate on challenges faced by Muslim and Jewish women in her contributions to the effort. She was raised in Iran during the shah’s regime.

“Everyone lived under the umbrella of being Persians regardless of religious belief,” she said. “Since my family and I moved here in 1977, I realized that here people are grouped into communities by their religion versus nationality. In this sense, I decided to remain Persian by having friends based on other commonalities and not necessarily religion. I welcome collaboration with others toward [the] mutual goal of equality and acceptance.”

Isse, president of HEAL, which assists refugees in the area, said she would like to see the magazine include information about the struggles faced by area refugees, as well as difficulties impacting youth.

An article about the work of HEAL is in the current edition.

Buffalo is becoming a hub for refugees, said Isse, who is originally from Somalia. Most refugee families end up in the inner city because of its cheap housing and access to public transportation. They get assistance, such as welfare and food stamps, but they need to feel welcomed by the community to be most successful, she said.

She said she hopes the magazine gives those involved a chance to communicate to others who are interested in helping humanity, as well as those who aren’t aware of what’s going on in the area.

“Hopefully, this will be a conscious raising kind of thing,” she said. “The greatest people in the world are ones with a vision for unity.”

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