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How the Muslim-Jewish interfaith movement is navigating these tense times

: [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In this story, we incorrectly refer to the group NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change as New Ground: A Muslim Jewish Partnership for Peace.]

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The Hamas attacks on Israel have strained interfaith cooperation here in the U.S. Religious groups that work together on all sorts of community issues are reeling from the killing of loved ones overseas. NPR religion correspondent Jason DeRose reports on how some Muslims and Jews involved in the interfaith movement are navigating the terrain.

JASON DEROSE, BYLINE: In addition to being senior rabbi at Temple Beth Hillel, Sarah Hronsky is the chair of the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders, an interfaith group core to her work in the greater community.

SARAH HRONSKY: In our Talmud and in the Quran, we have a statement about saving a life is like saving the world, and taking this life is like destroying the entire world. We share a belief in humanity.

DEROSE: Despite painful times like this, when it might seem otherwise. That common belief gives her hope when cooperating with Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and others on issues around, say, policing or the environment.

HRONSKY: But at heightened moments, the tension is real.

DEROSE: It's a tension that can't and shouldn't be ignored. Hronsky is deeply grateful for the texts and emails from interfaith colleagues simply saying, we're thinking of you. Those, she says, are testament to that shared humanity.

HRONSKY: When you don't have an existing relationship, there is no space for actual discussion. But when you have this base and this core, you have a place to move forward from, and it does not mean that you're letting go of other values that you hold on to.

OMAR RICCI: Seldom is there conflict in religion where there is friendship. So the idea is that we are friends as much as anything else.

DEROSE: Omar Ricci is also a member of the LA Council of Religious Leaders and past president of the Islamic Center for Southern California. He's determined not to let the attacks in Israel derail interfaith cooperation.

RICCI: We're working hand in hand on issues affecting us here in the U.S. - homelessness. We were just talking about how foster care children are not, you know, well taken care of after they turn 18. So how do we as a faith-based community deal? So there's a variety of things that we can get into, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL GROUP: (Singing in non-English language).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

DEROSE: The organization NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Peace (ph) runs educational workshops on antisemitism and Islamophobia. It's held joint prayers like this one in both Hebrew and Arabic. Participants spent months learning to talk and listen. Yet executive director Aziza Hasan says this weekend's attacks make her work more difficult than ever.

AZIZA HASAN: So we convened the board and staff on Monday. I found myself tripping over every word because it kind of felt impossible to say anything in a way that wasn't going to create harm.

DEROSE: What's most needed in this time is openness, both honesty and listening, says NewGround associate director Andrea Hodos.

ANDREA HODOS: It could be that a Jewish person says, there was a line that was crossed that's beyond anything that I've experienced before, except since the Holocaust. And there could be a Palestinian in the room who is - been in a place where their family has been under constant danger on the ground in Gaza. To have those two people in the room together is really important.

DEROSE: Important, Hodos says, because of a reality that often goes unspoken.

HODOS: There's deep, deep trauma on both sides.

DEROSE: The response to which is often greater fear and further violence, a cycle these interfaith leaders say can only be broken through both Muslims and Jews acknowledging their common humanity to find common ground. Jason DeRose, NPR News, Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF KANYE WEST AND JAY-Z SONG, "NO CHURCH IN THE WILD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jason DeRose is the Western Bureau Chief for NPR News, based at NPR West in Culver City. He edits news coverage from Member station reporters and freelancers in California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii. DeRose also edits coverage of religion and LGBTQ issues for the National Desk.
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