Muslim and Jewish students join to celebrate art
Art on display at the interfaith art gala hosted by Muslim and Jewish student organizations at Emory University.
April 26th, 2012
06:40 AM ET

Muslim and Jewish students join to celebrate art

By Summer Suleiman, CNN

ATLANTA (CNN) - Canvases with bold colors and Arabic letters lined the walls of the rooms. Downstairs, students rapped about Islam and Judaism to their own version of the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” melody, followed by songs performed in Arabic, Hebrew and English. For the first time, Muslim and Jewish students at Emory University collaborated for an interfaith art gala.

The Muslim Student Association has planned galas for the past eight years, but this year, the group decided to take it a step further. It joined with Emory Hillel, the Jewish student organization, to host the gala. The program strives to use art to promote understanding and tolerance.

Asad Abdulla, president of the Muslim Student Association, is a senior at Emory. When he started as a freshman four years ago, he said, there was a clear divide between Muslim and Jewish students, with little interaction on campus. The students have worked hard to change that.

“We want to serve as a model for other schools, to show that this is what other campuses should try to strive for in terms of Muslim-Jewish relations,” Abdulla said.

Their efforts bear tragic relevance. Last month, an attack at a Jewish school in France left four people dead. In California, a Muslim woman was beaten to death in her home and left with a note that read, “Go back to your country.”

The students’ work didn’t come without challenges. Their goal was to illustrate unity on campus, but not everyone believed in their vision.

“A lot of people were skeptical, that maybe people couldn’t handle it or understand it,” Abdulla said. “Knowing that our cultures are different, the way we work is different, a lot of people weren’t sure if we would be able to take the relationship to the next level, but we had to convince them that something of this magnitude needs to happen.”

Students perform songs in Arabic, Hebrew and English at the interfaith art gala at Emory University.

Students perform songs in Arabic, Hebrew and English at the interfaith art gala at Emory University.

At the gala, skepticism didn’t slow them down at all. Students who helped plan the event moved around a room with energy and excitement. Alexis Berkow, president of Hillel, lit up when she described what it was like for the students to plan the gala together.

“We had a group of Jewish and Muslim students working together, and I think that was the most amazing experience, spending time with these people that you wouldn’t normally spend time with. You realize you’re exactly the same, you’re all going to college and you have a lot of the same goals, and it makes the other people see that you are the same, too,” Berkow said.

Comedians Dean Obeidallah and Scott Blakeman were invited to perform at the gala. They kept guests laughing and ended their performances by stressing the importance of promoting peace through dialogue.

Attendees of the gala listen to comedians Scott Blakeman and Dean Obeidallah perform.

Attendees of the gala listen to comedians Scott Blakeman and Dean Obeidallah perform.

“When I go to the synagogue and I look in the prayer book, it says seek peace and pursue it, it talks about embracing all, and that’s what to me, not only being Jewish is, but what the state of Israel is supposed to be also. I hope that will happen,” Blakeman said.

For Abdulla, who graduates in May, this is where the work begins.

“Muslims and Jews who are leaders on campus will be leaders in their communities, and when they leave Emory and go out into the world, they are OK working with a Muslim person, or they are OK working with a Jewish person,” Abdulla said.

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soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Somaia Abdelrahim

    I managed one of the Loeman's store for many years and most of my customers were Jewish. I am an American whose religion is Islam. I enjoyed interacting with my Jwish customers and I had so much in common with them. Take the politics out and people can will along on a human level.

    Wat to go MSA.

    April 30, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Solo

      Who do you think OWNS (not owes) in this country? It's one thing to manage a store, and something far different to have a family legacy worthy of ownership pride.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  2. truefax

    BORING, they aren't even nekkid.

    April 30, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  3. Wastrel

    Only in the US. If all the Muslims worldwide would learn American values, we might have peace.

    April 30, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • I am a Muslim who believes in Peace

      Peace is an Islamic value. Lets not fall trap to the global politics and generalize Islam as not being peaceful.

      May 5, 2012 at 1:35 am |
  4. Quire

    I love this!!!!!!!! :-0

    April 30, 2012 at 5:29 am |
  5. Janet Abercrombie

    One of my favorite things about teaching overseas: My students span a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds. In addition, I'm excited to be part of a school with a mission statement that includes the statement "grounded in the Christian faith and respecting the spiritual lives of all."

    A few years ago, my 10-year-old students wanted to celebrate the end of a unit with presentations and food. One of my Christian students piped up: "Mrs. A, it's Ramadan. Ahmed (name has been changed) doesn't eat during the daytime." The class decided that the celebration would not include food, but they would have popcorn when Ramadan ended.

    This year, my class comprises student from Jewish, Christian, Hindi, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, and Agnostic backgrounds. They play together. They debate. They compare and contrast stories of creation. Now, I'd like them to share some art :).

    We're in the midst of a poetry unit. I wonder if they might share poems from their cultural and religious backgrounds...

    Janet | expateducator.com

    April 30, 2012 at 5:13 am |
  6. Rick

    These two will never get along. This is all short-lived and for a profit.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Dana

      They are both non-profit organizations. please actually read the article before commenting.

      April 30, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
      • Solo

        Hillel should know better than to put themselves in the same sentence, let alone the same space as the Muslims.

        April 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • I am a Muslim who believes in Peace

      What profit was made? Seems like hating makes a lot more profit than loving

      May 5, 2012 at 1:36 am |
  7. The Greeks voce

    At the nudist camp were I go we have moslem women and christian women of many faith. It is hard for me to tell who is a moslem or a christian. I believe that religions are man made. don't you agree? I asked the ladies about their G-Spot and I got different answers. This means that we are of the human race..Have you seen a miricle lately?

    April 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  8. French Atlantan

    I bet all these Jewish haters of Islam talkbackers here are Ashkenazi (European Jews) who are a breed of their own, and have no relationship with Mizrahi (Arab and Middle Eastern Jews) who like Arab Chrisitans and Moslems are the true descendants of Abraham (and the Canaanites who dwelled the Eastern Mediterranean before the Hebrews left Egypt). Arab Jews thrived and succeeded in Moslem lands, until Ashkenazi zionists and their set-up Jewish Agency who wanted to populate Palestine with only Jews scared them off and succeeded in luring most of them to Israel. Only elder Mizrahi Jews can tell you how happy they were in Arab and Moslem lands. Even ask yourselves why the Jews in Spain chose to leave Spain with the Moslems rather than stay there when the Spaniards liberated their lands after several centuries of Arab presence.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • steve

      They didn't choose to leave Spain...they were kicked out.

      April 30, 2012 at 2:05 am |
    • shmuel

      My wife is the daugher of Iraqi Jews. Her mother grew up in Basra and her father in Bagdad. They persecuted and killed the jews there long before the Jewish agency. I have many older Iraqi relatives. Life was horrible there. None of them have any desire to ever go back.

      April 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Sunman72

      Keep deluding yourself, pal. Col Yisrael am echad = all of Israel is one nation. Your bizarre and racist ideas simply don't match DNA testing of Jews from everywhere in the world. Iberian Jews came from North Africa and Rome; they migrated to France, then the Rhine valley, then Poland, Galicia, Romania, and eventually Latvia, the Ukraine, and Russia. it's all the same folks, and they are genetically related to most Arabs, as you say.

      April 30, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
      • Córdoba lejana y sola

        I personally had DNA testing done (I'm of Russian Jewish descent) and it traced straight back to the Middle East, which shows that the Ashkenazim do indeed share a common lineage with Sephardim. But then again, don't let facts get in the way of a good baseless assertion.

        April 30, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Córdoba lejana y sola

      Not only did they not choose to leave (Fernando and Isabel issued the Edict of Expulsion kicking them out in 1492) but the Moors were not even forced to leave at the same time that the Jews were (this happened later). But hey, thanks for showing your complete ignorance of history.

      April 30, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  9. braun

    I hope that the Emory students' gesture was "reassuring" to Jews, but unfortunately when Abraham "resettled", or exiled his slave, and then his wife, Hagar, and his own son, Ishmael, into the desert, he quashed any hope of future peace between Jews and Muslims. Wishful thinking. Never happens. Sorry.

    April 29, 2012 at 4:21 am |
  10. Kim

    Preach on Laura, you are exactly right only one incident had to do with a hate crime & it wasn't the incident with the woman in California. My parents are ordained Ministers & they preach to this day not to trust Muslims, how shameful! I'm sure glad to see my generation is a much more loving, accepting generation!

    April 29, 2012 at 4:07 am |
    • Gail Duituturaga

      The hate crime in California is being investigated as the family members might have done her in. Not a islamophobe.

      April 30, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  11. Mohamed Ali

    Intercultural is a better way for coexistance.

    April 29, 2012 at 12:40 am |
  12. Mohammed

    Muslims say their perfect role model is mohammed. Mohammed killed, raped, tortured, lied, enslaved and abused. Says pretty much everything about islam and muslims. There's absolutely no reason to respect islam and it's hateful adherents. Just disgusting.

    April 28, 2012 at 1:46 am |
    • Mike

      Absolutely true. Nothing to add there. The liberals trying to portray islam as just another, peaceful religion is so full of BS. This is spitting in the faces of all the victims of muslim violence – gays, women, apostates, Christians, Jews etc. All abused, oppressed and killed in the name of islam because it says so in the koran and the hadiths. Don't believe any muslim who claims the opposite and read it yourself. Muslims are told to lie to you in order to promote islam. It's called taqia and commanded in the koran. Islam is not a peaceful religion – it is a backward hate cult that needs to be fought wherever you encounter it.

      April 28, 2012 at 1:51 am |
      • Truth

        Hitler was christian. Atomic bombs were used by christian. Vietnam war (started with a lie) killed over 2 million people..was christian army. Iraq war, people still getting killed b/c christian army destroyed the whole country before leaving it to thugs. Afghanistan war still going on, a super christian army invaded the country killing millions. Just read history of last 100 yrs and see for yourself who is killing, slaving and destroying civilizations. Instead of spreading hate, we should promote peace. All the prophets came from one God, why fight?

        April 28, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
      • Delphi

        frankly mike you sound quite a bit like what you describe, backward and hateful. As a Christian who is not perfect i know that we all are human beings who share that fact, imperfection. Ignorance is something people of all creeds practice. My God tells me to love, though i may not always succeed, i know for a fact this judgmental view point many share here is not what He intends. Christians, Jews, and Muslims all have shed innocent blood. Cast the first stone people, cast the first stone.

        April 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Helga

      You are absolutely correct. Trust none of them. They lie, cheat, and steal right in front of your face and think nothing of it. They enjoy killing other people. They are pigs.

      April 28, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Anna

      Now read in the Bible what God told Moses' followers to do to the women and children they conquered, and then read what Joshua did to the people who lived in Jericho. Then read about what Christians did to Jews, gypsies and gays during WWII.

      April 28, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Rod

      I could not agree more. Muslims will fight for generations for an ideology that belongs to the middle ages.
      Sooner they (we) realize that religion is absolute nonsense, more improvement we will see in the world.

      Rod

      April 28, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  13. JFH

    Great story to promote understanding through interaction and dialogue

    April 28, 2012 at 1:06 am |
  14. dreamsinger

    Absolutely inspiring.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  15. Jongellert

    Wonderful.

    April 27, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  16. Nada Bazih

    This is fantastic! Events like that make us open to one another. It makes us understand each other, and hopefully one day love one another. Thank you for the people who made this event possible. It makes me so hopeful!

    April 27, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  17. Paradoxical Photography

    Event Pictures
    tinyurl.com/interfaithartgala

    Event Video

    April 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • I am a Muslim who believes in Peace

      Wow!!! The event pictures look beautiful!

      May 5, 2012 at 1:38 am |
  18. Mivka

    Satan hides behind many faces.

    April 27, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  19. BD

    This made my day.

    April 27, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  20. Laura

    Nice to read something positive about Muslim-Jews relations. We have hope in young people from both sides who are not poisoned by hate too much to make steps in a right direction. I am pretty sure that if it’s not certain interest and constantly brainwashing because of it, the problem would be resolved long time ago. Unfortunately, there is a political dividend from fueling scare and mistrust, presenting Muslims only from a negative side, but as long as people will open their mind and heart for truth, we will overcome differences and find a common ground to make the world a better place for all.

    April 27, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  21. Berman

    "Their efforts bear tragic relevance. Last month, an attack at a Jewish school in France left four people dead. In California, a Muslim woman was beaten to death in her home and left with a note that read, 'Go back to your country.'"

    I'm sorry, but only one of these things bears relevance to the events described in the article. The Jews in Tolouse were murdered by a Muslim strictly because they were Jewish. It was not a Jew who beat the Muslim woman to death in her home. I condemn in the strongest possible terms that hate crime, but it had absolutely NOTHING to do with Jewish-Islamic relations.

    April 27, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • GATORpride

      It was a hate crime regardless for both incidents. It didn't specify whether or not it muslim on jew or jew on muslim violence.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • JS

      @ Berman : You forgot to mention that before that psycho in France killed Jews , he also killed Muslim soldiers returning from Afghanistan duty .

      April 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  22. ahmad

    Jews enjoyed prosperity in most of islamic countries and through out the history. The similarity between jews and muslims are tremendous. It is the responsibility of the jews and Israel to initiate peace with muslims not planning for more wars.
    Israel paranoia toward arabs and muslim countries is out of proportion and pathologic. It is the duties of powerful jewish organization and civil societies to give hands to arabs and muslims and make the world a better place. You cannot control the arabs countries through dictators and chios but through love and understanding.

    April 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Berman

      Yes, of course Ahmad. The Jews bear 100% of the responsibility for everything and the Arabs have always been passive victims unable to help themselves in any situation. The Arabs have never once done anything to the Jews besides love and coddle them. How could you possibly expect the Arabs to take any responsibility whatsoever for anything that has ever happened?

      April 27, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • JonfromLI

      That "paranoia" you harken to has merit. As early as the following day after Israel's Independence in 1948, it was being threatened by just about every Arab country you can think of. This continued until Israel finally said they just couldn't take it anymore and sent troops throughout these countries in ,1967. Six Days later the Arab countries surrendered and relinquished more land. It's those borders that were relinquished that has been in dispute all this time. Hardly anyone would acknowledge the fact that, if Israel was left alone in the years BEFORE 1967, this land would still have been under Arab rule.

      April 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  23. Sammy

    This is great. Wonderful. Hope to see more stories like this.

    April 27, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  24. Johnathan

    Great work to Emory and its fantastic student leaders for taking this initiative!

    April 27, 2012 at 1:54 am |
  25. Sunshine

    The Earth is but One Country and Mankind its Citizen. I believe all the Manifestation of God brought the same teachings, that is Love all Mankind.

    April 27, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  26. Andrew Elias

    fantastic. we are looking at the future, listening to its music, laughing together at its jokes. and it is good.

    April 26, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  27. psychicstalker

    Liked this story, would like to see more stories like this.

    April 26, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  28. Omotola Ajibade

    Reblogged this on In My Mind It Makes Sense.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  29. Amir

    The real arms are those you shake & hug with, not the ones you use to slaughter other human beings with.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  30. ishaamir

    Ma'sha'allah. Nice.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  31. Your average American jew

    This makes me really happy

    April 26, 2012 at 10:38 am |