The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has appointed Jacob Bender, a Jewish filmmaker and interfaith activist, as executive director of the group’s Philadelphia office.
“O people! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may come to know each other (not that ye may despise each other,” Jacob Bender quotes the Muslim holy book, the Quran, in his introductory note on the site.
“I bring to CAIR a decades-long commitment to promoting peace and justice between Abraham’s Children (Abna’ Ibrahim),” he says, adding that his life has been “immeasurably enriched” by his association with Muslim scholars and community leaders.
Who is he?
He is a documentary filmmaker, video producer, photographer and graphic designer.
Jacob has a degree in “The History of Religions” from the University of California. He studied film and television at New York University’s Graduate School of Film.
His documentaries include, “The Voice Still Speaks: Jews and Revelation,”“So Goes a Nation: Lawyers and Communities” and the award-winning “Out of Cordoba.”
Out of Cordoba is all about interfaith harmony, especially amongst Muslims, Jews, and Christians.
He was one of the initiators of interfaith dialogue with the American Muslim community after the devastating 9/11 terror attacks. He has spoken in mosques and synagogues alike on the issue.
Can a Jew Fight For Muslim’s Rights?
At CAIR, Bender’s work would include fighting civil rights violations, discrimination, and hate speech, and promoting relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Iftekhar Hussein, chairman of CAIR-Philadelphia’s board of directors, justifies the appointment by saying, “The needs of the Muslim community are really the needs of any minority community in the United States,” and that “Jacob, being Jewish, understands that from his own background.”
On the other hand, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League feels, “The fact that he is Jewish does not indicate, necessarily, a change of attitude and activity at CAIR. Unfortunately, there are Jews who are anti-Jewish and anti-Israel. But we will wait and see.”
Culturally, the two faiths have a lot in common and these factors cannot be ignored :
- Both Islam and Judaism are monotheistic faiths.
- They both can be traced back to Prophet Abraham (Jews and Arabs are descendants of his two sons Ishmael and Isaac).
- They believe n the Holy books Torah and Psalms of David and Gospel, etc.
- They both slaughter their animals in almost identical ways and eating pork is prohibited.
- The Jewish Kosher diet is acceptable to Muslims.
- Both Islam and Judaism require male circumcision.
Those who are condemning his appointment or are suspicious of it, should not be because slowly but surely, the number of Muslims and Jews who wish to coexist and work for each other’s benefit is growing by the day.
Politics apart, people just want to live in peace, see their children grow up in a safe world and settle their differences in non-violet ways. With that kind of mindset prevailing, people should not take offence to a Jew being nominated to look after the rights of Muslims and neither should his intentions be questioned.
Here are a few images from Jews and Muslims working for burying historical and political hatchets and peaceful coexistence: