Jewish, Muslim students promote peace at 8th annual Interfaith Dinner

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The eighth annual Interfaith Dinner Wednesday night featured performances and foods from the Muslim and Jewish traditions and promoted a message of peace between world religions.

“Our main goal is to begin a dialogue. The purpose of the event is not to solve all crisis between our two peoples but to show we are more common than different,” said President of the Jewish Student Association Marc Friend.

The interfaith dinners began in 2002, at the height of the intifada in Israel, under former University President Stephen Trachtenberg and a coalition of the JSA and the Muslim Student Association. This year’s dinner was held in the Marvin Center and featured prayer recitations from both the Muslim and Jewish faiths and a music performance of the Jewish song “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu,” meaning peace will come upon us.

“We are trying to affect people’s lives in a way that will invoke peace,” University President Steven Knapp said. “Peace is a more dynamic word, one about helping people flourish.”

This idea, Knapp said, comes at a time where the world is seeing peace as a multi-dimensional idea. He said he believes this theme is connected with the recent announcement of President Obama as the winner of this year’s Noble Peace Prize.

For many, though, the question remains whether the idea of peace between the Muslims and the Jews can extend beyond just the dinner to everyday life at the university and also to national and international levels.

“I don’t even see why there would be any animosity at all between the two student groups. I feel that my generation as a whole sees less barriers between communities, especially in D.C., which is such a global community,” freshman Emma Kelsey said.

Friend agrees with Kelsey that this should not end of conversation between the two groups, but instead should be seen as an example of the community building that can occur with such open dialogue.

“My hope is that both the Jews and Muslims can work together for the betterment of the United States and the world as a whole,” he said.

Continuing with the idea of the interfaith dinner, the GW Interfaith Action group hopes to increase talks between all religions throughout the year.

“For Interfaith Action, we usually have a dialogue once a week. The dialogue focuses on very universal and global themes that everyone can relate to,” the director of operations for the Interfaith Action group and University Affairs Secretary of the MSA, Zahir Baig, said.

With these continued interfaith interactions on campus, many found the theme of the dinner to be within reach.

“Peace is everyone’s goal, I would like to think,” Kelsey said. “Peace, that simple word.”

Members of other faiths were present, but the only religious organizations to sponsor the event were the Jewish and Muslim Students Associations. The Catholic Newman Center opted not to sponsor this year.

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