8 December 2019
Award winning speakers Imam Mamadou Bocoum and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg discussed Jewish/Muslim relations at an Interfaith event co-hosted by Kingston Liberal Synagogue (KLS) and Muslims Against Antisemitism (MAAS).
The pair – who won the 2017 ‘No2H8 Crime’ awards for intercultural dialogue for their work speaking to audiences over the past few years – talked about the importance of standing together, tackling hate and observing religious traditions within a context of understanding and inclusivity for each other.
Both men talked about how they came to be involved in interfaith dialogue. Rabbi Wittenberg, the senior rabbi of Masorti Judaism, told of how his parents were refugees from Nazi Germany and were homed by a Christian family. He told how he believes that “one day you shall do the same for others” and now homes refugees from Syria.
Imam Bocoum told of his shock and surprise when encountering casual antisemitism when he first came to the UK. As a result of this he went on to study Judaism and its relationship with Islam. He stressed the importance of learning about the history of both religions and in particular how they coexisted together largely peacefully between the 7th and 15th centuries.
When asked about grounds for hope, both had positive messages. Imam Bocoum referred to the recent case of the Muslim woman who defended a Jewish family from abuse on the London Underground, saying such cases highlight that the situation is not as bleak as some may think. Rabbi Wittenberg stressed the need for the two communities “to be seen together and to act together in order to counter populist rhetoric with equally compelling rhetoric about partnership and togetherness”.
Speaking after the event, Rabbi Dr René Pfertzel of Kingston Liberal Synagogue said: “We are very privileged to have hosted these two wonderful speakers this evening. It was a thought provoking, challenging but above all optimistic conversation and these two demonstrated that where there is true friendship such as this there is real hope.”
Picture (L-R): Imam Mamadou Bocoum, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Rabbi René Pfertzel and Fiyaz Mughal
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