Jewish-Islamic Dialogue Society of Washington
The Jewish-Islamic Dialogue Society (JIDS) of Washington, DC grew out of a few basic principles:
1. Judaism and Islam are two closely related religions.
2. Even leaving aside their religious similarities, Jews and Muslims have a natural affinity for each other. This would be obvious to anyone who is exposed to the two cultures and notices their shared values.
3. Despite their similarities in religion and culture, these two peoples profoundly differ in several respects. These differences make interfaith dialogue between the two groups quite fascinating. Variety truly is the spice of life!
4. For all of the above reasons, if you want to be a better Jew, study Islam and you'll find plenty with which to fall in love; if you want to be a better Muslim, study Judaism, and you too will find plenty with which to fall in love. These faiths beautifully complement each other.
5. At this moment in history, the Jewish and Muslim communities are tragically and unacceptably ignorant of each other's religions and cultures.
6. Anyone who deeply cares about peace in the Middle East recognizes the desperate need for Jews and Muslims throughout the world to come together and increase their level of mutual understanding.
My impetus in helping to start this organization was the research I conducted in order to write my second novel, Moses the Heretic. The study of Islam motivated me to confront the general level of ignorance about Islam among my fellow American Jews. After noticing the lack of opportunities for authentic Muslim-Jewish dialogue in the Washington, D.C. area, I began to approach local mosques to see if their leaders would support such dialogues. A Muslim scholar of Syrian descent who spent years studying in Saudi Arabia, Haytham Younis, immediately surfaced as one who would be always be available to explain the traditional tenets of Islam clearly and insightfully, while maintaining his respect for his Jewish cousins and their faith.
In February 2009, JIDS had its first meeting -- a gathering of roughly 50 people in a Silver Spring, Maryland home. We have met on nearly a monthly basis ever since. The members of our society represent a number of area synagogues and mosques. With the passage of time, we have also come to include a number of members who are neither Jewish nor Muslim. We are happy to meet wherever religious people congregate – mosques, synagogues, Christian churches, Hindu temples, you name it -- and enjoy tremendous ideological diversity, Anyone interested in pursuing peace as a way of life, or in helping to learn and teach about our great faiths and the cultures that have arisen in connection with them, would surely find a home with JIDS.
"The Conversation" - by Charles Lee, winner of the annual photography contest of the Harvard Pluralism Project for 2013. Depicted - Imam Jamil Dasti and Daniel Spiro at the International Cultural Center, Montgomery Village, MD
Professor Sahar Khamis and Daniel Spiro displaying each other's books
Several JIDS members relaxing after a meeting