The director of a major Muslim group told Muslim and Jewish women gathered Sunday that God "has put the spark of the divine in all of us."
Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement in New York City, was among the speakers at the Muslim-Jewish Women's Leadership Conference at Temple University. Its organizers called it "the first-ever national gathering of Muslim and Jewish women." About 100 women participated.
Khan urged audience members "to try to see things from God's perspective - that religions are part of the divine plan - and to see ourselves as part of the plan."
She said the goal of such interfaith efforts was "to celebrate these religions as God would want to celebrate them - to see ourselves as equals." Sheryl Olitzky, executive director of the Sisterhood of Salaam-Shalom in North Brunswick, N.J., told the group such discussions "could not happen until we built trust and respect."
The sisterhood - its name means "peace" in Arabic and Hebrew, respectively - organized the event with the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding in New York City, Olitzky said.
Walter Ruby, director of the Muslim-Jewish Program for the Foundation, said in an interview the gathering was meant to show "Muslim and Jewish women can be each other's best allies in dealing with issues that confront women of faith."
The conference was an outgrowth of the Foundation's Weekend of Twinning, begun in 2007 in New York City with a summit of rabbis and imams from around the U.S., Ruby said.
This year, the weekend of Nov. 14 to 16 is to be marked by Muslims and Jews in more than 30 countries whose efforts on those days are to range from visiting houses of worship to feeding the homeless, he said.
The purpose of the women's Philadelphia gathering, Olitzky said, was "to provide these women with the skill sets and motivation to go back to their communities as advocates for Muslim-Jewish dialogue and engagement."
Recent events, Ruby said, "had made it seem like it's hopeless to bring together Muslims and Jews."
"But this event is saying that women can play a very significant role in the process of reconciliation between our communities."
Olitzky said the sisterhood consisted of chapters of Muslim and Jewish women in Baltimore, Boston, Kansas City, Mo., New York City, and five locations in New Jersey.
The Dialogue Institute at Temple University hosted the event.