Fighting the Good Fight of Faith

08/20/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

It is a simple fact that all human beings have the same aspirations, wants, needs and desires. I believe that when leading men of faith get in a room to discuss tolerance and respect, it's easy to make great progress. The hard part is getting them in the room.

I am excited to announce this morning, a delegation of over two dozen Chief imams and rabbis representing nine European nations arrived as part of an interreligious mission to strengthen Muslim-Jewish relations and combat Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the United States and across Europe. The mission is hosted by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) in conjunction with the World Jewish Congress United States and the Islamic Society of North America

I am pleased to serve as the Chairman of FFEU, working alongside and inspired by my partner, the courageous, Rabbi Marc Schneier, the President of the foundation. The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding is no stranger to Muslim-Jewish interreligious activities. In its 20th year, The Foundation has led efforts in North America to strengthen the bond between the Muslim and Jewish communities by bringing together rabbis, imams and other community leaders and by encouraging real dialogue. Last year, these efforts culminated with the first ever twinning of 50 mosques and 50 synagogues in North America, a program that will expand to Europe this fall.

The purpose of this international gathering is to introduce to the European participants successful American-style interfaith initiatives that could also be implemented in their own countries, to facilitate and encourage a dialogue with colleagues, and work to improve America's standing with Muslims abroad.

High level meetings and programs are scheduled at the White House, Congress, the U.S. Department of State, the United Nations, various mosques and synagogues and elsewhere. The European religious delegation will also visit ground zero, Ellis Island and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

When we think of the seeds that are being planted over the next four days, we are filled with great optimism and hope. We applaud the efforts of the Foundation as well as the Rabbis and Imams who are with us this week, and we look forward to building a brighter future for our Muslim and Jewish children and all children alike.