On the average of about once every two months, our office receives a “hate call.” These calls usually come in after office hours (as the caller clearly has no interest in dialoguing with us) and are left on our voice message system. The messages are often filled with obscenities, in addition to the usual delusional Islamophobic rants. On occasion, the messages include clear threats of violence, which we have duly reported to the police. CAIR chapters around the country report similar patterns of harassing and menacing phone calls.
We at CAIR-Philadelphia have watched the tragic events unfolding in our neighboring city of Baltimore these past days with trepidation and sadness, just as we previously witnessed the injustices committed by the police in Ferguson, Staten Island, Charlotte, and countless other cities across the nation. We should not delude ourselves: these killings of Black men are not the exception, they are symptomatic of the lack of due process by which African American communities are governed in this country.
On April 10th, 11th and 12th, I joined my fellow CAIR Executive Directors from over 25 CAIR chapters around the country, together with CAIR staff and Board Members, for CAIR’s National Board Meeting in Washington, DC. The Meeting was also an occasion to celebrate CAIR National’s 20th Anniversary.
This past Saturday, Feb. 21, marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom in the year 1965. I was a teenager when I first read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” and I can still remember the emotional impact it had upon me as a white student involved in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as upon my political development. The book was my first real introduction to the religion of Islam, and led to my life-long dialogue with its faith and the Muslim community.
As most of you know by now, I am not a Muslim. I spend my days, and many evenings, however, working for the nation’s preeminent Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization. And so, since starting as CAIR-Philadelphia’s Executive Director in October 2013, I have been asked, and sometimes confronted, with the question: “Why would a Jew work for a Muslim group, especially one that has been accused of being connected to terrorism?”
I had the pleasure of representing CAIR at several venues these past weeks. First, on Nov. 3, I gave a talk at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster. About 100 people (faculty, students, and community guests) turned out to hear my talk about my experiences working for one of the leading institutions in the American Muslim community.
I will be speaking about CAIR and Muslim-Christian-Jewish relations at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA on Monday evening, Nov. 3. I will also be screening my documentary film, “Out of Cordoba,” at New African Center on Friday night, Nov. 14.
This past Sunday, Sept. 21, I was privileged to join over 400,000 of my fellow human beings in the largest demonstration in history to warn of the dangers of climate change to future life on earth.
On Friday, Aug. 8th, I joined CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Committee member Iftekhar Hussain at the Islamic Society of Delaware for jumah. Iftekhar gave a wonderful khutba on the theme of how Allah (SWT) requires us to respond to injustice in the world, which was much appreciated by the community in light of the events in Gaza this summer. Following the khutba, I also addressed the community on the same theme, and specifically about the anger and sadness I feel as an American Jew watching Israel’s brutal attacks against the Palestinian people in Gaza.
In our last Newsletter, I reported on the opening of a photo exhibit at Philadelphia International Airport on the history of civil rights in Philadelphia at which Mayor Michael Nutter spoke both about CAIR and my own role as Executive Director. See video of Mayor Nutter’s remarks…