OpEd | Respect for Differences - World Jewish Congress

OpEd | Respect for Differences

Participants of both religions, Muslims and Jews, will 'embark on a journey' into each faith

Jack Terpins
Jack Terpins
President, Latin American Jewish Congress
OpEd | Respect for Differences

(c) Latin American Jewish Congress

The following is an editorial which originally appeared in the Portuguese newspaper O Globo, was written by Latin American Jewish Congress President Jack Terpins.

The Latin American Jewish Congress — an entity that brings together and politically represents the Jewish communities of Latin America and the Caribbean — makes history again today, as it did last November, when the Pope received a delegation of 100 representatives of Jewish communities at the Vatican, for the launch of Project Kishreinu, a response to the encyclical Nostra Aetate. 

Now, for the first time, Jewish and Muslim leaders from across Latin America gather in Buenos Aires for a two-day event, which ends today, organized by the Latin American Jewish Congress in conjunction with the World Islamic League. 

The meeting marks an unprecedented fact that, for some, will finally be the opportunity to reinforce ties that have lasted for more than a decade and that were strengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic, when representatives of the Jewish and Muslim religions met through a computer screen, the only possible resource at the time. 

On that occasion, living up to the tradition of carrying out interreligious dialogue, they celebrated the month of Ramadan together through Zoom, which provided the opportunity of taking the festivity to the global level. 

We seek to resume a journey that began in the Iberian Peninsula, during the Golden Century, in which, in all its splendor, Jews and Muslims coexisted harmoniously. 

If we go back in the Old Testament to Genesis 25:8: 

—... Then Abraham expired: he died in a happy old age, old and full of good years, and was gathered to his ancestors. His sons, Isaac and Ishmael, buried him in the cave of Machpelah...  

This passage demonstrates the brotherhood around Father Abraham, differences are set aside. 

Not only as an organization, but as a Jew, I seek to align our work with the principle that together we are stronger. We always share initiatives that lead us to peace. And I reinforce this in our daily work. 

In 1991, Our Executive Director, Claudio Epelman, led Jewish delegation in the Madrid Conference, when Saudi Arabia launched the process of interreligious dialogue. 

Gradually, the (ecumenical) places of departures and farewells have expanded, where we ask and thank our God, be it Adonai, Allah and other names, the one who dwells in our hearts. 

During this workday, 40 participants from the two religions will “embark on a journey” to the interior of each faith: They will look for similarities, perspectives of new activities together, expand the existing ones. In that space of time, complex themes will not escape, such as the damage that stereotypes constitute, a barrier to dialogue, or what society in general sees, and how to work together to overcome these barriers. 

If we have this intimate and sincere restart, I believe that all of us, Earth's inhabitants, will transform Babel into a reality in which dialogue will prevail. We will align this dialogue, keeping and respecting the differences and similarities.