World Jewish Congress (WJC) Vice President Rabbi Marc Schneier has been received for talks in the Gulf state of Bahrain by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Schneier, who has pioneered Muslim-Jewish dialogue and cooperation, was received Wednesday by the Bahraini monarch at his palace in Manama. At his 45-minute audience, the WJC vice president warmly welcomed King Hamad’s suggestion to host a gathering of Jewish and Muslim clerics in Bahrain in 2012 and said: “Bahrain is a role model in the Arab world for coexistence and tolerance of different faith communities, including a small Jewish community. I am deeply honored to be the first rabbi to be hosted by the King of Bahrain at his palace, and I am excited that he and his government are fully committed to building bridges between our two communities.”
Schneier added that Bahrain was the first of the Persian Gulf states to host an exclusive bilateral dialogue between Islamic and Jewish leaders. He declared: “King Hamad said that there was nothing more natural than for our two communities to come together, despite our difference in opinion on certain issues. He said that as ‘cousins’ Jews and Muslims had an obligation to build bridges.”
The two men also discussed the current situation in the Middle East. Schneier said King Hamad had told him about the reforms he had implemented in Bahrain in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’, including representatives of the opposition. “I believe Bahrain could serve as a model for other countries in the region. I am looking forward to working with King Hamad and his government to bring our two communities closer together.” Schneier also met separately with the Bahraini ministers of justice and Islamic affairs, Khaled Bin Ali Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, and of industry and commerce, Hassan Fakhro.
Together with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, Rabbi Marc Schneier heads the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), which over the past years has dedicated many efforts to fostering Muslim-Jewish dialogue in North America, Europe and Latin America. Together with its partners, FFEU recently organized the fourth edition of the Annual Weekend of Twinning of synagogues and mosques around the world.