Mus­lims and Jews in Amer­i­ca: Com­mon­al­i­ties, Con­tentions, and Complexities

Reza Aslan and Aaron J. Hahn Tap­per, eds.
  • Review
By – December 14, 2011
This com­pi­la­tion of six­teen essays by schol­ars and activists address­es the com­plex rela­tion­ship between Mus­lims and Jews in Amer­i­ca. Con­gress­man Kei­th Elli­son writes in the fore­word, The thing to under­stand about Mus­lim-Jew­ish rela­tions in the Unit­ed States is that they are just fine.” The edi­tors, both aca­d­e­mics, are active in Abraham’s Vision, a con­flict trans­for­ma­tion orga­ni­za­tion work­ing with­in and between the Jew­ish, Mus­lim, Israeli, and Pales­tin­ian com­mu­ni­ties.“

The book is orga­nized into four loose­ly assem­bled sec­tions whose select­ed essays do not always fit well togeth­er. For instance, the first sec­tion includes a dia­tribe by Omid Safi against pro-Israel Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions that embrace U.S Evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians, as well as an essay by Rab­bi Amu Eil­berg about Chil­dren of Abra­ham in Dia­logue.” Sec­tion four includes two essays that are actu­al­ly speech­es by Rab­bi Eric Yoffie and Ingrid Matt­son (a Mus­lim woman), deliv­ered, respec­tive­ly, to the Islam­ic Soci­ety of North Amer­i­ca and the Union for Reform Judaism. While these two speech­es dove­tail, because in each case the speak­er was address­ing a main­stream audi­ence of the oth­er,” the sec­tion’s last two essays, deal­ing with Iran­ian Jews and Mus­lims and peace­mak­ing in Amer­i­ca, seem out of place. Besides the orga­ni­za­tion­al prob­lems, the essays suf­fer from a group-think in that most of them are drawn from a sim­i­lar per­spec­tive; the Mus­lim voic­es are pri­mar­i­ly tra­di­tion­al­ist while the Jew­ish voic­es rep­re­sent a lib­er­al, pro­gres­sive Jew­ish view.

These draw­backs aside, the book is an orig­i­nal and insight­ful attempt to bring togeth­er a vari­ety of writ­ers about an impor­tant sub­ject. For instance, Rab­bi Brad Hirschfield details his expe­ri­ence work­ing for the Amer­i­can Mus­lim tele­vi­sion net­work Bridges TV, dur­ing which the co-founder, Mo Has­san, mur­dered his wife, Aasiya Zubair. Taymiya Zaman describes how Mus­lim orga­ni­za­tions on col­lege cam­pus­es have imi­tat­ed Jew­ish groups like Hil­lel in gain­ing access and promi­nence on cam­pus. Cer­tain­ly this col­lec­tion of essays rep­re­sents a good begin­ning to the study and dis­cus­sion of this impor­tant top­ic. Acknowl­edge­ments, index, notes.
Seth J. Frantz­man received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty of Jerusalem where he cur­rent­ly holds a Post-Doc­tor­al Fel­low­ship. He is a colum­nist for the Jerusalem Post and Fel­low at the Jerusalem Insti­tute of Mar­ket Studies.

Discussion Questions