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The Sisterhood of the Salam Shalom Annual Meeting 2017

Posted on January 08 2018

The Sisterhood of the Salam Shalom Annual Meeting 2017

As the day begins...

A blast from a shofar--the Jewish ram's horn reserved for special occasions--marked the beginning of the Sisterhood of the Salaam Shalom's (SOSS) fourth annual conference at Drew University in New Jersey on November 5, 2017 (SOSS), that brought together some 650 Jewish and Muslim women from around the U.S.

"The blowing of the shofar serves as a wake-up call for our souls 'to rise up against hate,' our conference theme,” elaborated Sheryl Olitzky, SOSS Executive Director and Co-founder.

The opening speaker for the conference, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, professor of Islamic Studies in Canada and a role model to many, is known for developing the first accredited graduate program for Muslim chaplains in America.  She also served as the first female president of the Islamic Society of North America.

Dr. Mattson  shared insights about  the  relationship between Hagar and Sarah, two of the most prominent women in Islamic and Jewish texts.  "Family is not always easy,” Dr. Mattson underscored. “Love doesn’t mean the absence of conflict, it means that despite that conflict, we will work together.”  Quoting the average life expectancy for American women at 81 years, she encouraged taking the opportunity to explore the theological implications of having time for a second life. “It’s possible to be in the world in a new way, without abandoning your family, traditions, and community,” she stressed.

Senator Corey Booker (NJ) spoke next and fired up the audience by sharing an impressive knowledge of both Islam and Judaism.  It was clear he understood the thorny issues of the day and the problematic "state of the union" in the U.S.. His main message-- acknowledging the current rise in racial and religious intolerance and oppression of minorities-- was a call for love manifested in action. “We are not defined by what happens to us but how we choose to react,” he emphasized. Clearly a celebrity in the hall, at the conclusion of his talk Senator Booker was surrounded by a sea of participants requesting photos and an opportunity to show their enthusiastic support for his message.

To complete the morning session, Anita Diamant, a distinguished author well- known for her book “The Red Tent” emphasized how resilient and resourceful women have proven themselves to be in making their communities better and by supporting their families.  She reminded the women of the importance of self care as they take on the tough issues of the day.

Educators, activists, authors, clergy and lay leaders conducted the 25 mid-morning workshops offered to participants.  They ranged from practical techniques such as “How to Cure a Racist,”  to experiential workshops such as "Envisioning Peace." and “Sacred Poetry: A Journey to the Heart of Sisterhood"  The women had an opportunity to learn about each others’ religious texts, rituals, holidays and to share their diverse life stories in America.  Their day together also allowed them the possibility to dispense with any pre-conceived notions and stereotypes they might have had about one another as they worked to build trust and friendship..  

The afternoon program featured the star of  The Dean Obeidallah Show,” the only daily national radio show hosted by an American-Muslim. Usually facetious in his approach, Obeidallah assumed a more serious tone for the conference.  He posed questions such as what sets a women’s dialogue group apart from co-ed groups, and how does the presence of men change the dynamics of peace work.  His panelists included Rabia Chaudry,  author of the recently released “Adnan’s Story;” Letty Cottin Pograbin, founder of “Ms.” Magazine; Sheryl Olitzky, Co-Founder of SOSS, the conference's sponsoring organization; and  Rana Abdelhamid,  founding President of the Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE),

The day was filled to overflowing with uplifted voices and inspirational messages of coexistence, hope, love and  solidarity. But most importantly--and most nourishing-- were the conversations the women had with one other and the relationships they established. Hearts and minds were joined and, at the end of the day, one could hear a collective and fond goodbye as they all chimed “see you next year.”

Co-founders  Sheryl Oliztky and Atiya Aftab are looking forward to an even bigger turn-out at next year's conference.

(SOSS is the fastest growing grassroots movement of Muslim and Jewish women with 150 chapters across the country. Its members include secular and religious Jewish women with German, Eastern Europe, Middle Eastern and Sephardic ancestry and, from the Muslim community, women of Turkish, Egyptian, Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian, Pakistani, American and Palestinian descent.)

The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom Muslim Jewish Women's Conference promotes harmony and interfaith advocacy

Shareda Hosein, Farhana Cannon & Janet Penn

Senator Corey Booker, NJ


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