Twinning — one small step toward reconciliation

Remember that old expression, “Think globally, act locally?” A group of forward-thinking Jews and Muslims here in the Bay Area is doing just that with the advent of the “twinning” movement.

As our story this week reveals, twinning attempts to take interfaith relations to a much higher level. Launched a year ago on the East Coast, twinning creates partnerships between synagogues and mosques, with Jews and Muslims each visiting the sanctuaries of the other over the course of a weekend.

The goal is simple. By experiencing each other’s worship rituals — and getting to know each other as human beings — participants may begin to let go of lingering fears or suspicions they may harbor about the other.

How well does it work? We’ll soon find out, as the first local twinning event takes place this weekend, Nov. 21 to 23. Congregations Shir Hadash in Los Gatos, Emanu-El in San Francisco and Beth Emek in Pleasanton will take part, connecting with mosques in San Jose, San Francisco and Castro Valley.

While some cynics might view twinning as so much Kumbaya and pie-in-the-sky, we see it as a potentially revolutionary development, albeit on a small grassroots scale.

Anti-Semitism, especially in the Muslim world, remains a serious problem. From vicious anti-Jewish sermons delivered in mosques to Iranian threats to wipe Israel off the map, hatred of Jews has corrupted modern Islam and made interfaith dialogue difficult, if not impossible.

Similarly, anti-Muslim prejudice, especially in this post-9/11 world, has created a climate of fear for American Muslims, nearly all of whom condemn terrorism and want to live in peace with their neighbors. Jews are certainly not the only ones guilty of Islamophobia, but we certainly should know better than to embrace blanket prejudice against an entire group of people.

Those involved in interfaith relations often worry that interfaith encounters, while providing feel-good moments and perhaps sparking a brief uptick in tolerance, too often fail to have much sticking power.

That may also hold true for twinning. But as a community, we cannot cease to try everything to improve the climate between Muslims and Jews. The ripple effect could prove pivotal over time.

If you are so inclined, we suggest you take part in one of these groundbreaking events. Call one of the three congregations for details. Or perhaps you can launch a twinning weekend at your own synagogue.

We congratulate the participating synagogues and mosques and wish them well. More importantly, we wish them peace.