BRUSSELS (EJP) – Over 50 Muslim and Jewish leaders from across Europe are to discuss initiatives to improve and deepen the sometimes tense relations between the two communities, at a one-day gathering in Brussels on Monday.
The meeting is co-organized by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and the World Jewish Congress (WJC). Rabbi Marc Schneier serves as president of the Foundation and as WJC vice president.
It is sponsored by the European Jewish Fund and the European Jewish Congress (EJC).
Senior representatives of both faiths from Austria, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States are expected to attend.
The initiative is aimed at improving Muslim-Jewish relations by bringing together local lay and religious leaders who have already been involved in inter-faith dialogue.
The Jewish and Muslim leaders will be received at the European Union Commission and European Council where a delegation will meet with EU President Herman Van Rompuy to whom a joint declaration will be presented.
“Fostering good relations between Muslims and Jews in Europe is critical if we want to offer the next generation a better future here,” Rabbi Schneier said, adding: “And let’s not forget that these two religious minorities not only face common challenges – in the form of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, for example – they are also part of the European fabric of the 21st century.”
“As we showed in America, when people talk with each other, and not just about each other, tensions can be reduced and trust built.”
“In spite of our differences, we can do many things together – anywhere in the world. The Brussels gathering will jumpstart a movement that must spread,” Schneier said.
Also on Monday, Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress, will be meeting separately with President Herman Van Rompuy and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, to discuss other issues of concern, including anti-Semitism and Iran.
He will relate to the EU leaders the unease of the European Jewish community regarding the rapidly deteriorating situation of Jews in parts of Europe.
“It is becoming increasingly impossible to sustain certain Jewish communities, such as Malmo, due to increased threats and violence against the Jewish communities,” the EJC said.