Jews and Muslims across metro Detroit are forging close ties in a series of events to promote harmony between the two groups amid growing tensions in the Middle East this week as fighting escalates between Israel and Gaza.

Jews are visiting mosques and Muslims are visiting synagogues in an effort organized by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a New York City-based group that’s behind similar events this weekend across the U.S.

On Friday, about 15 Jews visited the Muslim Center of Detroit during services. More events are planned today at local community and religious institutions in Dearborn Heights, Detroit, West Bloomfield and Bloomfield Hills.

“We have to relate to each other beyond politics and religion,” Nick Mazzola, 44, a Jewish resident of Riverview, said after the Muslim services. “We’re fellow human beings sharing a common space. It’s about understanding other people … metro Detroit is truly a global world now.”

Basheer Alim, 61, a Muslim Commerce Township resident, said he was glad Jewish people attended Friday’s service.

“Interfaith relations are absolutely necessary,” Alim said. “There has to be a concerted effort to reach out.”

Founded in 1989 to improve black-Jewish relations, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding — which planned the events well before the Gaza conflict erupted — has also focused on Latino-Jewish relations, and in recent years, Muslim-Jewish relations.

“Hopefully this can serve as a paradigm that could impact the state of relations between Muslims and Jews in the Middle East,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder and president of the group, whose chairman is hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.

Imam Abdullah El-Amin, who heads the Muslim Center and has been an interfaith leader for decades, said of Muslim-Jewish relations: “People think we’re supposed to be war all the time and be antagonistic. But we see each other as brothers and sisters.”

In recent years, the two communities have had tensions at times in metro Detroit. But generally speaking, “Jews and Muslims get along well,” said Rabbi Dorit Edut of Huntington Woods, who attended Friday’s mosque services.  (The Original Story)

Contact Niraj Warikoo: 313-223-4792 or

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