Jewish-Muslim Outreach


JCUA Partners with the Muslim Community

Through the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative, JCUA builds long-term, in-depth and sustained relationships between the Jewish and Muslim communities. These relationships help to dissolve barriers of potential bigotry and ignorance and to foster a culture of genuine understanding and respectful discourse.

JCUA established the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative in 2001 in response to an increase in intolerance and anti-Muslim sentiment following the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11. Reaching across religious divides is imperative for all Americans, but especially for Jews and Muslims, whose religious principles call on them to connect across communities and learn from one another in peace.

The JMCBI brings together Chicago area Jews and Muslims through cultural events and educational opportunities. JMCBI creates avenues for jointly advocating on social justice issues in the Chicago area that are important to both communities. This alliance builds a bridge between two communities and draws people together around shared cultural traditions, as well as a mutual dedication towards working for social justice.

Through the JMCBI, JCUA partners with civic and community-based Muslim organizations to jointly address issues such as police brutality, racial profiling, affordable housing, and workers' and immigrants rights affecting Chicago area neighborhoods. The program also offers unique opportunities for social interaction and cross-cultural learning on a grassroots level.

For full details about JCUA's work on Jewish-Muslim relations, visit:


Café Finjan

 Café Finjan is a series of inter-cultural arts exchanges which brings together local Muslim and Jewish poets and spoken word artists, singers, storytellers, visual artists, musicians, comedians and others. The event is open to the public, and provides an opportunity for shared expression, exchange of ideas, and a forum to “get to know each other” through each other’s cultural explorations and vision.

The goal of the evening is to foster relationships and nurture a greater understanding between Jews and Muslims of Chicago by providing a forum for young and established performers, especially from these communities.

 A “Finjan” is both the Arabic and Hebrew name for a metal pot for brewing coffee in the traditional Middle Eastern style, not only in the home, but also on a campfire, with friends gathered around for warmth. The event typically draws hundreds of attendees.

Iftar in the Synagogue

Iftar in the Synagogue is an annual event at which Jews and Muslims celebrate and share in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Begun in 2005, the event was originally intended to celebrate the overlapping of the breaking of the fast of Ramadan and the Jewish festival of Sukkot, however the observances do not overlap every year. Held in a synagogue (or sukkah when appropriate) Iftar brings together hundreds of Jews and Muslims to observe each other’s prayer traditions, to break bread together, to learn about each other’s history and beliefs. Iftar is held in late summer or early fall.

Conversations over Coffee/Text Sessions

The Studies in Text program provides a venue whereby Jews and Muslims learn about each other’s traditions and beliefs through study and discussion of each other’s sacred and secular texts. Each meeting is facilitated by a Jewish and Muslim scholar, religious leader, or educator. Sessions focus on a particular topic of interest to both communities, such as Food and Ethics, or Healing and Healthcare in Muslim and Jewish traditions. Most sessions take place in coffee houses so as to encourage a relaxed, informal environment.

Muslims and Jews discover their commonalities and bonds of shared thinking, value systems and customs, entering into a level of conversation that might otherwise be too difficult to undertake between these two cultures. The study and discussion of text becomes an entry point for greater dialogue and exchange of ideas and, ultimately, greater compassion and understanding. Through this process of interaction with the ancient written word, Jews and Muslims discover that their commonalities far outnumber their differences, allowing the two cultures to begin to break down stereotypes and fears.

Responding When Needed

JCUA stands in solidarity with its Muslim friends and partners and pledges to offer a voice of support when the local Muslim community falls victim to incidents of Islamophobia and racism. Likewise, our Muslim partners respond in solidarity with the Jewish community against incidents of anti-Semitism. On occasion, JMCBI will issue joint statements from leaders of both communities calling for tolerance and civil liberties for all.

Multi-Faith Housing Reclamation Project

In a unique initiative, in the fall of 2010, JCUA began meeting with its longtime community partner, the Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), a community-based social justice nonprofit started by Muslim students and community residents and leaders in Chicago Lawn, and the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) in order to explore and plan a joint project to address foreclosures in Chicago Lawn.

Chicago Lawn has been one of the hardest hit areas in Chicago with respect to foreclosures, with more than 5,500 homes foreclosed on since 2006. This epidemic of foreclosures has resulted in widespread displacement of long-time Chicago residents as well as increased levels of crime, vandalism, and fear. The project seeks to reclaim a six square block area as a “safe zone” and to restore foreclosed buildings within this area as either affordable housing, community space, or some combination of both. The project is a natural next step for JCUA and IMAN who have worked together since 2007 on partnerships ranging from the arts to internal staff development.

For more information on the JMCBI or to get involved please contact Judy Levey at

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