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Reflections from the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom Conference

Three Lilith correspondents—Rishe Groner, Amy Stone, and Ann Jackowitz—attended the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom fourth annual conference on November 5. Here is some background on the event we invited them to cover for our readers:

Sheryl Olitsky, is a former Fortune 500 corporate marketing executive and the wife and mother of rabbis. Atiya Aftab, is a former New Jersey Deputy Attorney General and the immediate past president of the NJ Muslim Lawyers’ Association. Together, they launched the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom nationally in 2013 and convened the organization’s first annual conference in 2014. The number of attendees has since mushroomed six-fold.

The Sisterhood is the fastest-growing, grassroots movement of Muslim and Jewish women, with over 150 chapters, in more than 25 states, Washington, D.C. and Canada. More than 1000 women have put their names on the waiting list to join.

Its members are secular and religious Jewish women with German, Eastern Europe, Middle Eastern and Sephardic ancestry, and Muslim women of Turkish, Egyptian, Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian, Pakistani and Palestinian descent. 

The Sisterhood consists of small groups of equal numbers of Jews and Muslims who meet regularly to share Shabbat dinners and iftars (meals eaten to break fast during Ramadan), get a better understanding of each other’s lives and faiths, concentrate on their similarities, respect their differences in a safe environment, without interference from the presence of men, and perform acts of tzedakah and sadaqa (note the similar pronunciations), one of which included helping Syrian refugees find shelters.

The Mincha and Asr prayers being held side-by-side. Mincha was led Andrea Hodos, creator of Moving Torah Workshops—physical, spiritual and intellectual. The Asr afternoon prayer was led by Tahera Ahmad, Director of Interfaith Engagement and Associate University Chaplain, Northwestern University. Photo credit: Amy Stone.

The Mincha and Asr prayers being held side-by-side. Mincha was led Andrea Hodos, creator of Moving Torah Workshops—physical, spiritual and intellectual. The Asr afternoon prayer was led by Tahera Ahmad, Director of Interfaith Engagement and Associate University Chaplain, Northwestern University. Photo credit: Amy Stone.