Six months after becoming the first director of Muslim-Jewish Relations at the AJC (American Jewish Committee), Robert Silverman has been playing a leading role in a related initiative that began in the weeks after the 2016 presidential election. According to a November 14 press release:
The Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, a new national group of leading Muslim and Jewish Americans, was launched this month at a meeting convened by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
The Council brings together recognized business, political, and religious leaders in the Jewish and Muslim American communities to jointly advocate on issues of common concern. Stanley Bergman, CEO of Henry Schein, and Farooq Kathwari, President and CEO of Ethan Allen, are the Council’s co-chairs.
At the group’s inaugural meeting, the Muslim and Jewish participants met for two hours to get to know one another, discuss the Council’s mission, and identify and agree on a domestic policy agenda. Among the Council’s initial action items are:
- The Council will highlight the contributions of Muslims and Jews to American society, and aim to celebrate their contributions in the best traditions of American democracy.
- The Council will develop a coordinated strategy to address anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Semitism in the U.S.
- The Council will work to protect and expand the rights of religious minorities in the U.S., as enshrined in the Constitution, so they may practice their faiths in full freedom and security.
Articles about the Council in the religious and secular press often quoted Silverman, who joined the AJC after a career in the State Department. An article in the November 16 issue of the New York Jewish Week said,
“The election rhetoric no doubt increased some people’s motivation in joining this council,” which was planned and began meeting before the election, said Robert Silverman, a career foreign service officer in the State Department who was named the AJC’s first director of Muslim-Jewish Relations six months ago. “But the underlying need to have such a group is longstanding and overdue, and is not directly related to the elections.” . . .
The council, which calls itself the first-such major national organization that brings together prominent members of both religious communities, will concentrate on drafting and supporting enforcement of legislation in such areas as “reasonable accommodation” of religious practice, prevention of religious discrimination in the workplace, support for refugee immigration and enforcement of existing hate crime laws.
“The priorities are still being worked out,” said Silverman. He added that the council will also work to combat negative stereotypes that members of each religious group hold about the other. He said the “leaders of the two communities … are intrigued by the possibilities of working with this other community whom they don’t know very well.”