The Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (CMJE) was an institutional partnership established in December 2007 between Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation and the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. CMJE was made possible by funding through the Righteous Persons Foundation. The Center closed in January 2012.
Mission and History
CMJE was the first center of its kind with an audience consisting of Muslim and Jewish religious leaders, community organizers, academics interested in the field of Muslim-Jewish relations, lay leaders, students and congregations.
The mission at the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement was centrally to promote dialogue, understanding and grassroots, congregational and academic partnerships among the oldest and the newest of the Abrahamic faiths. It also aimed to generate a contemporary understanding in this understudied area and create new tools for interfaith communities locally, nationally and beyond.
CMJE operated in three main areas while maintaining an academic focus and neutral political standing. The international initiative served to enhance Judaic studies in the Muslim world, while bolstering Islamic studies in the West. On the ground, CMJE operated as an academic think-tank producing new scholarship; holding public programs and lectures of significance to the field; and providing technical assistance and consulting to community groups, institutions, foundations, students and academic programs.
Providing expertise, advice, introductions and support to community groups seeking to engage Muslims and Jews was a central pillar of CMJE’s activities. Its staff and affiliated scholars provided a network of experience and expertise on issues related to Jewish-Muslim dialogue, collaboration and engagement. CMJE worked with organizations on both a formal and informal basis to highlight best-practices, create programming and deepen collaborations.
The main vehicle CMJE used to promote itself and reach its audience was its website, now defunct, which, at its height, received more than 400,000 hits a month due to the unveiling and expansion of its religious text resources, a new project that has come to be called the Compendium of Muslim and Jewish Religious Texts.
The main body of the Compendium was the USC-MSA created Compendium of Muslim Texts. CMJE inherited this well-know and well-respected web-based Compendium of Muslim Texts due to a controversy ignited by well-known islamophobe David Horowitz. This highly acclaimed Compendium of Islamic texts in English was the most widely used source on Muslim religious texts for more than a decade. It received more than half a million hits a month during that time. Although incomplete, the hadith used in the compendium, compiled by a student organization at the University of Southern California, was one of the most frequently cited sources of hadith and was the most complete compilation of hadith available to the public without censorship or alteration making this collection of Islamic religious texts one of the most used, most efficient and most complete collections of Islamic religious texts available for public use. In 2009, the Compendium of Muslim Texts was given to MSA West to preserve and host. It is now defunct, with all active links lost and the innovative search function inoperable.
The hope for the Center was to serve as a model for respect and partnership world-wide, while advancing understanding of the shared history of these two peoples.
CMJE was housed and administered at the University of Southern California’s Center for Religion & Civic Culture.
CMJE created a number of innovative programs during its brief lifetime. Including:
- Acting as the central consultant in Russell Simon’s Foundation for Ethnic Understandings National Weekend of Twinning initiative.
- A pilot Text Study program in collaboration with NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for change. This program resulted in a chapter in Muslims and Jews in American: Commonalities, Contentions and Complexities, (edited by Reza Aslan’s and Aaron J. Hahn Tapper, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011): “Sacred Text Study as Dialogue between Muslims and Jews,” (with Rabbi Reuven Firestone and Hebah Farrag)
- A public program with the Coexistence Trust, a group of Muslim and Jewish parliamentarians from the UK.
- Beyond Politics: The Coexistence Trust and Public Diplomacy in Muslim and Jewish Engagement
- A seminar with Lord Parry Mitchell, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, and Samuel Klein, Director of the Coexistence Trust discussing their work in the United Kingdom with Steven Lamy, Vice Dean for Academic Programs and Professor of International Relations at USC. April 22, 2009. USC Doheny Intellectual Commons . Co-sponsored by Religion, Identity, and Global Governance (RIGG) Project, and the USC Office of Religious Life. Attendance: 70
- Operated as a Hub site for Big Sunday allowing volunteer opportunity for Muslims and Jews to serve together for the greater good of Los Angeles.