Jews and Muslims at Yale start blog

Yale students with opinions about the relationship between Jews and Muslims now have an online forum in which to air their thoughts.

On Sunday night, Jews and Muslims at Yale (JAM) launched a new blog called “Jews, Muslims and Dialogue” that members said they hope will be a vehicle for discussion about issues ranging from the concept of justice in Islam and Judaism to student reactions to Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz’s LAW ’62 visit to Yale earlier this month.

Several Yale undergraduates founded JAM in fall 2001 following the attacks on the World Trade Center. Jason Blau ’08, former co-head of JAM, said he hopes the blog will expand the organization’s influence beyond Yale’s campus.

The blog should be an online meeting place for people of all ideological views to listen to each other and their opinions, Blau said.

“I don’t want people leaving feeling like ‘Oh, now I see,’ ” Blau said. “[But at least] they can see why their colleagues would think something like that.”

Altaf Saadi ’08, a JAM member who served as its co-head last year, said she hopes the blog’s dialogue will serve as a model for discussion of controversial issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We are such a diverse body of students at Yale, with such varied thoughts and opinions, that there needs to be constructive forums like JAM where all those ideas can be exchanged in a respectful way,” Saadi said in an e-mail.

Blau said the blog is not an attempt to solve the conflicts in the Middle East, but rather a place for honest exchange.

“We’re not sitting down to solve the world’s problems in the direct policy sense,” Blau said. “We are trying to create the foundation through which that kind of thing can occur.”

JAM members said they started the blog primarily to reach out to students — and people outside of Yale — who cannot attend the JAM meetings. While the blog lacks the face-to-face interaction that defines JAM meetings, Blau said, he hopes it will influence New Haven’s communities and schools by standing as a model of respectful dialogue.

Saadi said she hopes the blog will dispel some misconceptions perpetuated in the media about the historical antagonism between Muslims and Jews. Jews and Muslims have lived together peacefully in a number of historical settings, she said.

“Our hope is to try to bridge those gaps and points of misunderstanding, real or perceived,” Saadi said.

Jeremy Avins ’10, one of the current co-heads of JAM, said both the Jewish and Muslim communities feel threatened. This reciprocal fear has led members of each group to “dehumanize” members of the other, making mutual understanding difficult, he said.

“It’s too easy to dehumanize a people you either don’t know or feel threatened by,” Avins said in an e-mail. “JAM is one of many efforts to bring the human back into the equation.”

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