CENTER FOR INCLUSION AND BELONGING — April 25, 2021 — Two years ago, I joined a Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom local chapter in Manhattan. The Sisterhood brings together equal numbers of Jewish and Muslim women in intimate chapters of between 10-20 members, all across America. The goal is to build personal bonds, improve knowledge and literacy about the two religions, dispel misconceptions, fight hate, and model how to live together with respect, dignity, and love. In short, participation in the Sisterhood transforms strangers into friends, and friends into sisters.
I have been working on strategies to fight xenophobia and various “isms” for two decades at a high “strategic” level, typically removed from personal involvement in community-based work. In 2019, distressed by our country’s deep and worsening divisions, the rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and the resurgence of extremist movements and identity-based violence more broadly, I wanted to bridge the gap between my personal life and my professional work in philanthropy and social justice. I had heard about the Sisterhood from a friend and found its premise intriguing. So I put my name on a waiting list. Weeks later, I was invited to join a chapter.
I attended my first meeting with some trepidation, having never “put myself out there” in this particular way. I was nervous about how to navigate this encounter with so many strangers and wondered if I would be patient enough to see this experiment through. Patience paid off. With each passing meeting, the awkwardness receded, replaced by genuine fondness, curiosity and warmth and the wondrousness of co-creating a welcoming and inclusive space.
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