Extending Hand of Friendship

Faith leaders heralded this interfaith project which saw over 200 cards sent from Muslims to over 50 synagogues nationally during the Jewish festival of Chanukah (Sunday 6th - Monday 14th December).

The 'Extending Hand of Friendship' project, which seeks to build stronger ties between British Jews and Muslims, is an initiative of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation, the only national joint Muslim- Jewish interfaith charity in this country.

The accompanying letter with the card says "the aim of this initiative is to give the chance to individual Muslims who want to extend their hand of friendship towards the Jewish community through a safe forum. This initiative offered them the chance to do this online by giving £3 for a hard copy card to be sent either giving their name, or anonymously simply as a well-wishing Muslim neighbour. We were overwhelmed by their response by reaching our target of 100 cards within the first 48 hours. This meant that we had to send over 200 cards."

The card expressing Happy Chanukah

Dayan Ivan Binstock, senior rabbi of St John's Wood United synagogue, Dayan of the Bet Din, and a member of the Foundation's National Council of Imams and Rabbis said: "This initiative is much welcomed. We deeply appreciate the gesture of our Muslim friends, particularly at this time. May our efforts to promote understanding and tolerance be granted success."

Senior Imams and members of the Council of Imams & Rabbis said: "This is a noble and excellent initiative which we fully support. Hopefully it will go a long way in building positive relations between our communities. If we ever need a light to pierce through darkness it is now."

Muslim woman reading the postcard online

Rabbi Alexandra Wright, Senior Rabbi of The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, member of the National Council of Imams and Rabbis said "In the current climate of fear and uncertainty, it is of crucial importance for Jews to extend the hand of friendship to Muslims and Muslims to Jews. We share so much, not least a deep faith in a compassionate and just God, and a passionate desire for justice and peace in the world." Hanna Yusuf representing The Foundation attended the lighting of the Chanukah candles at Liberal Jewish synagogue.

Hanna Yusuf with Rabbis at the LJS

Judge Khurshid Drabu CBE, a Muslim trustee of the Foundation said: "In the present challenging circumstances that we as Muslims are going through, I believe it is incumbent on each of us to do whatever little we can do to build relationships and goodwill in the society at large. I fully support this excellent initiative."

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, senior rabbi of Masorti movement, member of the National Council of Imams and Rabbis said: "This is a gentle and wonderful way to bring light and friendship into the world on the Festival of Lights. May such light guide us in working for deeper understanding and peace. I would like to thank all the Muslim who have sent such cards."

Nabil Hawa, the Muslim project co-ordinator said: "This initiative is not an apology or condemnation - it's an invite to friendship! The British Muslim community are impeded by a continual expectation to explain what we are NOT about; these cards are a micro-opportunity to show what we ARE about. Our faith has more to unite people than divide."

Mehri Niknam MBE, executive Director of the Foundation said: "We are delighted with the success of this initiative and aim to continue it by providing further opportunities for bringing the two communities closer and removing misunderstanding. Therefore, we will provide the opportunity for the Jewish individuals to send greeting cards to the Muslim community for the next Muslim festival."

The initiative was reported by the Jewish News online.

The Foundation is working on a project for the members of the Jewish community to reciprocate by sending Eid Mubarak cards to the Mosques for the next Muslim festival.