Muslims & Jews Partner to Improve Relations, Improve the City of LA

December 8, 2006

Moving beyond the ongoing crisis in the Middle East which often puts Muslim and Jewish Americans at odds, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) are launching "NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change" -- an innovative new program designed to bridge differences, promote mutual understanding and build community.

NewGround will engage diverse groups of Muslims and Jews in an innovative community-building process of intra- and inter- faith education and reflection, leadership training, and civic engagement. Scheduled to be launched in January 2007, this program utilizes a creative and dynamic new approach to Muslim-Jewish community-building, and is the result of extensive research of previous Muslim-Jewish dialogue efforts conducted in Los Angeles and throughout the country.

"The purpose of NewGround is to create an effective model for Muslim-Jewish interaction that neither ignores nor becomes hostage to the ever-shifting realities in the Middle East," said Salam Al-Marayati, MPAC's Executive Director. "The goal is to provide a forum for Muslims and Jews to engage in open and frank dialogue on these issues with the goal of mutual understanding and joint civic engagement, not political conversion."

"We've learned from past dialogue efforts that simply talking about similarities and differences doesn't move hearts or change minds," said PJA Executive Director Daniel Sokatch. "We're taking the next step by bringing committed people from both communities together to learn about and reflect with 'the other' - and then we're putting them to work on fixing the problems that impact their families and their neighborhoods here in Los Angeles."

NewGround aims to create a sweeping change of attitude within the Muslim and Jewish communities, rather than solely among leadership. Through intensive learning, skills-training, and reflection, NewGround will build small groups of committed and trained individuals who will bring their new skills to their larger communities. NewGround will generate new Muslim-Jewish community-building leaders, with the expectation that alumni will act as trainers/facilitators for groups in coming years. Each organization has hired a full-time staff person to run the project in a dynamic and collaborative process.

Applications for involvement in NewGround's first cadre -- for young professionals between 25-39 years old -- are available now at and are due on January 10, 2007. After an interview process, the first class will be announced at a ceremony in City Hall in late January, and the program will begin formally in mid-February 2007.

For more information about NewGround, contact MPAC's Interfaith Program Coordinator Aziza Hasan at 213-383-3443 or



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