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December 27, 2016 2:39 pm

NYU Hillel Director: Love Expressed by Muslim Students to Jewish Counterparts in Wake of Antisemitic Incident a ‘Proud Moment’ in Interfaith Relations on Campus

avatar by Lea Speyer

The message board containing notes of solidarity sent by Islamic Center at NYU to the NYU Bronfman Center Hillel. Photo: Joe Wolfson/ Facebook.

The message board containing notes of solidarity sent by Islamic Center at NYU to the NYU Bronfman Center Hillel. Photo: Joe Wolfson/Facebook.

The love expressed by Muslim students at New York University to their Jewish counterparts in the aftermath of an antisemitic incident is a “proud moment” in the years’-long endeavor to strengthen interfaith ties on campus, the head of the school’s Hillel branch told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.

Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, the Skirball Executive Director of the NYU Bronfman Center, was referring to the more than 100 notes of “comfort and support” posted on a board that the university’s Islamic Center presented as a Shabbat gift to the Jewish campus organization Hillel last month, following the defacement of a dorm door with a swastika and “white pride” messages.

Sarna said that though the relationship between Jews and Muslims at NYU “has not always been positive,” it took a turn for the better some 10 years ago. He recounted “an interesting coming together of the two student groups after a Muslim prayer space on campus was defaced in early November.” Since then, he said, Hillel and the Islamic Center have engaged in various joint religious and cultural initiatives, which have “created an environment for both sides to see possibilities otherwise not frequently expressed.”

For example, he said, “Whenever there is a discussion about Muslim-Jewish relations on campus, someone asks about the proverbial elephant in the room: Israel. One of the best metaphors I’ve ever heard to answer this question is that this is big zoo with many different animals, and if you only focus on the elephant, you miss everything else.”

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Referring to the solidarity board — on which notes arranged in the shape of a heart contained messages such as: “stay strong,” “love over hatred” and “ILY,” an acronym for “I love you” — Sarna said that it overrode the single act that spurred it.

“To see hundreds of people doing something intentionally supportive means so much more than one person doing something malicious,” he said. 

The incident that led the Muslim students to offer their support occurred two weeks after the US presidential election. As The Algemeiner reported, the messages were written on sticky notes and placed on the dorm room door of Jewish and gay students. At the time, Sarna told The Algemeiner that both targeted groups were left shaken but feeling “strong and moving forward.”

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