Monmouth Dialogue Project
Saliba Sarsar, PhD
Professor of Political Science
Associate Vice President for Global Initiatives
West Long Branch, NJ 07764
In our current world where understanding, respect, and tolerance are at a premium, mutual misconceptions and stereotyping of “the other” continue unabated. Opportunities for dialogue between and among national and religious groups are lacking. A zero-sum game or “we vs. them” mentality typifies relations between many communities in the United States and around the world.
A prime example relates to Arab Americans and Jewish Americans, who number 3.5 and 6 million, respectively. While often neighbors, they live worlds apart. Historically, the Arab American and Jewish American communities have stood on opposite sides of the ideological-political divide, with each community advancing its particular values and interests. Their relationships have often been influenced by Arab-Israeli relations.
The past two decades, however, have witnessed the formation of Arab-Jewish dialogue groups and coexistence camps. There is a minimum of 40 such groups, in addition to camps for Arab and Jewish youths in the United States. When added to others around the world, including Israel and Palestine, the number reaches 100. In addition, there are many interfaith and intercultural dialogue groups, with many focusing on the relations in the Abrahamic faith traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Monmouth Dialogue Project—Who We Are
We are a group of Arab Americans (Christian and Muslim), American Jews, and friends of both communities who work to promote Arab-Jewish understanding in Monmouth County of New Jersey in particular and elsewhere around the world in general. The group, initiated in fall 2007, uses Monmouth University as base. It consists of approximately 25 individuals, with 20 of them Arabs and Jews, representing varied professionals, including academic administrators, accountants, artists, consultants, engineers, medical doctors, professors, psychologists, religious leaders, and students.
The group meets on a regular basis to examine issues of mutual concern, discuss relevant books, attend interfaith and multicultural events, visit Arab and Jewish cultural and religious sites, and use its voice and touch to generate positive change in community. Such activities are crucial for creating group cohesion and for enriching the group’s outlook and repertoire. The group hold forums, open to the public at large, to hear speakers and panelists and to show and discuss relevant movies in support of dialogue themes.