A group of Jewish interfaith educators is asking rabbis to talk about Islam next Shabbat.I have no problem with people learning more about Muslims and their religion. It is important.Bigotry is certainly something to be fought against and real education - not relying on sanitized, second hand materials - is the best tool to fight it.
A letter signed by six prominent rabbis and scholars points out that Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, falls on Sept. 11, the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
In light of the controversy over the Islamic center planned near the New York site, the letter asks rabbis and rabbinical students to “speak out against the bigotry that has erupted,” and promote the ideals of religious freedoms for Muslims as well as Jews.
Rabbis in leading positions at the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative seminaries, as well as the rabbinical school at Hebrew College, signed the appeal.
It reads, in part: “The proposal for the ‘Mosque at Ground Zero’ that turns out not to be a mosque and not at Ground Zero has brought to light this simple fact: We Americans need to know a whole lot more about Muslims and their religion.”
But the major problem in the Jewish community is not ignorance of Islam - it is ignorance of Judaism. Shabbat Shuvah is part of the "Days of Awe" when Jews should be improving themselves and discarding bad habits, something that requires serious contemplation and time if it is to be done correctly. Rabbis on Shabbat Shuva transitionally talk about repentance and getting closer to God, about strengthening their own communities and striving to do better.
This is not the time of year for rabbis to prioritize teaching Jews about Islam. It is the time to teach Jews about their own religion.
If they want to make a "get to know Islam day" in their temples on some weeknight in November, fine. Choosing specifically this date indicates that they put a higher priority on the secular calendar than on their own Jewish calendar. One would hope that rabbis would have their priorities a little straighter than that.
Unless they really do have more respect for the nebulous concept of multiculturalism than for their own beliefs and traditions.