(JTA) — Jewish and Muslim entrepreneurs met in Berlin on Wednesday to launch an “an unconventional Jewish-Muslim dialogue.”
Dubbed Shalom Aleikum: Jewish-Muslim Dialog, the project of the Central Council of Jews in Germany began with young business leaders having an open exchange on the issue of cultural identity and the job market. TV journalist Shakuntala Banerjee served as the moderator.
Central Council President Josef Schuster said the project aims to break down stereotypes and prevent anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
Germany has seen a rise in anti-Semitic crimes. Although German officials report that the vast majority of anti-Semitic incidents are carried out by members of the far right, some Jewish leaders worry that anti-Semitic acts by Muslims are more widespread than believed and are being underreported.
It is not too soon to intervene, Schuster suggested.
“People who who speak to each other from the realities of their lives can approach each other without reservations,” Schuster said in a media statement.
The nationwide project has the support of Minister of State Annette Widmann-Mauz, who heads Germany’s Federal Commission for Migration, Refugees and Integration. The first year’s events are funded with 1.2 million euros ($1.35 million), and will encompass various dialogue formats nationwide.
Speaking to a Protestant news service, Widmann-Mauz said the project was designed to break down barriers between Jews and Muslims, as well as prevent anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiments from developing at an early stage.
She said she was appalled at the reported increases in hate crimes related to religion.
“This is not a situation that we want in our country,” she said.
Additional Jewish-Muslim dialogue forums are planned for the coming months with teachers, athletes, students, seniors and women’s groups, the Central Council’s managing director, Daniel Botmann, told the news service.