This morning, I sat inside the State Department of the United States of America, in a small conference room, on the 4th floor, surrounded by great men and women of faith. We patiently waited for our host to arrive, and during the down time, chuckles and laughs, hugs and handshakes, Arabic and Hebrew were swirling around the room. I was fortunate to be amongst 28 Chief Imams and Rabbis from 10 European nations who are part of a program sponsored by The Foundation For Ethnic Understanding, an organization of which Russell Simmons chairs the board. The mission is to build a stronger and more respectful relationship between Jewish and Muslim people in Europe and around the world. They had been in NYC, with Mayor Bloomberg, Ground Zero, Yankee Stadium…and had been in DC with Congressional members, the Holocaust Museum and at various synogauges and mosques.
This was the last day of their four day trip to the United States, so it was clear that strong friendships had been forged, stereotypes had been challenged and overcome, and the optimism for a new beginning was high. So in walked this beautiful woman and the delegation grew quiet. Not because she was beautiful – these are people of faith! – but because she was the host. After a few prepared speeches were made by one of the Rabbis and one of the Imams, she spoke. I am not sure if I am allowed to say the name of this woman (as it was a meeting closed to the press), but let’s just say she has a job that could change the world! And when she spoke, I was moved to tears. I couldn’t believe I was crying either – listening to a bureaucrat speak – but this woman had such passion that I was moved to tears because I believed her. I believe that this administration wants to re-build our relationship with the Muslim world. I believe that this administration wants to listen and learn. I believe that this administration wants to admit to its mistakes and respectfully celebrate its triumphs. I believe that this administration wants to build a brighter future for our generation.
Imams stood up and praised the President for his speech in Cairo. Rabbis stood up and praised the President’s speech at Buchenwald. But, everyone stood up and said that we have to do something before it’s too late…cause’ kids out there are getting angrier and angrier. I know I was the youngest person in that room and for that I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility. I carry this responsibility because I have the opportunity to bear witness to meetings that can really change the world. For that I am forever thankful. But just know one thing about the kid…I will always, always make sure that I will represent our generation and that we become more of a priority for this administration and for our country as a whole.
I walked out of the State Department, inspired, hopeful and proud. I believe in this type of dialogue. I have been doing it my whole life. Bringing people together who normally do not talk to each other. And now more than ever, we need to bring together the leaders of various religi