02:28 PM CST on Saturday, December 13, 2008
Rabbi Jeremy Schneider spends a lot of time talking to Muslims, and wants other Jews to do the same. At age 32, the assistant rabbi at Dallas’ Temple Shalom has emerged as a national leader in Jewish-Muslim dialogue.
“He has been in the forefront of strengthening relations between our two communities,” said Rabbi Marc Schneider, president of the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.
Rabbi Schneider – whose office boasts not only diplomas but a neon University of Texas longhorn – was one of 20 clergy who participated in last year’s groundbreaking National Summit of Imams and Rabbis. He was the only rabbi in a National Peace Foundation-sponsored delegation visiting the Muslim Middle East – specifically Egypt and Syria – last June.
At Temple Shalom, he preached against “Islamophobia” on Rosh Hashana, pointedly telling his congregation, “We must learn what Islam truly stands for, not from politicians, not from e-mail forwards, and not from the media, but from Muslims themselves by engaging in dialogue.”
To that end, Rabbi Schneider has organized monthly meetings with five members of his congregation and five from the Islamic Association of Carrollton. He and his wife, Rachel, had a dinner at their home for the group during the Jewish holiday Sukkot.
“I find Rabbi Jeremy to be an amazing person, and a dear friend,” said Azhar Azeez, president of the Carrollton mosque, who at Rabbi Schneider’s request gave the sermon at Temple Shalom during a service last month. “He’s been extremely sincere.”
Rabbi Schneider traces his passion for interfaith efforts to growing up in the predominantly Christian suburbs of Houston. His mother, a teacher, made it a point to educate schoolchildren about Judaism. He visited a church with his best friend and had the friend over for Passover. “It was second nature,” he said. “I thought that’s what you do – learn about others’ religion and teach them about yours.”
After attending Jewish summer camps and spending a high school term in Israel, Rabbi Schneider majored in education at the University of Texas. He decided his junior year to be a rabbi, and after graduation enrolled at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
There, he got involved in interfaith efforts, and wrote a thesis titled “Jewish-Christian Relations: From Tolerance to Pluralism to Partnership.” His thesis adviser was Rabbi Reuven Firestone, author of An Introduction to Islam for Jews and an advocate of Jews and Muslims learning from one another about their faiths. [Please click here to read the whole article]