Jewish/Muslim Initiative

Founded in 2005, and run jointly by professors of Jewish and Islamic Studies at UIC, the Jewish-Muslim Initiative is intended to increase understanding between Jews and Muslims by way of public lectures and events, classes on Judaism and Islam, and support for co-operative groups and projects initiated by Jewish and Muslim students. As the major public university in one of America's most ethnically diverse cities, home to a large Muslim and large Jewish community, UIC is ideally positioned to carry out such an Initiative.

Programs run by the Initiative include:

Spring 2013

Shari'a and Halakha in America

Monday, April 15 at IIT Chicago-Kent School of Law
Tuesday, April 16 at the Humanities Institute (UIC), lower level of SH
(see the Humanities Institute's website for more information)

Download Conference Program

Is religious law a threat to American democracy? Is American democracy a threat to religious law? This conference will explore the challenges faced by — and presented by — the Islamic and Jewish legal systems (shari’a and halakha) in America today. Speakers from the two traditions will also discuss what they can learn from one another’s experience.

Spring 2012

JST 225: Topics in Judaism and Islam in Muslim Iberia

Exploring the similarities and differences between Jewish and Muslim cultures in Medieval Iberia is both challenging and Illuminating. Our course will study how Jewish culture rose and flourished, both under the influence and spurred by the challenge represented by Muslim culture in Sepharad (the name Jews gave to Iberia under Muslim rule), and how Muslims began to study seriously the Bible, challenging it as with Ibn Hazm and incorporating it as with Ibn Arabi in al-Andalus (the name Muslims gave to Iberia under their rule).

Same as RELS 225 and CL 225

Fall 2011

Eboo Patel
"On Religious Particularity and American Pluralism:
Jews and Muslims Building Community and Country "

Wednesday, September 14, 2011
4:00 pm
Illinois Room, SCE
750 South Halsted Street
Reception to Follow

Spring 2011

Changing Roles?
Women in Traditional Jewish and Muslim Communities

Monday, February 7, 2011

The traditional religious legal systems in both Judaism and Islam (halacha and sharia) been widely challenged, in recent years, by charges that they are oppressive or demeaning to women. Women committed both to a traditional form of Judaism or Islam and to the gender equality that marks the modern world have responded to this charge in a variety of ways – some of which have begun to change their communities quite radically. This conference will explore changing roles of women in prayer, study, communal leadership and other aspects of traditional Muslim and Jewish life.

Speakers included:
Tahera Ahmad, Northwestern University
Hina Azam, University of Texas at Austin
Ruth Balinsky, Yeshivat Maharat
Tova Hartman, Bar Ilan University
Marcia Hermansen, Loyola University Chicago
Deborah Klapper, Gann Academy
Erin Leib Smokler, Drisha Institute for Jewish Education, & University of Chicago
Najeeba Syeed-Miller, Claremont School of Theology

Conference organized by Samuel Fleischacker, University of Illinois at Chicago

Location: Institute for the Humanities, Lower Level Stevenson Hall,
701 South Morgan, University of Illinois at Chicago

Spring 2008

"Judaism and Islam - Interactions and Intersections," Course taught by Sean Anthony and Ruhama Johnson-Bloom.

Spring 2007

"Political Theory in Judaism and Islam," Course taught by Smita Rahman.

Dr. Judea Pearl

Dr. Judea Pearl
"Muslim-Jewish Dialogue and the
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict"

Wednesday, March 7, 2007
3:00 pm
Chicago-Kent College of Law
Illinois Institute of Technology
Ogilvie Auditorium
565 West Adams

Fall 2006

Yehezkel Landau
"Healing the Holy Land "

October 11, 2006
3:30 pm
University of Illinois at Chicago
Institute of the Humanities
701 South Morgan
Lower Level Stevenson Hall
Chicago, IL
Reception to follow

Reuven Firestone
"Whose Jerusalem? The Sanctity of the Holy City in Judaism, Christianity and Islam"

October 30, 2006
3:00 pm
University of Illinois at Chicago
Institute of the Humanities
701 South Morgan
Lower Level Stevenson Hall
Chicago, IL

Spring 2006


January 2006, Chicago Jewish News and November 30, 2006, Chicago Tribune

The Jewish/Muslim Initiative announces its Spring line-up:

1) The University of Illinois at Chicago and Chicago-Kent College of Law are proud to continue the Jewish/Muslim initiative. Please join us as we welcome Dr. Azim Nanji, inaugural visiting Professor of Jewish/Muslim Relations at UIC and Kent and current Director of the Ismaili Institute, London, for a series of three lectures.


"Rethinking Common Values of the Abrahamic Traditions"

Friday, April 21, 2006
Immediately following
8:00 pm services
in the main sanctuary

Beth Emet
The Free Synagogue
1224 Dempster
Evanston, Illinois 60202

"Legal Pluralism in Muslim Contexts"

Monday, April 24, 2006
12:00 pm
Chicago-Kent College of Law
Illinois Institute of Technology
Ogilvie Auditorium
565 West Adams
Reception to follow

"Sustaining Identity: Jewish and Muslim Experiences in the New World"

Wednesday, April 26, 2006
4:00 pm
University of Illinois, Chicago
Cardinal Room
Student Center East
750 South Halsted
Reception to follow

All lectures are free and open to the public. Please RSVP to (312) 413-2102 with questions and/or to indicate which lecture. Sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago and by the Institute for Law and the Humanities at Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Institute of Technology.


2) JAMS (Jewish-Arab-Muslim-Students) present the hip-hop Middle East play, "From Tel Aviv to Ramallah," on April 6th at 7:00 pm in L285 in the EPASW Bldg., 1040 W. Harrison Street. This play, written and directed by UIC Jewish Studies and English Professor, Rachel Havrelock, stars Yuri Lane and Sharif Ezzat, a Jewish-Arab performance team who have performed at college campuses and at theatrical venues across the country. The play is free of charge.

"From Tel Aviv to Ramallah" is an hour-long hip-hop play that shuttles back and forth in a day in the life of a young Israeli and a young Palestinian. The show depicts the parallel narratives and lives of Israelis and Palestinians, and exhibits the youth cultures of the Middle East. Yuri Lane is a human beatbox who depicts multiple characters by generating the individual soundtrack of each character through a cappella vocal percussion combined with acting and dance. The set consists of live visual projections composed by multimedia artist Sharif Ezzat.

"From Tel Aviv to Ramallah" does not take an ideological stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It depicts the nature of life during the conflict and airs the culture and humor that persist despite the political situation.

For more information on the play and its performers, please visit

Praise for "From Tel Aviv to Ramallah":

"Vivid, heartening piece...a true collaboration."
--New York Times

"Lane is not only an accomplished mimic, he's also an acrobat with sound. All the instrumental and percussive music in 'Beatbox Journey' is created on Lane's lips, the music supplying the evocative connective thread between his main characters."
--The Washington Post

"Lane's colorful depiction is so real, his characters so well developed, that you can't help but be moved. His recreation of the cities' bustling marketplaces and throbbing discos is so vivid that you can almost smell the smoke wafting from the hookah pipes and feel the moist heat emanating from the dance floor."
--San Francisco Examiner

"From Tel Aviv to Ramallah is a must-see for those interested in finding utopian spaces for peaceful coexistence in contemporary hip-hop culture."
--San Francisco Bay Guardian

3) During the spring 2006 semester, UIC and Chicago-Kent will offer the course "Judaism and Islam: Interactions and Intersections," to be co-taught by religious scholar and visiting professor Azim Nanji, Director of the Ismaili Institute, London; Rachel Havrelock, UIC professor of Jewish Studies and English; and Sheldon Nahmod, Chicago-Kent Distinguished Professor of Law and co-director of Chicago-Kent's Institute for Law and the Humanities.

A leading contemporary figure in the Ismaili branch of Islam, Nanji has authored, co-authored and edited several books including, "The Nizari Ismaili Tradition" (1976), "The Muslim Almanac" (1996), "Mapping Islamic Studies" (1997), and "The Historical Atlas of Islam" (2004). In addition, he has contributed numerous shorter studies and articles on religion, Islam and Ismailism in journals and collective volumes including "The Encyclopedia of Islam," "Encyclopedia Iranica," "Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World," and "A Companion to Ethics."

JST 225: Topics in Jewish/Muslim Relations:
Judaism & Islam: Interactions and Intersections (3 hrs)
                       Same as RELS 225 and CLS 225

This course examines the history of interaction between Judaism and Islam touching on some paradigmatic moments when shared geography and shared ideas brought Islam and Judaism into the sphere of mutual influence. We will examine how the hostility between Jews and Muslims has been constructed as well as the origins of this hostility while also considering the history of coexistence and the places where Jews and Muslims lived together. While central theological and philosophical texts from the two traditions will be studied, we will also question the idea of a discrete "tradition" that exists in isolation bounded by its own tenets. The history of interaction between Islam and Judaism includes shared prophets, sacred geography, legal tenets, philosophic revolutions and marginalization during the periods in which the conception of the "European" and "Westerner" were formed.

Jewish/Muslim Initiative, Fall 2005

Dr. Akbar Ahmed inaugurates the world's first visiting professorship of Jewish/Muslim relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Chicago-Kent School of Law.

Distinguished anthropologist, diplomat, writer, and filmmaker Dr. Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies and Professor of International Relations at American University in Washington, DC, will give two, free public lectures:

"The Importance of Jewish/Muslim Dialogue: Crossroad for the Abrahamic Faiths"
Monday, November 28, 2005, 4:00 pm
University of Illinois at Chicago
Student Center East (750 South Halsted) Room 302
Reception to follow in M. Ward Lounge, 2nd Floor

"The Importance of Jewish/Muslim Dialogue: Judaism and Knowledge in the Abrahamic Faiths"
Tuesday, November 29, 2005,12:00 pm
Chicago-Kent School of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology
Ogilvie Auditorium (565 West Adams)
Reception to follow in the lobby

Sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and by the Institute for Law and the Humanities, Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology