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More than breaking bread: How one group's bond is breaking down stereotypes

Celebrating Women: Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom

DAVENPORT, Iowa - A local group of Jewish and Muslim women is pushing back on stereotypes-- from within their own religions and from others in the community. 

The latest numbers from the FBI indicate a 17% increase in hate crimes between 2016 and 2017. 

More than half were targeted based on race or ethnicity and more than 20% of incidents were based on religion. 

The Quad Cities branch Sisterhood of Salaaam Shalom is pushing back on those numbers, one relationship at a time.

"The purpose is to build relationships and trust and faith between the Jewish women and Muslim women, one person at a time," says Gail Karp, co-leader of the chapter. 

"We have themed monthly meetings. Sometimes we'd be talking about rituals common in our faith, sometimes we've talked about weddings," says chapter co-leader Lisa Killinger.

Over the past two years, the women have tackled cultural and religious stereotypes.

"We make assumptions just based on nothing and then discover that those assumptions were just totally fanciful," Karp says.

Many of these connections have been new experiences.

"I'm familiar with the Jewish community and I've worked with friends in the Jewish community, but there haven't been many people in the Muslim community who have had that experience," says Killinger. 

The small group hopes to chip away at the history between the two religions that's often been riddled with conflict. 

"The traditional Jewish Challah bread, the braided bread, we baked that at the mosque. The irony and the uniqueness of the situation; I don't know that there's anywhere in the United States or anywhere in the world where Challah bread was baked in mosque ovens," Killinger recalls. 

The significance of their relationships has only become more important today, when the FBI reports an increase in racial, ethnic and religious hate crimes.

"When people see us in public and see how comfortable we are with each other and how much we smile and hug and laugh, I think it gives them hope," Karp says. 

A trust that they believe has a solid foundation, no matter what challenges lay ahead for Muslims and Jews at home or abroad.

"I don't think our Jewish community and Muslim community in the Quad Cities can ever, ever be really far apart from each other from now forward, because we are deep friends and that's really something that's never going to go backwards," Killinger says.


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