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TUESDAY APR 05, 06:30 PM


Vienna’s Muslim-Jewish Conference and its U.S. Partners: Transatlantic Efforts towards Interfaith Understanding

Panelists: Imam Muhammad Shamsi Ali (Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York), Rabbi Marc Schneier (Founder and President, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, New York), Ilja Sichrovsky (Founder of the Muslim-Jewish Conference, Vienna). The discussion will be moderated by Jeremy Walton, of NYU's Religious Studies Program.

In August 2010, the first international Muslim-Jewish Conference took place in Vienna. Initiated by a group of students from Austria, Israel, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States, the conference saw a coming together of over 100 participants of both faiths. Over a period of six days, the participants produced joint resolutions toward putting an end to the vicious cycle of stereotypes and prejudices, and opening the doors for mutual understanding and respect.

This event at the Austrian Cultural Forum brings together Ilja Sichrovsky, the Secretary General and Founder of the MJC and Rabbi Marc Schneier, the Founder and President of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which is a partner organisation here in New York. They will be joined by Imam Muhammad Shamsi Ali, the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York.

The panelists will explore the ideas behind initiatives such as the Vienna Conference and its U.S. counterparts, as well as the potential impacts of these projects. Can these endeavors really bring about change? What measures can be adopted toward facilitating interfaith understanding and rapprochement?


Imam Muhammad Shamsi Ali is currently the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, the city’s largest mosque. He is also the Director of Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens and Chairman of Masjid Al-Hikmah Astoria, New York. He is an Advisory Board member to the Tannenbaum Center and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Asian Muslim Federation of North America. Well known in the interfaith community, Ali has lectured in churches and synagogues and other institutions around the nation and the world. He participated in the International Conference of Imams and Rabbis for Peace in Seville Spain 2006 and as well as the first National Summit of Imams and Rabbis of North America 2007.

Rabbi Marc Schneier is the 18th generation of a distinguished rabbinic dynasty.  He is an international figure who is known for his innovative leadership in the promotion of dialogue and cooperation in intergroup and race relations.  As a prominent leader of the Jewish community, Rabbi Schneier has emerged in the forefront of combating anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the Jewish and Muslim communities around the world.  He serves as Vice President of the World Jewish Congress, Honorary Chairman of the World Jewish Congress United States and spearheads its Commission on Intergroup Relations; Founder and President of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (1990) of which Russell Simmons is Chairman; and Founding Rabbi of The Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach and The New York Synagogue in Manhattan.  He has been honored by the United States Congress and the State of Israel as an advocate for human and civil rights and religious and ethnic tolerance.

llja Sichrovsky is the founder and Secretary General of the ‘Muslim Jewish Conference’. Ilja is currently completing his Master’s thesis in international development from the University of Vienna. His paternal family has Jewish roots in Vienna dating back centuries. During his studies, Ilja represented the University of Vienna three times at international Harvard student conferences, winning the "Harvard Award for Exemplifying the True Spirit of Diplomacy" every time. Later, he acted as faculty adviser and coach for the Viennese delegation and chaired the peace-building commission at EURASIAMUN. Ilja published a scientific article about studying at an Austrian University as a Jewish student six decades after the Holocaust.

Jeremy Walton is an Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow of Religious Studies at New York University. Walton's research and writing grapple broadly with the myriad relationships between secularism and Islam, and focus specifically on public life in contemporary Turkey. He initially explored the relationship between Muslim piety and secular governance in his dissertation, Horizons and Histories of Liberal Piety: Civil Islam and Secularism in Contemporary Turkey, which he completed for the University of Chicago Department of Anthropology in 2009.He is currently revising his dissertation for publication as an academic monograph, and continues to travel to Turkey as frequently as possible to pursue research related to both his current book project and future study. In line with his research interests, his teaching emphasizes the intersections of religion, politics, and global cultural forms broadly; recent seminars and lectures that he has offered include courses on comparative secularism, blasphemy and globalization, and religion and economic practice.


Imam Muhammad Shamsi Ali