Alexander Mashkevich: Gaining Interreligious Understanding

December 06 18:14 2021

Last year was a very difficult one for Turkey and for the whole world. COVID-19 pandemic spared no one, just like terrorism that affects not only its immediate victims. In these difficult times, we must remember that only united we are strong. Only together we can overcome all the challenges.

Alexander Mashkevich has always fulfilled his duty in helping the affected communities. Over the past year, he supported a few Jewish-Muslim community projects that were on the brink of closure since he believes in mutual assistance – this is a cornerstone principle of the Congress. 

Alexander Mashkevich also supports a variety of cultural, charitable, and research projects performed within the EAJC’s traditional specialization. Alexander Mashkevich has always found it important to contribute to implementing new initiatives of the EAJC’s partners. However, this support is not always related to joyful events, and sometimes is associated with such tragedies as terrorist attacks.

Alexander Mashkevich expressed his condolences and gave assistance to the victims

Thus, on November 18, 2003, Alexander Mashkevich, the President of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC), arrived in Turkey on an emergency visit with the Israeli government delegation. The reason for the visit was the need to express support to the Jewish community and the people of Turkey following the terrorist attacks next to synagogues in Istanbul. 

Alexander Mashkevich noted that religious institutions and places of worship are increasingly frequent targets of terrorist attacks. However, not only Jews were affected by the explosions, but common Turkish people as well, the Muslims who were just passing by the mosques.

During his visit to Istanbul, Alexander Mashkevich personally visited the attacked synagogues. He also visited all the victims, giving assistance in treating and recovering them. Finally, Alexander Mashkevich negotiated with the country Prime Minister and the leaders of the Jewish community in Turkey. For self-protection, the Jewish Community has established security teams accountable to the community leaders and closely cooperating with the Government and the national law enforcement agencies.

Features of the Jewish-Muslim dialogue in the tense situation

These events led the EAJC to launch the Jewish-Muslim cooperation projects, dialogue, and strengthen the existing ties between them. It’s not always easy to cooperate in troubled times. However, within cooperation projects the Jews and the Muslims successfully use joint strategies to solve the problems they face.

Since we know about terrorist attacks in Israel too well,” says Alexander Mashkevich, “we understand that these acts of aggression are organized to undermine, destroy, and cause deep physical pain and emotional suffering.”

They are also used as extreme political and cultural polarization tools.

Being a research scientist, Alexander Mashkevich highlights the political issues that caused mutual distrust and fear to explore the theological, legal, and mystical kinship between two strikingly similar traditions – the Jewish and the Muslim. However, Alexander Mashkevich strongly believes that terrorism must be called terrorism, no matter what political mask it wears.

However, Alexander Mashkevich also suggests paying close attention to similarity of these two traditions, which led to the Jewish-Islamic tradition of the medieval past, which existed “simultaneously” and in certain regions was no less real and perhaps even more real than the Jewish-Christian tradition.

The works of the Institute of Euro-Asian Jewish Studies (IEAJS) show how the Jewish-Islamic tradition offers a few valuable resources for developing not only a dialogue, but friendly relations between Jewish and Muslim communities as well.

Alexander Mashkevich intended IEAJS, founded by the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, to be an academic analytical center and a platform for academic and professional exchange between leading experts studying Jewish communities, as well as “transnational Jewish diasporas” – those communities separated from their countries of origin.

The Institute promotes academic and applied research, which explores relations of the Euro-Asian Jewish communities with the Muslim world, in particular. It also explores the Jewish migration processes and the historical, cultural and political heritage of these communities.

As long as our dialogue remains open and honest, and there are numerous opportunities for cultural education and mutual understanding, we will be able to overcome destructive and polarizing forces, no matter how strong they are,” concludes Alexander Mashkevich.

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