Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Sharing the well: 'Resource for Jewish-Muslim Engagement'


WHOA! This really got my attention. The recent article in the United Synagogue’s Spring issue of “CJ-Voices of Conservative/Masorti Judaism” on page 9, titled “Resource for Jewish-Muslim Engagement.” From the headline, this seemed like it had possibilities. However, this was quickly squashed when I learned the three participants in this endeavor would be the Hartford Seminary, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS)!

I do have reservations about the validity of such a partnership. I am certainly familiar with the JTS. I had to look up the Hartford Seminary. I discovered it is a Christian seminary, which has as one of its components The Macdonald Center. One of the main focal points of The Macdonald Center is the “Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations.” On all outward appearances, this seems like a fine program with good intentions. However upon looking closer I discovered that a previous director was Ingrid Mattson, former president of ISNA. That made me wonder why.

The funding sources for the “Sharing the Well” program are quite revealing also. The financial supporters of this program are the Russell Berri Foundation, the Ibrahim Family Foundation, The Heschel Society and the El-Hibri Foundation. All are easily found on the Internet for additional information.

Now, let’s look closer at the third member of the group. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). This turns out to be a whole different ballgame. We have heard much about ISNA. Some very good comments, respectable organization, well-meaning philanthropic activities, etc. However, on the other hand we have hear and read about more activities of concern. We’ve heard about relationships with very questionable organizations with criminal activities.

Now, let’s look into this organization. First, it is a well-documented Muslim organization founded in 1981 by the Muslim Brotherhood as an offshoot of the Muslim Student Association. As we know, the Muslim Brotherhood is a well-known and well-documented recognized terrorist organization in many parts of the world. It has been around since 1928, starting in Egypt. One of the main goals of the Muslim Brotherhood is the total elimination of the State of Israel. Also a main focus is to spread Sharia-Islamic Law all over the globe. One of the many beneficiaries of the support of the Muslim Brotherhood is the terrorist organization in Gaza, Hamas. The priority of Hamas is the total elimination of Israel and to kill all the Jewish people. See the Hamas charter which can also be found online. A copy of the previously secret document, “The Muslim Brotherhood Project,” can be easily found on the Internet. Along with this, published in 1991 was “An Explanatory Memorandum On the General Strategic Goal for the Group In North America.” (5/22/1991)

Prominently listed as one of the associated organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood is ISNA along with 28 other such groups. In my research about ISNA, I discovered that at their annual convention, they regularly have speakers such a Tarq Ramadan, grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood; Murad Hoffman, German Islamist associated with the Muslim Brotherhood; Youssef Qardawi, Muslim Brotherhood leader; and many more. It is well known and documented that ISNA and its leadership have an active association with anti-Semitic attitudes and individuals. ISNA has a long documented history of being an organization of extremism and anti-Semitism. The publication “Extremism and the Islamic Society of North America,” February 2007, lists in the table of contents such items as “Fundamentalism, anti-Semitism, terrorism, leadership individuals, Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, Muslim Brotherhood, extremism-U.S. affiliations, organizational extremism-fundamentalism, idiological control, control of mosques, prison chaplins, anti-Semitism and ISNA leaders, ISNA links to terrorism (Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and other terror connections). I think that gives you the idea of what ISNA is really about.

So, knowing all of this, as they should have, why is JTS partnering with an organization that is associated with terrorist acts against the Jewish population in Israel? To answer that question, I called JTS in New York City to speak to Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky. He is the JTS’s coordinator for the joint program “Sharing the Well.” I had no difficulty in reaching him. He was most cordial and friendly over the telephone. At the end of our conversation, he even thanked me for calling in order to clarify the misconception about ISNA. He stressed emphatically that ISNA is a reputable organization. It is not a terrorist organization nor does it support terrorism in any form. He has been working with ISNA for over 10 years and has a very good working relationship. Most of what you read is totally untrue. Fabrications! He went on to say that INSA is supportive of JTS. He asked if I had any additional questions to feel free to contact him again.


Remembering “Perception is 90 percent of reality,” I wanted to find out more. Just what is ISNA? What does it support? To do this, I decided to go online to find out more. I searched the Islamic Society of North America. There was no shortage of “hits.”

Let’s look at ISNA as a recognized Muslim organization. First, it is headquartered in Plainfield, Indiana. It is the largest Muslim and most influential Muslim advocacy group in the U.S. It is also the largest Muslim umbrella organization in North America. Under the direction from ISNA such other organizations such as the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Circle of North America, the Islamic Relief Organization, the International Institute of Islamic Thought, the Al Maghrib Institute, Zayton College and others.

Just why are these organizations associated with ISNA? What do they have in common that, we, as members of the Conservative Jewish movement in the United States should be concerned about?

To begin, lets first look at the “head of the snake.” ISNA is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holyland Foundation’s criminal case of illegal fundraising activities in the United States to support the terrorist organization, Hamas! This is well documented although it is questioned by Islamic organizations. Recently declassified FBI documents revealed this association:

“Conspiracy theories terror support found in ISNA convention literature”

“Updated Oct.r 4, 2009—ISNA is the largest and most influential Muslim advocacy group in the United States.”

“ISNA’s ties to Terror”

“ISNA was created by members of the Muslim Brotherhood”

“New Disclosures Tighten ISNA-Muslim Brotherhood Bonds”

“ISNA Admits Hamas Ties”

“Federal Judge agrees CAIR tied to Hamas”

This could easily go on for much longer. I think the point has been made. Now what do we do? I suggest that JTS be asked—no, be demanded—to explain their position. With all of the evidence pointing to ISNA being in reality an anti-Semitic, Anti-Israel organization supported by and endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood, financed by Muslim extremist they must answer the question, WHY?

Laurence Morrell can be reached at Emorrell0627@yahoo.com.


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