Ira Forman joins the CIU’s 2013 ‘Imams To Auschwitz’ Program

May 18-24, 2013: As his first act as President Obama’s newly appointed Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Ira Forman hopped on a plane Monday night to join the CIU’s “Imams to Auschwitz” from the Middle East and Developing World, now in progress. These influential Muslim leaders in the world are on an historic journey — from Dachau to Auschwitz – to see for themselves one of the great tragedies of the 20th century.

Among the participants will be Imams, Sheikhs, Islamic educators and leaders from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bosnia, Palestine, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey and India. Amb. Forman will join them in Warsaw, alongside the current Special Envoy Ambassador Michael Kozak and Rashid Hussein, U.S. Special Representative to the Organization of the Islamic Conference

The delegation will tour the Jewish Ghetto and make a daylong visit to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau camps. Among other events, they will meet with survivors, Righteous Among Nations and Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, will host an interfaith dinner in Warsaw with Warsaw’s chief Imams.

Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Executive Director of the New Jersey-based Center for Interreligious Understanding (CIU), is leading this landmark mission of learning and compassion. The rabbi, who escaped Italy in 1938 at age five, has dedicated his life to interreligious dialogue.

“This is a truly unique journey with an unprecedented group of global Muslim leaders,” says Bemporad. “First and foremost, we thank them for their willingness to come. Our task is to encourage proper understanding between our faiths in ways that stress our common humanity. Understanding our particular histories will help us better understand each other so that we can unite in combatting prejudice against all religions.”

Rabbi Bemporad and the trip’s organizer, Catholic University of America Law Professor Marshall Breger, an Orthodox Jew and former Reagan White House liaison to the Jewish community, led a similar, highly successful trip for American Imams in 2010. “The U.S. Imams told us that their trip was transformative and they shared their experiences with their American Muslim communities. We thought a trip with an international group of Imams and religious leaders to be of vital importance.”

These Muslim leaders are important to us all, note the organizers. Misuse of the Holocaust is a leading propaganda tool that foments a deadly anti-Semitism and anti-Western sentiment. This in turn distorts Islam and leads many in the West to see in it something inherently evil, which could not be further from the truth.

“Increasing compassion and preserving man’s humanity starts with unveiling falsehoods that shore up bigotry. Unfortunately, one of those is Holocaust Denial. Muslims and millions of others also suffered and Holocaust Denial denies them, too, not just Jews who perished,” says Prof. Breger.

This CIU-sponsored trip is funded with grants and support from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the U.S. State Department, and supporters of the CIU.

Rabbi Jack Bemporad of The Center For Interreligious Understanding being interviewed by the BBC at Auschwitz.

Rabbi Jack Bemporad and U.S. State Department Acting Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Mike Kozak at dinner reception hosted by Munich Mayor Christan Ude

U.S. State Department Acting Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Mike Kozak, U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Rashad Hussain; and newly appointed Special Envoy To Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Ira Forman at the Munich dinner