NEW JERSEY - A leading synagogue in New Jersey's Teaneck town has honored the city's Muslim mayor in recognition of his contributions to the community to dispel stereotypes and encourage harmony between different religious and ethnic groups.
He [Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin] is a very dedicated public servant [and] he's been a great advocate on behalf of his own community, the Muslim community, Rabbi Nati Helfgot told NorthJersey.com.
Professionally, he's done so many things besides the political sphere...He's a man of faith [and] a great friend to the Jewish community.
Holding its 11th annual dinner, Netivot Shalom, a modern Orthodox synagogue in Teaneck honored Hameeduddin for his contributions to the community.
As part of the tribute, Hameeduddin received a rendering done by a Teaneck artist.
This is a very humbling experience, the mayor said in his speech.
Teaneck as I know is a very special place.
It's very easy to be an observant Jew, [a] Muslim [or] in a minority community in this town because we're an incubator for understanding, he added.
Hameeduddin praised the synagogue's understanding congregation.
Netivot Shalom will always hold a special place in my heart, he said.
The symbolism of this shul, this community, and breaking down stereotypes really matters.
I'm so grateful to this town and [its] Jewish community for all that it's done to make it a better place for understanding.
Though there are no official figures, America is believed to be home to nearly eight million Muslims.
A 2010 report of the North American Jewish Data Bank puts the number of Jews in the US at around 6.5 million.
Being a Muslim in a diverse city, Hameeduddin managed to find common ground between different ethnic and religious groups.
"As a Muslim mayor in a very religiously and racially diverse town, it's very important to find ways...to bring the various communities together and foster a greater understanding and appreciation for one another," he said.
Interfaith ties between American Muslim and Jewish leaders have a history of successes.
Founded in 1989, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding has worked for years to improve black-Jewish relations as well as Latino-Jewish relations.
In recent years, the group has focused on Muslim-Jewish relations, planning those events before the Gaza conflict erupted.
Sponsored by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, the Twinning Mosques and Synagogues", has launched an initiative that aims to promote ethnic harmony and build inter-group grassroots ties.
Since the initiative began in 2008, the Twinning Mosques and Synagogues brought together 50 Jewish and 50 Muslim congregations across the United States and Canada at one-on-one programs.
A group of high-profile Muslim and Jewish organizations participate in the initiative, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the World Jewish Congress (WJC), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims (CAJM).