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A Golden Age in the Golden State? Muslims and Jews Creating a Culture of Understanding

This course was offered in Fall, 2017.


This half-day symposium will explore Muslim Jewish relations in the United States and the Bay Area. How are groups of Muslims and Jews working together to find common cause? How can we draw lessons from the Golden Age of Spain to create a new culture of understanding? These questions and more will be explored by scholars and clergy from our Jewish and Muslim communities.

We will cover a range of topics, both historical and current, and will pause in the afternoon for midday prayer — both Assr and the Shema — with introductions and explanations. There will be speakers from the Faith Trio, an alliance of Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Oakland, and a panel representing Marin’s efforts to build bridges among Muslims and Jews. The event will conclude with a talk by Reuven Firestone, a professor in Medieval Judaism and Islam.


  • Prof. Fred Astren, Middle East and Islamic Studies, Dept. of Jewish Studies, SFSU
  • Pastor Ben Daniel, Montclair Presbyterian Church, Faith Trio
  • Sister Amal Crespo, Islamic Center of North Marin
  • Lea Delson, Kehilla Community Synagogue, Faith Trio
  • Tricia Hellman Gibbs, MD, MA, author A New Song
  • Joanne Greene, Director of Jewish Engagement, Osher Marin JCC
  • Maha Elgenaidi, Director, Islamic Networks Group
  • Prof. Reuven Firestone, Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles
  • Ali Sheikholeslami, Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, Faith Trio


# Sessions
Date & time

Sunday, November 5
1:00 - 5:00 pm


Pre-registration is required as seating is limited.

Session Time Days Location Instructors
Nov 05 1:00 PM–5:00 PM Sun OMJCC Ali Sheikholeslami Ben Daniel Fred Astren Joanne Greene Lea Delson Maha Elgenaidi Reuven Firestone Tricia Hellman Gibbs


Osher Marin JCC

200 N. San Pedro Road

San Rafael, CA 94903



Fred Astren

Fred AstrenFred Astren, Professor and Chair of the Department of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University and member of the Faculty in Middle East and Islamic Studies, received his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley, where he also earned a master’s degree in Arabic. Among Professor Astren’s publications are: Karaite Past and Jewish History (2004); Judaism and Islam: Boundaries, Communication, and Interaction (Editor, with B. H. Hary and J. L. Hayes), Festschrift for William M. Brinner, E.J. Brill (2000); and The Jewish Printed Book in India: Imprints of the Blumenthal Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The Judah L. Magnes Museum (1992). His areas of research include minority/sectarian history in the Mediterranean Middle Ages, with special focus on Jewish history under Islam, Islamization, Jewish-Muslim relations, and the Karaite Jewish sect. Having recently published a study on Jews in the early medieval Muslim conquests of the Near East and Spain, he is currently writing a book on Jews in the Mediterranean of the early Middle Ages.

Ben Daniel

Pastor Ben DanielPastor Ben Daniel is Pastor and head of staff at Montclair Presbyterian Church, and part of the Faith Trio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Religious Studies at Westmont College with an emphasis in urban ministry. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1993. His first book, Neighbor: Christian Encounters with “Illegal Immigration”, won a Gold Medal for Religion in Foreword Review’s Book of the Year Awards in 2011. His second book The Search for Truth About Islam: A Christian Pastor Separates Fact from Fiction was named by Library Journal one of the essential books on Islam every library should have in its collection.

Lea Delson

Lea Delson has worked towards greater understanding and peaceful coexistence among faiths, particularly Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As part of the Faith Trio of Oakland, she has been one of the main organizers of their interfaith art exhibitions since 2011. Lea is an active member of several Jewish congregations in the East Bay, including Kehilla Community Synagogue, Aquarian Minyan, and Or Zarua Reconstructionist Havurah. Raised by Jewish parents from Chicago who moved to Israel in 1972, Lea attended Israeli public schools there from ages 11 to 16. The 1973 Yom Kippur War convinced her of the need to find peaceful solutions to conflicts. Lea attended the University of Chicago and UC Berkeley, graduating in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. Her business, DelsonPhoto, has provided event and portrait photography for the past 16 years. Lea has created and exhibited fine art photography, including photography of translucence in nature, documentation of the urban environment and reflections on recent history.

Maha Elgenaidi

Maha ElgenaidiMaha Elgenaidi is the founder of Islamic Networks Group (ING) and author of training handbooks on outreach for American Muslims as well as training seminars for public institutions on developing cultural competency with the American Muslim community. She received an M.A. in religious studies from Stanford University and B.A in political science and economics from the American University in Cairo. She has taught classes on Islam in the modern world at Santa Clara University, Stanford University, and the University of California at Santa Cruz, and has been recognized with numerous awards, including the “Civil Rights Leadership Award” from the California Association of Human Relations Organizations and “Citizen of the Year Award” from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

Reuven Firestone

Reuven Firestone Reuven Firestone is professor of medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, Senior Fellow of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California, and founder and co-director of the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement in Los Angeles. Rabbi Firestone has lived in Israel and Egypt and lectured at universities in Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East as well as throughout North America. He is author of seven books and over eighty scholarly articles on Judaism, Islam, their relationship with one another and with Christianity, and phenomenology of religion. His books include Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims; An Introduction to Islam for Jews; Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam; Who are the Real Chosen People: The Meaning of “Chosenness” in Judaism, Christianity and Islam; and Holy War in Judaism: the Fall and Rise of a Controversial Idea.

Joanne Greene

Joanne Greene is currently the Director of Jewish Engagement at the Osher Marin JCC. For the past eight years, she’s developed initiatives at the JCC including Salaam, Shalom: Speaking of Peace, a series of programs designed to build bridges among Jews and Muslims and share inspirational stories of collaboration and partnership. An active member of Marin’s Jewish community for the past 25 years, Joanne is also a writer-producer who has anchored the news and produced programs at SF radio stations including KFRC, KGO and KSAN.

Tricia Hellman Gibbs

Tricia Hellman Gibbs, MD, co-founded the San Francisco Free Clinic with her husband, Richard, in 1993. The clinic provides primary care and specialty services to uninsured children and adults from the San Francisco Bay Area, and was honored with the “Public Health Heroes Award” by the UC Berkeley School of Public Health in 2002. A graduate of Williams College and Yale Medical School, Dr. Gibbs was also a member of the U.S. Ski Team and is a mother of 5. She is currently associate clinical professor of family practice at the University of California San Francisco and assistant professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine. She received a master’s degree in Jewish Studies from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley in 2014, and wrote her graduate thesis on the usage of the Arabic language in Moses Maimonides’s Guide of the Perplexed. She has dedicated much creative energy, thought, and philanthropic support to interfaith studies, particularly those devoted to relations between Jews and Muslims, a focus that has resulted in publication of a novel (A New Song, Derusha Publishing, 2011), a new major motion picture (The Rendezvous, Unified Pictures and Sony Entertainment, Nov. 2017), and the establishment and funding of a number of interfaith programs in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

Ali Sheikholeslami

Ali Sheikholeslami is one of the founders of the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California. He is currently a member of The Center's board of directors. He has been active in the San Francisco Bay Area Muslim community and interfaith activities since 1988. He has a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, and a M.S. in Civil Engineering from San Jose State University. Currently, he is a project manager at one of the major public utilities in the Bay Area.