Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom

This data was last updated on 14 May 2020.
Mission: Our mission is to build trust, respect, and relationships between American and Canadian Muslim and Jewish women and teenage girls.  Together the women commit to end acts of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim sentiment, stand up for one another when hate is aimed at our communities and engage in social action work. 

HISTORY In 2010, Sheryl Olitzky returned from a life-changing trip to Poland. Olitzky says, “I saw the hate surrounding me and thought ‘I cannot change the past, but I have to - as a Jewish woman of faith - I have to make sure that hate has no place in the future.’” Upon returning home, Sheryl began exploring her own community in New Jersey. What she found were large communities of Jews and Muslims, but she noted there was nothing connecting these two groups. Although it began as a project of personal growth, it became clear this was an issue of community. Further research revealed that although there had been plenty of Jewish/Christian and Muslim/Christian collaborative groups in North America, there had not been a widespread Jewish and Muslim group. With this in mind, Olitzky, with the help of her friend Atiya Aftab, set out to create a group of Jewish and Muslim women in her New Jersey community, a group they called the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom Word of the group spread quickly, and soon was the focus of international attention. In response, Olitzky and Aftab began exploring options to expand this small New Jersey group into something of epic proportion. By the end of 2013, the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom gained nonprofit status. In 2014, the organization had 6 chapters. Just two years later - by the 2016 U.S. presidential election - the organization had grown to 40 chapters. As of 2018, the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom has 150 chapters across the U.S., Canada, and England. The organization also has 10 youth chapters and plans to launch a North American teen initiative.

DESCRIPTION The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom is built from the idea that women navigate the world through relationships. Thus, the mission of the sisterhood is to build “strong relationships between Muslim and Jewish women based on developing trust and respect and ending anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish sentiment.” This mission is achieved through the four main pillars of the Sisterhood: social media, annual conferences, domestic and international trips, and local chapters. The chapters are the heart of the Sisterhood’s work. The small groups of roughly 8-20 women have become successful vehicles to build and change relationships between people and communities. The chapters have 3 main foci: dialogue, socializing, and social action. Chapter members think critically and engage in dialogue on topics of their choice at regular meetings. In addition to formal discussions, chapter members often celebrate holidays and life-cycle events together, which contributes to shared learning, understanding, and relationship-building. As chapters choose to participate in social action causes, they get to know each other. Social action involvement is enriched by the personal experience each member brings to the group.

DEMOGRAPHICS The sisterhood of Salaam Shalom is made up of Muslim and Jewish women of all ages. As of 2018 there are 150 chapters and 10 teen chapters spanning America, Canada, and England.

PROGRAMMING AND RESOURCES Muslim Jewish Women’s Conference Since 2013, the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom has hosted an annual Muslim Jewish Women’s conference. The purpose of the one-day conference is for Muslim and Jewish women across the country to socialize while learning skills necessary to live the mission of the Sisterhood. Keynote presenters and workshops support this purpose. Some examples of the workshops offered are: sacred text reading, narrative training, self defense, and dialogues, among others. Each conference focuses around a specific theme, such as “Rising Up” or “Raise Your Voice” (2017 and 2018 themes, respectively). Building Bridges Trips Each year the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom coordinates a “Building Bridges” trip. The destinations of the trips are chosen by a travel committee, which takes into consideration the learning opportunities from locations’ histories and people. Trip locations have included the Balkans, Azerbaijan, and the American South. The trips help participants build stronger relationships and dismantle hate and bias. The trips are open to any member of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. Salaam Shalom Documentary The documentary “Salaam Shalom: Muslim and Jewish Women United Against Hate” will be released at the 2018 Muslim Jewish Women’s conference. The documentary covers the impact of the Building Bridges trips, the annual conference, and individual chapters on the members of the Sisterhood. The film will be released nationally in early 2019.

PARTNERSHIPS In keeping to its original values, the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom remains independent of any other institution or organization. When their goals are aligned, the Sisterhood periodically partners with organizations on social justice efforts. The Sisterhood also allows organizations, such as the El- Hibri Foundation, to help sponsor the Muslim Jewish Women’s Conference. In maintaining its independence from other institutions and organizations, the Sisterhood is also looking to strengthen its intra-institutional community. To achieve this, the Sisterhood launched a pilot program introducing regional directors for areas with a concentrated number of chapters. These directors will work on regional chapter programming, making larger Sisterhood projects - such as a voter registration initiatives - easier.