The Road to Peace: A Collaborative Jewish-Muslim Discussion

Thursday, June 207:00—8:30 PMFireplace South GalleryIn Person at Woburn Public Library45 Pleasant St., Woburn, MA, 01801

Hosted by Know Your Neighbor Woburn in collaboration with  with the Islamic Council of New England and Jewish-Muslim Solidarity Committee of Boston Workers Circle Center for Jewish Culture and Social Justice.

This hybrid event is being offered both in person at Woburn Public Library and online via Zoom.  You will receive a link for the Zoom meeting in a confirmation email shortly after registering.  Please scroll to the bottom of this page to register.


About the Panelists:

Ms. Asima Silva, Co-Founder, EnjoinGood, Host of “Perspectives with Asima Silva" local radio and TV show. Board member of Muslim Caucus of America.

Ms. Asima Silva is a mother of five and the first Muslim woman elected official in Massachusetts (as of 2014). In 2016, she was invited to attend President Obama’s State of the Union for co-founding a nonprofit, EnjoinGood, that champions Outreach and Interfaith activities with local religious and educational institutions to build bridges of understanding and appreciation between communities. She graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a Masters in Computer Science and earned the title of IBM Master Inventor, with over 100 patents in her name. She co-instituted the Worcester Chapter of the Daughters of Abraham book club and is a board member for a national political organization, Muslim Caucus of America. She volunteers for Justice for All, for whom she attended the Human Rights Council meetings in Geneva advocating for human rights in India for two years. She also hosts a local tv show, "Perspectives with Asima Silva" where she interviews local, national and international motivational/inspirational people on topics and issues not covered by mainstream media.


Mr. Martin Bentz, Retired Senior Administrator for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and Chair, Human Rights Commission, New Bedford, MA.

Mr. Martin Bentz is presently the Outreach Coordinator for the Islamic Society of Southeastern Mass/Masjid Al Ehsan in South Dartmouth, MA, and a board member of the Islamic Council of New England. Martin accepted Islam in 1996 while on mission for the United Nations Peacekeeping in Laayoune, Western Sahara, Morocco. He shares his journey to fully appreciate Islam and as an advocate for Muslim rights within his work and after retirement from the United Nations in 2011. Martin worked in support of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations from 1980, with various posts at UN Headquarters, Morocco, Eritrea & Ethiopia, and Democratic Republic of Congo, until his retirement as Chief Administrative Services for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and Head of Office the UNAMA Support Office in Kuwait. He is the author of numerous articles on Islam in the local media and has been invited as a guest speaker on radio, television and conferences discussing the Muslim perspective on current events. Martin also serves as Chair, Human Rights Commission, New Bedford, MA, promoting all human rights and mediating on behalf of rights issues in the city.


Dr. Jon A. Levisohn, Ph.D., Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Associate Professor of Jewish Educational Thought, Brandeis University

Jon A. Levisohn is a philosopher of education, who focuses primarily on Jewish education. He is on the faculty at Brandeis University, where he chairs his department (which encompasses both Jewish and Islamic studies) and directs a research center that focuses on Jewish education. Among his books and articles, he is the editor of the forthcoming book, The Aims of Religious Education: Catholic, Islamic and Jewish Perspective. For about a decade, he has been active in Encounter, which is dedicated to bringing American and Israeli Jews to meet with Palestinians in the West Bank, and to understand more deeply the Israeli-Palestinian reality.


Dr. Yaser Najjar, Professor Emeritus, Framingham State University

Former Dean of Graduate Studies and Continuing Education

A native of Palestine, Dr. Najjar was born in a refugee camp in Jerico and raised in a refugee camp in Amman, Jordan where he completed his elementary, middle, and high school education. He obtained his undergraduate education from Lebanon, and graduate education from Egypt and USA. He started his teaching career since 1985 at University of Cincinnati, and has taught at Clark University, Worcester State College, and Framingham State College in the United States and at Umm Al Qurra University in Saudi Arabia; University of Bahrain in Manama, and Qatar University in Doha. He published more than 25 research papers in various International Journals and Conferences Proceedings. His research focused on Urban Transportation, Urban Housing, Squatter Settlements, Recreation and Tourism Planning.

He has been active in community services by representing the Muslim community in interfaith and multi-cultural activities in Greater Worcester area. Served for 2 years as vice chair of Worcester City Manager Human Rights Committee; 2 years President of the Islamic Council of New England, currently in the Board of Directors; 2 years president of Worcester Islamic Center; 4 years President of the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester, currently in the Board of Trustees.


Rev. Ashlee Weist-Laird, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Jamaica Plain, MA

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Ashlee studied religion and sociology at Wake Forest University and received an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1991. For four years, she served as the Southern Baptist chaplain at Harvard University and then spent a year working with Sabeel Liberation Theology Center and the Middle East Council of Churches in Jerusalem. In 1998 Ashlee completed an S.T.M. degree in religion and society from the Andover Newton Theological School. Having received standing in the American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts, she served as an interim pastor in Allston, MA and as an associate pastor at Seattle First Baptist Church. In September 2003, Ashlee was blessed to be called to pastor The First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain. Over her years as pastor in JP she has overseen the renewal and rebuilding of the congregation and the church building and has encouraged the church to embrace social justice ministries as integral to the gospel message of Jesus. She is married to Lance Laird and mom to Naim, Aidan and Mycah.


Rabbi Brian Walt

Co-Founder, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America

Member, Rabbis for Ceasefire

Born in Apartheid South Africa, Rabbi Brian Walt was active as a student in the anti-Apartheid struggle. He emigrated to the United States in 1974 and has worked as a congregational rabbi in Philadelphia, a human rights activist, and an advocate in the American Jewish community for justice, peace and equality for all who live in Israel/Palestine. He was one of the founders of Rabbis for Human Rights – North America (currently T’ruah) and served as its first executive director. Most recently, he has been active in Rabbis for Ceasefire, an ad hoc group of more than 300 rabbis and rabbinical students calling for an immediate ceasefire and engagement by the international community towards a lasting and just peace in Israel-Palestine In 2012, Rabbi Walt led the Dorothy Cotton Institute Civil and Human Rights delegation to the West Bank. The delegation included veterans of the American civil-rights movement who met with leaders of the Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement and their Israeli allies. During Passover, he travelled to Israel with a group of rabbis from Rabbis for Ceasefire in an effort to bring food to Palestinians in Gaza.


Moderator: Rev. Annie Gonzalez, Minister of Faith Development, First Parish, Bedford, MA

Rev. Annie Gonzalez is a Unitarian Universalist minister, community organizer, mom, and board game enthusiast. Annie lives in Malden with three housemates (two of whom are also UU ministers!) and her child Moira. She works as the Minister of Faith Development for First Parish in Bedford. Annie organizes with the Boston Immigration Justice Network and has also been part of the Boston Interfaith Ceasefire Coalition since it was formed in November, 2023. Annie is a lifelong UU from the Midwest who started at First Parish Bedford in August 2018. She has lived in 7 states and has been involved in 10 UU congregations.

Capacity: 59 of 150 spaces available.

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