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Discussion on Yemen Feb. 4 ushers in program of Civil Discourse at Wayne State University

As they prepare to launch The Detroit Center for Civil Discourse, Wayne State University faculty members and other Detroit faith leaders welcome the public to its kickoff event, “Making Sense of Yemen, Past, Present and Future” 4 p.m. Feb. 4 at Wayne State University Student Center, 5221 Gullen Mall, Rooms Hilberry B & C. The event is free and open to the public.

The event is sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Committee and the Michigan Muslim Community Council.

Program moderators include Professor Howie Lupovitch, Director Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies; Ashley Attar, Community Activist & Child of Yemeni Immigrants to Israel; Emad Shammakh, Vice-President Yemeni American Leadership Association. There will also be a welcoming address by Consul General Republic of Yemen Mokhtar Algaadani

The DCCD will begin in earnest in the fall of 2019 with biweekly programs designed to bring people together around a topic that sparks varying viewpoints. It aims to establish a culture which welcomes, encourages and nurtures deep civic relationships between diverse people with diverse points of view through respectful, and, ultimately friendly, dialogue and conversation. For more information, go to https://detroitcivildiscourse.org

Yemenite Jewish History

Historical records show there was evidence of Jews living in Yemen dating back to the 3rd Century. By the middle of the 20th Century, with the re-establishment of the state of Israel, most Yemenite Jews were airlifted to Israel on Operation Moses.

Today, there are no more Jews in Yemen.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin, president of the DCCD, said the troubling issue of today’s Yemen is a perfect topic to bring together those of different faiths and viewpoints.

“The shared history of the Muslim and Jewish communities of Yemen provides the perfect stepping off point of bringing together these two groups to learn how to conduct civil discourse in an academic setting,” Lopatin said. “The current situation in Yemen is extremely unfortunate but provides an important opportunity to come together in a safe space to have a civil dialogue.”

Professor Saeed Khan

Saeed Khan, WSU Professor of Near East & Asian Studies said Yemen has become a critical issue in news and awareness of the war and its impact on the civilian populations there should be elevated on the college campus and in Detroit’s houses of worship.  He said the looming humanitarian crisis in Yemen is akin to Rwanda or the Balkans in the recent past and there is power of Muslims and Jews uniting to speak out on their behalf.

“It is a very unfortunate situation but there can be guarded optimism too because the conflict and war lie within politics.  Discussing Yemen is a good topic to bring Jews and Muslims together and the perfect way of showcasing the importance of conducting civil discourse in an academic setting. Within the safe space of civil dialogue, participants from different sides of an issue can build trust with one another,” said Kahn. “Though there may be contentiousness between Jewish and Muslim communities, the purpose of the dynamism of the college campus is so people of different backgrounds can learn to have dialogue together. Learning how to have civil dialogue must also happen not only across different communities but within the same communities.

Lopatin said that while not everyone will agree on who is to blame for the war in Yemen, the fact is that all can care about the humanitarian situation on the ground there.

“What can happen from a discussion such as this is that people will hopefully come away and turn to their Congressional representatives to make sure the plight of the Yemenite civilians gets on the radar of our elected leaders.” Lopatin said.

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