Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom is a national organization whose 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.” The local Kansas City chapter was founded between 2013 and 2014, when Sheryl Olitzky made contact with Sheila Sonnenschein because of her impressive interfaith contributions. Sheryl sought to expand the reach of the Sisterhood beyond the East Coast, hoping to initiate a local chapter in the Greater Kansas City area. Sheila accepted a position on the national advisory board and asked Inas Younis and Vicky Kulikov to be co-leaders for the first KC chapter (AKA KC1). Kansas City became one of the first ten chapters in the organization, and there are now 150 chapters across the North America. Funding is received from private donations and grants.
The national organization consists of an executive director, board of directors, an advisory board, and volunteer chairs. As of 2018, four chapters exist in Kansas City. Each chapter has a Muslim and Jewish co-leader who help confirm meeting dates, build consensus around topics, confirm hosts, and make sure everyone in the room has a chance to give her thoughts on the topic that evening. Women meet in each other’s homes once a month. The first chapter started off with around 14 women, equally balanced between Muslim and Jewish participants. Currently, in 2019, there are still 10 women in KC1.
The women dialogue about their religious holidays, life cycle events, comparing and contrasting Jewish and Islamic sacred texts, women’s issues and more. There are also times when the women’s families join together for a picnic, an Iftar, or volunteer in the community. Sisterhood guidelines specify that the women are not allowed to talk about the Middle East until after meeting for at least a couple of years in order to first build friendship and trust. The groups also make substantial contributions to the community, by hosting clothing, toy, and toiletry drives for Jewish Vocational Services and a Muslim women’s shelter, providing and preparing an Iftar at a local Kansas City area mosque, volunteering at Safehome, and many other forms of community service.
Sonnenschein, Sheila, interview by Geneva Blackmer. 2019. Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. (May 26).