Jews & Muslims unite to learn from a Japanese-American internment resister


Susan Rosenthal (for Temple Sinai),
(510) 282-3776 or
Fatih Ferdi Ates (for Pacifica Institute),
(818) 921-0170 or
Robert Berger (for Karen Korematsu),
(310) 422-9102 or

Several East Bay Jewish and Muslim organizations are joining together on Sunday, April 9th to learn from the experience of Fred T. Korematsu, the legendary civil rights champion who filed suit against the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War 2.

Temple Sinai, Oakland’s oldest Jewish congregation, and the Pacifica Institute, a Muslim community organization based in Albany, are co-sponsoring a potluck brunch featuring Karen Korematsu, daughter of the civil rights leader and Founder/Executive Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute. Among the other organizations participating are Temples Beth-El and Netivot Shalom in Berkeley.

The Korematsu event will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 9th at the Pacifica Institute, 979 San Pablo Avenue in Albany, second floor. Media are invited to attend and cover the event. We can also arrange media interviews in advance with Karen Korematsu or the event organizers.

The gathering is a direct response to the shameful spread of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic actions and rhetoric in the wake of President Trump’s election.

“Interfaith efforts like this are a meaningful way to honor my father’s legacy by sending a powerful message that we reject discrimination and hate based on religion, race or national origin,” said Karen Korematsu.

During the brunch, Jewish and Muslim attendees will hear from Ms. Korematsu about lessons from her father’s struggle. In 1942, at the age of 23, Fred Korematsu was arrested and convicted for refusing to go along with the U.S. government’s forced removal and internment of Japanese Americans. He appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him. In 1983, however, that conviction was overturned by a federal court in San Francisco and in 1998 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

“Fred Korematsu is a great example for both the Jewish and Muslim communities of how we can fight for equality and social justice,” said Fatih Ferdi Ates, Director of the Pacifica Institute/Bay Area.

“Growing up in the U.S., lots of people can’t fathom that something so terrible could ever happen here today,” said Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin, Senior Rabbi at Temple Sinai. “But they didn’t think it would happen then, either. I would like people to be able to recognize the real threats that are being posed to our way of life, right now.”

The Korematsu event will involve more than passive listening. After hearing from Ms. Korematsu, participants will gather in mixed Jewish-Muslim groups to discuss lessons learned and specific steps that the two communities can take together and with others to prevent similar injustices today.

The gathering is the latest step in a year of growing cooperation between Temple Sinai and the Pacifica Institute. The relationship between the two institutions began in early 2016, when Rabbi Mates-Muchin sent a letter to the Pacifica Institute offering solidarity in the face of the Trump campaign’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. The two faith leaders visited each other’s organizations and started building a partnership that initially involved members sharing a women’s Passover Seder, a Ramadan dinner, and a Thanksgiving dinner.

But Trump’s election made the organizations determined to do more than share cultural traditions.

“After the election, it became real – not just campaigning,” Ates said. “We had the Muslim ban, building a (border) wall, closing the door to immigrants, and bomb threats to Jewish community centers. Being in dialogue is not just about words. It’s about taking action, being in solidarity in difficult times, and moving forward collectively.”

Rabbi Mates-Muchin said it’s particularly important to show the world that Muslims and Jews can work together against injustice.

“In so many places around the world, Jews against Muslims and Muslims against Jews is a thing that people take for granted,” she said. “But here, we are working together against the threats that affect us all. We stand together when the other is in pain. And we will triumph together when our world looks more like the ideal envisioned by both of our traditions.”

The Pacifica Institute, founded in 2003 in southern California, strives for social justice, interfaith cooperation, advocacy through positive change, relationship building and partnership for the common good through a wide range of activities. Inspired by the transnational movement called Hizmet (“service” in Turkish), it operates 15 centers throughout the West Coast. See

Temple Sinai, a Reform Jewish congregation founded in 1875, is the largest synagogue in the East Bay, with about 1,000 families. Its many social action programs reflect its commitment to “tikkun olam,” repairing the world. See

Both Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin and Fatih Ferdi Ates are available for
media interviews about their organizations’ partnership.

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Click here to download a PDF version of the press release