Aziza Hasan: Bridging the Gap Between Faiths
After a tumultuous election year, it is comforting to know that there are still change-makers who are dedicated to fostering unity and solidarity among people of all backgrounds.
Aziza Hasan, Executive Director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, an organization that empowers Jewish and Muslim community leaders with the skills, resources, and relationships needed to improve Muslim-Jewish relations, is one of those change-makers.
NewGround was founded to create a national model for healthy relations, productive engagement and social change between American Muslims and Jews. Through a professional fellowship, high school leadership council and innovative public programming, NewGround impacts a broad political and religious spectrum of Muslims, Jews, and their institutions.
Hasan grew up in a household with a Muslim father and a Christian mother. “I felt like I had to defend the faith and ethnic background of one or the other parent regularly as a child," Hasan said. "At times, I resented it and rejected religious groups all together.”
After completing her graduate program, Hasan received a call to be the Muslim half of a two person team put together by the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Progressive Jewish Alliance (now known as Bend the Arc). She accepted the call and moved to Los Angeles to help set up the interfaith program that is now NewGround.
At NewGround, the belief is that conflict is natural and inevitable but not intractable. The group remains dedicated to building relationships between Muslims and Jews so they can transform their communities through lasting partnerships.
“Throughout my childhood, my parents modeled faith in action," she said. “They were deeply involved in giving back to the community around them. In many ways, being involved with their love of community and service helped me see what could be built when people of different faiths come together.”