The Student Union
Equity and Inclusion

Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom to Visit UMass Amherst for Presentation and Discussion on April 16 as Part of CDD’s Spring Programming

The UMass Community Democracy and Dialogue logo

Leaders of the nonprofit Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom (SoSS) will visit campus on Tuesday, April 16 to discuss their work to build trust, respect and relationships between Muslim and Jewish women to promote peace, and engage the audience in a discussion on fostering diverse, inclusive and equitable communities.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to attend the free event in the Student Union Ballroom, which begins at 11 a.m. Lunch will be provided with vegetarian, gluten-free, halal and kosher options. Advance registration is requested.

This event is organized by UMass Amherst’s Community, Democracy and Dialogue (CDD) advisory working group, which was formed to help the campus community navigate challenging, complex and controversial subjects in ways that broaden perspectives and diminish polarization. It follows the initiative’s inaugural event on March 6 that brought together more than 300 people for an open dialogue on the conflict in the Middle East.

The logo of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom

SoSS encourages Jewish and Muslim women of all ages to stand up for each other, educate one another about their faith and cultural practices, engage in social-justice action and work to end acts of hate. The organization envisions “a world where Muslim and Jewish people live without hate and where freedom, equality and social justice are within reach for all.”

In 2010, a group of 12 Jewish and Muslim women gathered around a dining room table with the hope that through learning about and with each other, they could build bridges of solidarity and understanding between their communities and together, stem the rising tides of polarization and acts of religious-based hate. Thus, the sisterhood movement was born.

The presentation and discussion will be led by SoSS President Roberta Elliott and Executive Director Tahija Vikalo. Elliott is an activist, writer and photographer who spent her career as a communications professional in the Jewish community, devoting herself to volunteer work, primarily with refugees, both in the U.S. and abroad. Vikalo is an anthropologist who has worked in the nonprofit field, international development and peacebuilding, and education and immigration for private companies, with a focus on inclusion and diversity in Muslim American communities.

The CDD includes a diverse group of UMass Amherst faculty, staff and campus leaders with expertise in many fields, including geopolitics, equity and inclusion, and communication and civil discourse. In addition, its work is being informed by discussions with graduate and undergraduate student leaders. The CDD is committed to pro-actively creating an ongoing, sustained effort that provides ways to support inclusion and diversity in concert with the democratic concepts of respect and compromise.