Talk to Jacob Bender for five minutes and you’ll get a sense that if bridges can be built between Muslims and other faith groups, he’s certainly the guy for the job.
In October, the award-winning documentary filmmaker and interfaith activist was tapped to head the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). His appointment to the Muslim advocacy group, which protects civil liberties of Muslim Americans and aims to increase public understanding of Islam, might have passed under the radar had his own religious faith — Judaism — not become the focus of his new gig.
Bender is the first Jew to lead a local chapter of the organization — a reality that seems to be the everlasting focus of nearly all who covered his appointment. It’s historic — sure — and bodes well for an organization whose chapter directors have long been of one faith. But Bender doesn’t seem all that obsessed with his own religion; he certainly doesn’t tout it as credential that would make him a more capable leader.