“Making Sense of Yemen: Past, Present, & Future”

On Monday, February 4th, the Detroit Center for Civil Discourse hosted a panel discussion on the situation in Yemen called, “Making Sense of Yemen: Past, Present, and Future,” at Wayne State University, cosponsored by American Jewish Committee/Jewish Community Relations Council of Michigan, the Michigan Muslim Community Council, the Jewish Student Organization of Wayne State University, the Yemeni Student Association of Wayne State University, and the Muslim Student Association of Wayne State University.

40 people attended the program, featuring a mixture of hijabs and kippot, Muslims and Jews, and students and community members.

DCCD founder and director Rabbi Asher Lopatin introduced the panel, connecting it with the mission of DCCD, which is to bring different groups together to solve shared challenges. He also announced the DCCD’s Civil Discourse Fellowship for Wayne State Students starting in September 2019. The fellowship will accept students of all backgrounds, though it will focus on bringing Muslim and Jewish students together.  

The panel began with Prof. Howard Lupovitch, Director of the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies at Wayne State University. He spoke about the pride that Jews of Yemeni descent have in their Yemeni culture. He also noted that, while their practices are largely similar to those of other Jews, Yemeni-Jewish tunes, pronunciation, and other customs are distinctive of their unique, Yemenite heritage.  

Prof. Saeed Khan, professor of Near East and Asian Studies at Wayne State University spoke next, presenting a geopolitical history of Yemen and a brief overview of the current conflict in Yemen.

The next panelist to speak was Ashley Attar, Community Activist and child of Yemeni Immigrants to Israel. Ashley added a personal dimension to Prof. Lupovitch’s discussion of Yemeni-Jewish culture and history, accompanied by pictures of her ancestors in Yemen. She spoke about her family’s foods and dress, as well as their immigration to Israel.

Emad Shammakh, the Vice-President of the Yemeni American Leadership Association and a student at Wayne State University was the final speaker.  He addressed the current civil war in Yemen and how a sizable percentage of the people of Yemen are malnourished and have no access to medical care. He also spoke about the importance of different religions coming together as human beings to solve this crisis.  

After all panelists spoke, they took questions from the audience, many of which sought further details about the conflict.

The program concluded with a Kosher reception sponsored by the JCRC-AJC and the Ravitz Foundation, which enabled an extra hour of personal discussions, frequently between Muslims and Jews, or Arabs and other Muslims,

Here is a link to the video of the panel:


Here are some pictures:


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