A new film institute focusing on films that highlight the interaction of Jews and Muslims will hold its premiere event March 22 at Temple B’nai Israel.

The Jewish-Muslim Film Institute created by the Respect Diversity Foundation will host a screening of the 2007 film “Arranged” at the institute’s kickoff.

Joan Korenblit, executive director of the Respect Diversity Foundation, said the institute was formed to bring diverse groups together to share films designed to inspire dialogue and help Jews, Muslims and others “realize that we are more alike than different.”

“Sharing a movie is such a simple way to open hearts,” Korenblit said. “With the climate today — world events, state events, local events — we know this is important not just for Muslims and Jews to understand each other but for everyone to open their hearts to each other and not to judge each other simply because they are of another religion or culture.”

Much in common

Korenblit said “Arranged” was chosen specifically for the institute’s premiere event.

The feature film shares the story of Rochel, an Orthodox Jew, and Nasira, a Muslim of Pakistani descent, who meet as first-year teachers at a public school in Brooklyn, N.Y. The pair eventually discover they have much in common, including the fact that both are going through the process of arranged marriages.

Korenblit said she is especially excited about the opportunity for discussion that will follow the screening of “Arranged” and other films brought to the metro area by the film institute. She said the audience will be asked to divide into small groups led by a group leader who will facilitate a discussion of the themes highlighted by the films.

Korenblit said a Jewish rabbi and Muslim imam will circulate among the groups and answer questions people may have.

She said other film screenings are planned for June 14, Aug. 9 and Nov. 15. Films to be screened include dramas “The Other Son” and “Free Men” and the documentary “Of Many.”

Korenblit said many organizations partnered with the Respect Diversity Foundation to create the new film institute, including the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); the Dialogue Institute’s Oklahoma City branch; Emanuel Synagogue; Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City; and the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice.

Others are Oklahoma City University Film Institute; Oklahoma Conference of Churches; Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City; The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma; Temple B’nai Israel; University of Central Oklahoma College of Education and Professional Studies; and United Nations Association of Greater Oklahoma City.