12 Under 35: Mohammad Modarres, founding director, Interfaith Ventures and founder, Abe’s Meats

Muslims and Jews harmoniously sharing a meal—as well as anyone else who wants to break bread—is Mohammad Modarres’ mission. Last year, he founded Interfaith Ventures, an incubator that promotes religious unity and dialogue through inclusive events. He also began the development of Abe’s Meats, which follows both kosher and halal 
dietary laws.

“In 2016, after the presidential election, there was a massive wave of bigotry and hate, anti-Muslim sentiment,” he says. “I wanted to invite all my Muslim and Jewish friends over for dinner together.”

To find out a way to do it on a much bigger scale, he moved into his VW van and traveled up and down the California coast, gathering ideas from ranchers, food experts, and religious leaders. The momentum led to the TED Talks’ TED in-house residency program in New York City, which helps incubate breakthrough ideas. Modarres was able to further explore how to make faith-based meats more accessible, promote regenerative agriculture techniques, reverse soil erosion, and help small-scale American ranchers and farmers.

Modarres now hosts a series of large Shabbat Salaam interfaith dinners in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York City, all of which have sold out. An observant Jew oversees the kosher process, and there’s always a separate kosher kitchen. A Muslim certifier makes sure the animals have been sacrificed in a way that’s acceptable. Abe’s Meats is not a brick-and-mortar operation: It’s more about rigorous sourcing of poultry, goat, and even black-bellied ram.

In these very divisive times in America we’re setting up an infrastructure so we’re better positioned for peace-building,” he says.