In search of to construct ‘spiritual bridge,’ Muslims break Ramadan fasts in Jewish households (News)


Rivka Cohen sang the Jewish Hamotzi blessing over challah bread for Sabbath dinner final Friday as she often does.

However whereas she usually hosts these dinners, this one for her 18 company, a few of whom have been Muslim, was completely different.

Cohen, a 24-year-old Orthodox Jew, ready iftar, the meal used to interrupt fasts in the course of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which this 12 months ends the night of June 14. The dinner included dates (a staple fast-breaking meals for Muslims), challah (a Jewish bread eaten on particular events) and a Moroccan dish she just lately discovered.

Throughout the nation, mosques and synagogues have come collectively to find out about each other, wanting to construct bridges on account of growing bigotry equivalent to Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

And in lieu of wine that always accompanies Sabbath dinner, Cohen had grape juice ― as alcohol is forbidden in Islam.

“It’s all about humanizing the opposite,” Cohen stated. “And exhibiting one facet that the opposite are additionally actual individuals. And most of the people in my neighborhood rising up have by no means interacted with Muslims.”

Cohen’s iftar is part of a collection organized by the Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee that hosts the normal Islamic meal in synagogues and Jewish houses throughout New York Metropolis .

Only a day earlier than, Cohen attended one other dinner organized by the group at a Jewish congregation in Manhattan with about 250 attendees. Every desk was tasked with an exercise to have interaction Jewish and Muslim company in a dialogue.

On the synagogue, one visitor spoke about his hometown of Morocco, the place the Jewish neighborhood started disappearing years in the past. As a Muslim, he defined that this historical past is what drew him to take part within the joint dinner iftar meals. One other girl shared her expertise as a Muslim changing to Judaism.

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Image: Attendees at an iftar dinner at a Jewish congregation in New York
Attendees at an iftar dinner at a Jewish congregation in New York.Courtesy Harold Levine

“We had a desk filled with Muslims and Jews sitting collectively, they usually have been ready for us to have that point to interrupt earlier than they may eat,” Annum Munir, who attended the Thursday dinner, stated of the Jewish attendees. “It was a really sort gesture and I like the sort of people that stand in solidarity with others.”

Munir, from Lahore, Pakistan, is a Ph.D. scholar in New York and stated her publicity to Jewish communities and cultures was restricted earlier than she moved to the town.

“We’ve got a small Christian neighborhood, however not a variety of Jews,” Munir stated of her hometown. “Over right here was the primary time I truly met a number of individuals, and that was the purpose once I acquired impressed.”

The Pakistani authorities doesn’t publish the variety of Jews within the nation, however a 2015 Pew Analysis report stated that only one.5 % of all Jews resided within the Asia-Pacific area.

Globally, Muslim-Jewish relations are sometimes portrayed negatively, and is related largely with battle, like that of the escalating rigidity between Israelis and Palestinians within the Center East.

Image: Rivka Cohen,third from right, with Jewish and Muslim guests who gathered at her home for an Iftar and Sabbath meal
Rivka Cohen,third from proper, with Jewish and Muslim company who gathered at her house for an iftar and Sabbath meal on June 8, 2018.Courtesy Rivka Cohen

Following March protests in opposition to the U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem, greater than 115 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds extra wounded by Israeli forces.

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The fundamentalism in every neighborhood is on the coronary heart of the battle, stated Hadar “Hajar” Hoffman, 33, who attended Cohen’s iftar and deliberate to hitch a number of others taking place within the metropolis. She grew up as an Orthodox Jew and transformed to Islam in 2011. “The will for a dialog is what’s lacking,” she stated. “And I really feel like if individuals like me converse out, that’s going to alter that.”

Maha Elgenaidi, founding father of the nonprofit Islamic Networks Group in California, has been engaged on Muslim-Jewish relations within the U.S. for greater than a decade and stated that whereas Jewish and Muslim communities have all the time labored in solidarity, the relations have strengthened since President Donald Trump’s election in November 2016.

“Throughout the nation, mosques and synagogues have come collectively to find out about each other, wanting to construct bridges on account of growing bigotry equivalent to Islamophobia and anti-Semitism,” she stated.

Michelle Koch, the manager director of the Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee, stated her workforce of volunteers started organizing synagogue iftars for Ramadan 4 years in the past as a one-off occasion.

Final 12 months, noticing the response to earlier occasions, that they had a collection of 15 iftars in synagogues and Jewish houses throughout New York. Earlier this 12 months, additionally they organized a Passover meal in a mosque. Their occasions are themed; final 12 months they targeted on starvation in New York and this 12 months the highlight is on violence in opposition to ladies, that includes audio system from advocacy teams working with home violence survivors within the metropolis.

“There’s all the time superb range at our occasions that’s been fantastic,” Koch stated. “It expands your personal spirituality whenever you be taught a lot about different individuals’s experiences.”

The occasions, Koch added, “offers individuals hope to get to know one another and to interrupt down no matter misconceptions that they had about one another.”

Cohen, who studied Islamic and Center Japanese research in school, agreed.

“I grew up in a really Zionist family and did a variety of Israel advocacy applications rising up,” she recalled. “And I all the time felt there was an even bigger image I used to be lacking.”

“Whenever you’re dedicated to what you imagine, then you definately don’t care about another person’s beliefs,” stated Hoffman. “However that mentally goes to maintain us aside, and it’s going to completely destroy the intention of constructing relationships collectively.”

For Cohen, upon learning Islam in her spare time and seeing the entire similarities to Judaism — together with rituals of fasting and day by day prayer, related holy languages, some similar tales within the Quran and the Torah, and most significantly to her, the core perception within the oneness of God — the Israeli-Palestinian battle and the spiritual rigidity within the area didn’t make logical sense.

“I really feel just like the spiritual bridge is one thing that may hopefully assist there,” she stated.

The similarity between the 2 religions is a way of hope for different attendees as nicely, equivalent to Munir, Hoffman and Musa Demirtas, 32, who attended Thursday’s iftar.

“It’s excellent that we’ve so many similarities,” he stated. “So we should always concentrate on that, not our variations.”

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