Opinion: The Yom Kippur lesson I learned from a Muslim man

Yom Kippur begins Oct. 8. It’s the holiest day of the Jewish year, when Jews engage in self-reckoning and look for ways to fix their flaws. This year someone helped me with this. His name is Mohammed.

I showed up to my book club earlier this month to discuss Mohammed Al Samawi’s book, “The Fox Hunt: A Refugee’s Memoir of Coming to America.” In front of a coffee table filled with the usual nuts, chocolate and cheese, a smiling, dark-skinned man was sitting on the couch.

“I’m Mohammed,” he said.

And I said, “Wow.”

I had just read his book in a gulp. It is a gripping and true international thriller that, in the end, left me teary-eyed.

His story was miraculous, sure, but what really got to me were the lessons the book offers on how to heal the divisions that plague our country, our world and, ultimately, ourselves.

Al Samawi was raised in a devout Muslim home and trained in an educational system that taught him Western culture was corrupt and Jews were evil.

“The Jews are foxes,” one of his teachers told him. “Even if they seem good, they’re always hiding something.”

But first curiosity, then doubt, crept into Al Samawi’s mind. He began seeking out Christian and Jewish texts to see for himself. This led him to the internet, where Facebook groups brought him in contact with Jewish, Christian and Muslim interfaith activists around the world.

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