Rabbis Justin David and Riqi Kosovske: Jewish communities stand with Muslims

jews-1To the Hampshire Mosque Community, Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts, and Pioneer Valley Progressive Muslims, from Rabbis of the Pioneer Valley: Dear Friends, Salaam Aleikum!

As a Jewish community, we wanted to convey our deep dismay over the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the travel ban affecting people from predominantly Muslim countries, while at the same time we want to affirm the solidarity and deeply meaningful relationships we have built between our communities.

As Jews, many of our ancestors came to this country as refugees, and even several generations later, we carry this historical memory that informs our sense of justice in this current moment. And beyond our particular set of experiences, we deplore the discrimination now given legal legitimacy as people who believe in fundamental dignity and the assurances of the US Constitution.

Ultimately, though, we believe in the power of relationships to create change in our society and to add untold richness to people’s lives. In this vein, we are grateful for and proud of the opportunities for connection we have sought out in recent years.

The opportunities for dialogue through presentations and classes, shared celebrations, solidarity rallies, and the ongoing Shalom-Salaam sisterhood have created an enduring bond between our communities. The recent interfaith Iftar at the Islamic Society, and the celebration in the fall hosted by the Hampshire Mosque, felt like family gatherings, and we were immensely honored to be invited and participate.

FULL LETTER FROM GAZETTE.NET

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Archaeologists expose Muslim-Jewish ‘dialogue’ in Jerusalem from 1,300 years ago

Seven-branched-Menorah-on-top-of-a-copper-vessel-fragment-1024x640Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave a scathing response Wednesday to United States President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel earlier that day.

Citing the city’s Muslim and Christian strongholds and historical ties, Abbas negated the Jewish state’s ancient claim on the capital, saying, “US President Trump’s decision tonight will not change the reality of the city of Jerusalem, nor will it give any legitimacy to Israel in this regard, because it is an Arab Christian and Muslim city, the capital of the eternal state of Palestine.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave a scathing response Wednesday to United States President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel earlier that day.

Citing the city’s Muslim and Christian strongholds and historical ties, Abbas negated the Jewish state’s ancient claim on the capital, saying, “US President Trump’s decision tonight will not change the reality of the city of Jerusalem, nor will it give any legitimacy to Israel in this regard, because it is an Arab Christian and Muslim city, the capital of the eternal state of Palestine.”

In remarks translated by Wafa, the Palestinian News & Info Agency, Abbas said, “Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Palestine, is bigger and more ancient for its Arabic identity to be altered with a measure or a decision. The identity of Jerusalem and its history will not be forged.”

Indeed, Jerusalem’s Muslim identity was forged alongside the dawn of Islam. However, according to a pair of Israeli archaeologists, that identity was originally one of coexistence and tolerance. They say they have the 1,300-year-old archaeological evidence to prove it, and now they want to share it with the Muslim world.

Jerusalem-based doctoral students in archaeology Assaf Avraham, 38, and Peretz Reuven, 48, launched a crowdfunding campaign Wednesday to gather funds to continue their work in exposing a lesser-known period of Jerusalem history which, they argue, saw Jews and Muslims conducting “an inter-religious dialogue.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TIMES OF ISRAEL 

Muslims offer ‘wonderful’ gesture of support to local synagogue after it is daubed with swastika graffiti

etz-chaim-synagogue-0A group of Muslim men have offered a “wonderful” gesture to their local Jewish community, after a synagogue was targeted with racist graffiti.

The swastika and a racial slur were daubed on the sign outside the Etz Chaim synagogue in Leeds on Tuesday night, shocking the community.

In response, four local Muslim men brought flowers to show support and solidarity, where they were welcomed by the synagogue.

A members of the Etz Chaim community, Harry Brown, commented on Facebook: “I was truly humbled by [the] amazing gesture – the gift of flowers and your support.

“This is what we want to see, and equally the Jewish community should reach out not only to Muslim faiths but to all other faiths.

“From an unpleasant episode came a wonderful outpouring of support which the whole community appreciates.”

 The instigator of the gesture was 36-year-old Shahab Adris, the Yorkshire and Humber regional manager of Mend, a not-for-profit company which hopes to reduce Islamophobia and increase engagement and development within British communities.

Religion Can Be the Bridge Linking Jews and Muslims

958081777Judaism and Islam are sister religions with many similarities. Nevertheless, the prevailing belief among members of both faiths is that an abyss separates them, and politically, they view one another as a threat.

Yet the overlaps between the religions, coupled with the positive attitudes toward religion in general on both sides, can be transformed into a bridge. Jewish familiarity with Islam and its principles and Muslim familiarity with Judaism, gained in the education system and other avenues, including interfaith dialogue, can build this bridge and turn these religions into a moderating, constructive forces in the ongoing conflict between their believers.

Sukkot, the holiday in which Judaism turns its gaze outward to members of other faiths, is an opportunity to set this as a goal for both Jews and Muslims.

After years of studying Torah and Jewish law in yeshiva, including getting my rabbinic ordination, I began studying and researching Islam. A fascinating world was revealed to me.

Islam, which in the view of the Israeli man on the street begins and ends with jihad, Mecca, Al-Aqsa and the muezzin’s calls, turned out to be a world with wide horizons, rich in wisdom and holiness.

Delving into Islam was an intense intellectual experience, but the most transformative part of my studies was realizing the similarity between Judaism and Islam. I discovered that the sources, sages, principles and details of Islam are astoundingly similar to those I learned in yeshiva – a reminder of human nature is ultimately the same the world over. This experience made me change my attitude toward Islam and its adherents.

FULL ARTICLE FROM HAAERTZ 

 

Muslims and Jews Break Bread, and Build Bonds

13DINNERS-2-superJumboFlorence Nasar kept checking her phone. She was at an interfaith dinner last Sunday aimed at building friendships between New York Jews and Muslims, and the guests, all in their 20s and early 30s, sat on couches around her, sharing stories about their religious practices, their pasts and their quests to define who they are.

Ms. Nasar, a Syrian Jew, was actually living those themes. Her secret Muslim boyfriend was on his way.

She had not told her family about him, she explained to the other guests, because in the insular community in New Jersey where she was raised, intermarriage is forbidden. But Ms. Nasar, 27, an artist and a dancer, no longer lived at home.

She has recently been hosting interfaith events between Syrian Jews and Syrian Muslim refugees, eager to explore their shared heritage. Out of her own interest in understanding people, she had met someone.

 Ms. Nasar was one of about 100 guests at a series of intimate Jewish-Muslim dinners that took place last weekend around Manhattan and Brooklyn to build interfaith understanding. Lonnie Firestone, a modern Orthodox Jew and freelance writer from Brooklyn, came up with the idea for dinners after President Trump’s victory. She wanted to bring Muslims and Jews together in a spirit of friendship, so they could work together against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

How Trump Spurred Muslims And Jews To Eat Together — And Build Bridges

picture1-1466692203On the February night that President Trump unveiled his travel ban on immigrants from Muslim countries, Samir Malik, a 31-year-old tech developer whose parents are from Pakistan, was on his way to dinner in Brooklyn.

Text messages buzzed on his phone. Activist friends of his were on the way to JFK airport to protest. He worried, would his friends and family be affected?

Malik found comfort in the Orthodox Jewish family of six that had invited him to dinner.

“How are you feeling? Do you feel cared for?” his Jewish host asked Malik and his wife, also Muslim, with roots in India.

The gesture was encouraging. The dinner was part of an initiative to bring together Muslims and Jews for small home-cooked meals through New York City. There have been two rounds of these interfaith dinners since February, each drawing around 100 participants.

“The idea is for people who don’t interact as much to have an opportunity to get to know each other,” said Lonnie Firestone, a Modern Orthodox Jew and freelance writer from Brooklyn who is spearheading the effort.

The genesis of this project for Firestone was the election of Donald Trump, which shocked many liberals. On the heels of a divisive and polarizing campaign season, Firestone wanted to organize something that would bring people together.

“Trump’s campaign had fostered an inhospitable environment toward Muslims and to a lesser but still notable degree toward Jews, I felt that Jewish and Muslim Americans should become better advocates for one other,” Firestone said.

Interfaith work like this, of course, is not new. But bringing Jews into Muslim home, and Muslims in Jewish homes for home-cooked meals, felt both urgent and untested to Firestone.

The dinners are organized alongside a string of New York organizations, both Jewish and Muslim. Participants have come from Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim; the progressive “GetOrganizedBK” group; the Altshul minyan, an egalitarian Brooklyn minyan also in Brooklyn; the Prospect Heights Shul ; the Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee; the Islamic Center at NYU and a group called Muslim Urban Professionals.

 

Sign of hope: An interfaith dinner for the needy by Muslims, Jews

interfaithIt’s hard to find the good this holiday season. From domestic political strife to global conflict, it seems violence and division will prove the overarching themes of this dwindling year.

It can be all too easy to focus on the darkness instead of the light, especially in my profession. But a trip to the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) in Redmond this week reminded me that for every cruel act that makes headlines, there’s a flood of compassion that often doesn’t.

You may have heard of MAPS because its sign has been vandalized twice in the past three weeks. But I didn’t visit the mosque to talk about acts under investigation as possible hate crimes. I was there to talk about Christmas Eve dinner for the needy.

 “We will be bringing rice and pita and curry chicken,” says Khizer Sheriff, co-founder of the Muslim Community Resource Center, the service arm of MAPS. “We try to turn the spice level down, but people really enjoy it. It’s something a little different.”

Sheriff is describing the Christmas Eve dinner he and other volunteers will be serving in Seattle to more than 100 people this evening (the space wasn’t available on Saturday).

This multicultural dinner was founded by a Jewish woman and staffed in part by MAPS and its service arm. It’s its fifth year and has become a favorite tradition.

“It really is about putting our faith in action,” says Sheriff. “Christmas Eve is just another occasion when we can share our blessings with others who are less fortunate.”

For his daughter, Nehath Sheriff, who has volunteered at every Christmas Eve dinner since the start, it’s a reminder of what really matters.

“I think that we all take dinner and family for granted,” she said. “It’s a very humbling experience.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SEATTLE TIMES