Muslims and Jews Eat Iftar Together During Ramadan
By Sadaf Ali, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
Ann Arbor-October 5–A mix of Jewish and Islamic scholars and professionals gathered Friday in Ann Arbor to celebrate faith, food and good company.
The evening began with the lighting of two candles symbolizing the beginning of the Sabbath followed by a prayer with members having a toast with grape juice. The ceremony ended with the breaking of the Challa, a traditional Jewish bread with a dark crust and slightly sweet center.
â€œWe have so much in common and we share so much and we really need to give ourselves permission to sit down and break bread together,â€ said Aura Ahuvia, a former journalist and host of the interfaith party.
â€œWe decided that doing something in someoneâ€™s home would be a nice and friendly way to make it more personable for the different communities to get together,â€ said Aaron Ahuvia, Ph.D., husband of Aura and an Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Michigan-Dearborn School of Management.
According to Ahuvia, last year during a meeting, a member of their Reconstructionist Jewish group mentioned the fact that the Jewish high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur would fall during the month of Ramadan. From there Ahuvia contacted Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the Council of American-Islamic (CAIR) Relations in Michigan. Walid spoke to the group and it was a success. The group decided to continue the interfaith dialogue.
During the dinner, a young Muslim pre-med student and a Jewish nurse talk about the young manâ€™s future and the womanâ€™s family. Other guests compared Jewish and Islamic Law, including a discussion on which group of Jews eats pork.
â€œThe world thinks that Muslims and Jews canâ€™t get along, but when it comes to religion, thereâ€™s a lot more commonality between Judaism and Islam in many areas,â€ said Eide Alawan, Director of Interfaith-Outreach at the Islamic Center of America, â€œI think it will lead us to better understand the Middle East problem and resolve it in some fashion.â€
The atmosphere of peace and brotherhood was even a part of the furniture. Dinner was served on The Peace Table.
Alan Haber, a cabinet-maker from Ann Arbor, built the table in 1976 for a friendâ€™s office. Haber says he built it with the vision of a peace meeting to end all wars. It served as the opening peace table at the 1999 Hague Appeal for Peace. Since then it has traveled all over the world and has been blessed by rabbis, priests and imams.
â€œThe shape of The Peace Table was debated then just as much as the weapons of mass destruction are today,â€ he said.
After dinner, the group of thirty broke down into five smaller groups to discuss the story of Moses.
â€œItâ€™s amazing what came out of the Jewish peoplesâ€™ mouth, in terms, of God being in every sentence of the Quran,â€ said Alawan, â€œWe Muslims seem to find out more about Islam when other people are learning about it and comparing it with their own faith.â€
Aaron Ahuvia believes that interfaith communication is necessary especially after the terrorist attacks of September 11th.
â€œThe Jewish is aware that when civil rights are crossed in the name of security that we could be next in line.â€
Heather Laird Jackson, a Graduate student from Eastern Michigan University believes more learning and understanding is needed, but this is a step in the right direction.
â€œWhen you get to know someone, itâ€™s hard to demonize them.â€
Alawan sees the United States as playing a major role in Islam.
â€œMaybe in a few hundred years the rest of the Muslim world will recognize that Islamâ€™s new foundation came from right here in America.â€