L’shana tova…Eid Mubarak
Yesterday, on Rosh HaShanah afternoon, a group of us from Temple made a visit to the local mosque. This year our holiday coincides with the last day of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month centered on fasting, prayer, repentance, and purification. A few weeks ago in a planning meeting, about five of us came up with the idea that we’d like to make outreach to the Muslim community. When I discovered the overlap between our two Holy Days, I also looked up if there are any special customs for the end of Ramadan. As I shared what I found about Iftar (the evening meal that breaks the daily fast during Ramadan) we immediately saw the similarity of eating sweets as a symbol of our hope for goodness in the year ahead. We brainstormed the idea of asking about the idea of Temple members bringing a basket of such goodies to the mosque – we hoped to demonstrate our desire to cultivate a relationship between our congregations.
With the encouragement of the others around the table, I sent a note to the Islamic Society of Michiana, posing our question about a possible visit. I concluded my message: As we look to enter the New Year on the Jewish calendar, with hopes for sweetness and peace, we wish you a season of goodness and blessing. Please accept our best wishes. May this holy season be meaningful. I didn’t really have any idea about what kind of response I’d receive. I got a warm and enthusiastic reply, which included the following: Thank you so much for reaching out to us with your kind wishes. We are very excited and looking forward to the visit of your Temple member. We also want to extend our warm wishes for your Rosh HaShanah. May the New Year be filled with health, happiness, sweet moments, and peace. Needless to say, I was delighted.
Perhaps more than our little discussion group would like to attend? We decided to announce our plans during our Holy Day worship services, opening up the invitation to anyone from Temple who’d like to join us. We arranged to meet at 5:30 in the afternoon to “assemble” our gift baskets, and then caravan to the mosque. I thought it would be great if ten of us came together. Nearly thirty of us made the outing – a source of genuine pride and satisfaction.
We were welcomed with gracious hospitality – as should always be the case in our human interactions. It was amazing to mix, mingle and share with our Muslim neighbors. And it came as no surprise as we live in a smaller, tight-knit city – that several of us, Jews and Muslims, already knew somebody else: from the neighborhood in which we live, or the local supermarket, seeing one another at the gym, or having sent our children to the same schools. This was a truly uplifting culmination to our celebration of the New Year. What began as a modest outreach effort became something much more. As we continue to strengthen the connection between our Jewish and Muslim communities, I think we have a real chance to create meaningful relationships among the members of both. I look forward to this ongoing opportunity, as we might just make a difference in the world.