During Ramadan, Muslims break their fast in the evening by eating a date and drinking some water. Many Muslims are inviting Jews to come and share in the ritual, called an “Iftar.” In the UK, an orthodox rabbi is keeping the Ramadan fast.
Muslim-Jewish iftars are popping up across the nation, bringing together dozens and sometimes hundreds of people for a celebratory Ramadan meal and a chance to forge interfaith friendships.
This Ramadan, as Jews and Muslims exchange rocket fire in Israel and Gaza, those attending these meals say they are all the more significant, as a way of demonstrating that Jews and Muslims have much in common, and can enjoy each others’ food and company.
In Los Angeles on Thursday (July 10), an iftar that bills itself as the single largest gathering of Muslims and Jews in the city, is sponsored by NewGround, an organization that works year-round on Muslim-Jewish relations. The group exists to build resilient relationships that both groups can draw upon in particularly difficult times, said Rabbi Sarah Bassin, NewGround’s former executive director.
“Yes, we are in another awful flare-up of violence and both of our communities are suffering,” Bassin said. “That will be acknowledged at the iftar.”
The Jewish Daily Forward describes how Orthodox Rabbi Natan Levy keeps the Ramadan fast and why.
A few hours into the 10th day of Ramadan, Rabbi Natan Levy was swapping fasting tips with a Muslim fellow passenger aboard the London Northern train line.
Specifically, they were debating the merits of having a very large meal before sunrise — a technique adopted by many observant Muslims who are trying to cope with a whole month of daytime fasts on a continent whose summers afford more than 14 hours of sunlight every day.
“We agreed better to eat less,” said Levy, 40, who is the interfaith and social action consultant of Britain’s Jewish Board of Deputies.
Like the Muslim passenger, Levy was speaking out of experience: This year, Levy joined Muslims around the world in their fast….
Rabbi Levy is mindful of the violence going on right now in Israel and Gaza.
“There are elephants in the room between Jews and Muslim, scary ones,” he said. “But I don’t think that we can start discussing elephants, until we realize there is more that unites Jews and Muslims than divides us.”
Some of the fear, however, is rooted in reality, Levy wrote in an email answering JTA’s questions.
“Rockets are now falling upon my family in Israel as I write this, launched by a terrorist organization whose manifesto justifies its actions with hateful and violent quotes from the Quran,” Levy wrote. “But the more time I spend in conversation with Muslims, and the deeper I engage with Ramadan, the clearer it becomes that Islam cannot be reduced to the twisted form espoused by Hamas: That it contains a deeper truth and a grander vision of compassion and peace.”