Supporting our Muslim Neighbors
An evening of healing and community building
March 26, 2019 19 Adar II 5779
by Rabbi Faith joy Dantowitz
On Saturday night March 23rd about 100 community members joined with the local Muslim community for an evening of prayer and healing. A new friend, Saba Khan, an activist member of the group, invited the interfaith community to attend their evening prayer service and program in their rented space at The Knights of Columbus.
I learned from Saba it is customary for women to cover their heads for prayer and invited TBA women attending to bring scarves. The service had a divider (like a mechitza) between the men’s and women’s sections and we wore scarves on our heads. I wanted to be respectful of their customs and wore my scarf over my kipa. When women removed their scarves after the service, I did too.
The service began with a man chanting a call to worship and then it was about ten minutes of prayer for the Muslims of standing, sitting and bowing down with lots of silence. It was moving to be there to witness and offer support.
After the service, the curtain was opened and Saba invited me to sit next to her in between the men’s and women’s sections for the program. I was honored to speak after she did and ended my remarks with a song of healing written by Rabbi Menachem Creditor: Olam Hesed Yibaneh-God will build this world from love. The verses are “I will build this world from love; You must build this world from love; If we build this world from love, then God will build this world from love. Olam Hesed Yibaneh.” Other speakers included Rev. Dan Martian, President of the Livingston Interfaith Clergy Association, Michael Vieira, Livingston Town Councilman, Billy Fine and Keith Hines, co-chairs of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and members of the Muslim community including Faizan Ahmed.
Two of the Muslim men shared an Islamic teaching that is also found in Judaism: To destroy one life is to destroy the world. All of the words of reflection by the speakers were touching and heartfelt. This past week was my first introduction to the Muslim community in Livingston. They are grateful for the community support and outreach.
A highlight of the evening was the conversations over a light meal after the program. I met many members of the community and look forward to building relationships introducing our communities to one another.
It was special to present cards and Purim gift bags prepared by our 7th grade students under the guidance of our Director of the Jewish Learning Program at TBA, Melissa Weiner. This act of gemilut chasadim, loving kindness, was greatly appreciated.
The Psalmist teaches us “Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.” (Psalm 126:5) We joined together with broken hearts and hope to share times of happiness in the days ahead.