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Jews and Muslims Break Bread together at “Iftar in the Synagogue”

Chicago Jews and Muslims united at the Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel Congregation in the Lakeview neighborhood on the North Side on Monday, September 22nd, for “Iftar in the Synagogue,” a special interfaith event that drew both groups together to eat, pray, learn and discuss the similarities of their faith.

About 60 people joined local faith organizations, such as the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) and the Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN) for the communal prayer and discussions on everyday issues.

JCUA hosted the event during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish month of Elul. Although the lunar calendar of the Jewish faith is slightly different from the lunar calendar of the Muslim faith, the two holy months coincided with each other this year. The event is reminiscent to joint Judaic-Islamic religious observances since 2005, including last year’s “Iftar in the Sukkah.”

The night began with Irene Lehrer-Sandalow, Director of Outreach and Education at JCUA, welcomed the guests and introduced the night’s speakers. Rabbi Asher Lopitan and Imam Abdul-Malik Ryan spoke shared similarities of the two holy months for repentance and charity for Jews and Muslims. The attendees observed the Jewish mincha. For the Muslim guests, iftar, the breaking of the day’s fast, was provided, followed by the sunset prayer. Afterwards, everyone dined on kosher meals while watching a documentary presented from participants of a youth program.

The film was produced by youth in IMAN and JCUA’s Or Tzedek, a year-round institute that educates teenagers about challenges facing Chicago’s diverse communities and encourages them to take action to combat stereotypes and working together to fight bias. The ten-minute documentary, created by a group of Jewish and Muslim students this summer, showed them offering their perspectives on issues as young Jewish and Muslim youth coming of age in America. They answered questions ranging from their favorite hobbies to how they feel about their faith being presented in society. The film is expected to be completed by January 2009.

Gerald Hankerson, CAIR-Chicago’s Outreach Coordinator, attended the event. CAIR-Chicago is a member of the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative (JMCBI), a working group that focuses on grassroot collaboration between the Muslim and Jewish communities in the greater Chicago metropolitan area.

CAIR-Chicago remains committed to building strong interfaith relationships.

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