Jewish-Muslim Dinner and Dialogue in the Sukkah
On October 12, 2014, Rutgers Hillel welcomed Jewish and Muslim students for an interfaith dialogue and dinner. At this dinner, we spoke about the joy of celebrating holidays with friends and family in a student-to-student dialogue. The event occurred during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, so our meal and discussion took place in the Hillel Sukkah at the Brower Commons courtyard.
This event was co-sponsored by several groups including The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, The New Jersey Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee and the Sisterhood of Saalam Shalom.
Here are some reflections from students and alumni who attended the event:
It is always nerve-wracking asking individuals who are part of different religious backgrounds to come together to speak about their beliefs. The interfaith dinner on Sunday, October 12 took a different approach to bringing Muslim and Jewish students together. The goal of the dinner was to have students from both communities speak about the different ways they celebrate the holidays with their friends and families. One thing I learned from speaking to other students, both Muslim and Jewish, was that food and families gathering together play very large roles in celebration. In addition to speaking about the holidays, the discussion group I was a part of decided to ask one another questions about religion as well as our experiences in college. The interfaith dinner was a great learning experience for me because I gained immense knowledge on Judaism and the various customs individuals from both communities practice. Many customs, such as making food and preparing extensively for the holidays, are universally practiced and they can be a catalyst to bringing people of different faiths together.
Saira Khan, Class of 2016
I feel that it is important that we talk about our own experiences with religion because we may find a lot of similarities that make us feel more connected. At the Jewish-Muslim Dinner, I spoke about my experience as a child. My parents would always remind me to look up at the schach (sukkah covering) and tell them if I could see the stars through the roof. My parents told me that gazing at the heavens and seeing the stars was meant to remind me of the majesty and awesomeness of God, and that the world in which we live is very much one in which God is with us.
I feel that the Sukkah is a place to be with my family. At the event, I talked about the importance of having guests for the holidays – especially on Sukkot when we are meant to welcome in guests. We hosted guests in our tiny sukkah, no matter how squished it was every year, and we tried to maneuver around everyone to serve soup, and always enjoyed the company. I talked about hearing my neighbors singing in their sukkah, especially the year I spent Sukkot in Israel and could hear singing and chatting from all around. And I finished off by saying that many of the rituals of Sukkot are strange and awesome. But that alone is really beautiful too, because you come together with your family and friends, year after year, in the building of a Jewish time and a Jewish space and decorate this time and space with entirely Jewish symbols.
Sarah Harpaz, Class of 2016
The importance of interfaith dialogue lies in the root of removing discrimination and distrust. Naturally, most people fear the unknown whether it is an unknown territory, an unknown food or an unknown group of people.
Some people advise against interfaith dialogue because they feel it leads to young people rejecting their own faith. Interfaith is not about compromising your own values. It is not about getting together and changing the tenets of your own faith. Rather, it is about educating others about the beauty of your own beliefs.
Interfaith dialogue allows us to interact with one another and reach a level of comfort where if there was a need to get together for a common cause, we would rush towards it. There are a few developed nations where religious symbols are prohibited from being displayed publicly, such as head coverings. If we were to face such an oppressive obstacle, and we knew that both Muslims and Jews wear head coverings as an important tenet of their faith, we would get together and stand united against restriction of our religious freedom rights.
Asim Khan, Class of 2006
This interfaith dialogue was inspiring. There is more that unites us than divides us. It was a wonderful experience to chat and eat pizza with people who wanted to learn about each other. What I learned was that Muslims and Jews aren’t so different. We have a similar history, including persecution over the years. Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are rampant in the United States. More often than not the two groups focus on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It is more important that the two religions cooperate than that they argue with each other.
Alex Hamilton, Class of 2017
Humans learn history so that we do not repeat our own mistakes again. In this age of globalization, it is about time we Jews and Muslims let go of our differences and strive towards peace. The path to a tangible coexistence is difficult, but not impossible. The event we had was a perfect example of the tools we need to achieve peaceful times. With tensions mounting in the Middle East, it’s of paramount importance that Jews and Muslims in the other parts of the world maintain decorum.
I was extremely pleased to see the youth taking active participation in the cause and know that we have a brighter future ahead of us. I vouch my time and effort for all such initiatives in the future and am looking forward for more such interactions.
Samuel Noah Ramrajkar, Graduate School – Class of 2015
For more information about the co-sponsors of the Jewish-Muslim Dinner and Dialogue, visit the facebook pages for The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and The Sisterhood of Saalam Shalom or contact Walter Ruby or M. Ali Chaudry of The New Jersey Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee.
If you are interested in more interfaith dialogue, please join us on Wednesday, November 19 at 8:00pm in the Pane Room of the Alexander Library for a Jewish-Catholic Dialogue.
For more information or to RSVP, visit the Jewish-Catholic Dialogue event page.