by Jessica Cohen
Communications Intern, JCUA
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, breaking their fast each evening with an “Iftar” meal. Celebrating this tradition, the annual “Iftar in the Synagogue” event creates a safe space for Jews and Muslims to join in an evening of interfaith prayer, keynote addresses and a shared kosher/halal dinner.
Past “Iftar in the Synagogue” participants
Co-sponsored by JCUA and the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals, along with other Jewish and Muslim organizations, this year’s “Iftar in the Synagogue” will take place Thursday, July 25, 2013 at Anshe Emet Synagogue.
“It’s an exciting program to be involved in, and it is definitely an experience you would not get at a lot of other places,” Margaret Port, “Iftar in the Synagogue” planning committee member, said. “A lot of stuff goes into planning such a big event, especially since it is an event that can be considered contentious by some. There is a lot of treading lightly to make sure that everyone’s needs are satisfied.”
“It is very eye-opening to different issues I would not have considered otherwise,” she continued.
This year’s theme, “Neighbors Against Bigotry,” focuses on opposing Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, going hand-in-hand with Margaret’s interests as a Jewish-Muslim Relations intern with JCUA. Acting as neighbors, planning committee members hope to combat discrimination by building personal connections between Chicago Jews and Muslims.
“This is definitely a community-building event,” Margaret said. “I have already seen from people in the planning committee that our two cultures are very similar. And, though we do have our differences, we are all living in the Chicago-area. We are all neighbors, fighting against some of the same issues that everyone in Chicago has been working on.”
Instructing people and encouraging conversations, Margaret will facilitate this mission as she co-MCs the event.
“I think the MC role is especially important this year, since the focus is on neighbors,” Margaret explained. “For a lot of people, this is their first ‘Iftar in the Synagogue.’ So encouraging conversations is a great way for everyone to get to know who they’re with as we get to know about both each other and our cultures.”