Iftar in the White House signals a time for communal respect, according to Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

For Immediate Release
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Chicago

CHICAGO, Aug. 16 — One of the two Jewish guests at this year’s White House iftar meal says the interfaith event should be viewed as an opportunity for a new level of communication and understanding between the Jewish and Muslim communities in America.

Jane Ramsey, executive director of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA), wrote in a blog post today about the iftar meal held last week at the White House. Iftar, a communal meal at which Muslims traditionally break their daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan, should “embody the foundation enabling us, ultimately, to act together to create healthy and just communities and to jointly tackle Islamophobia and anti-Semitism,” Ramsey wrote.

The need for cooperation and communication between Jews and Muslims is especially important because of the recent controversy over proposed construction of a mosque in Manhattan, said Ramsey, who was in the room as President Obama weighed in on the issue.

It was shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center when JCUA formed its Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative (JMCBI), recognizing the need to speak out jointly against Islamophobia. Since then, JMCBI has sponsored numerous Jewish-Muslim cultural exchanges and discussion groups.

On Thursday, Aug. 19 at 5:30 pm (Central), the annual JCUA/JMCBI “Iftar in the Synagogue” event takes place at Anshe Shalom Bnai Israel Congregation, 540 W. Melrose, Chicago. (The event is free, but reservations are required. Please see jcua.org for more info.)

“By hosting an iftar in the White House, as he has a Passover seder and other observances, the president is signaling respect for each faith tradition, and a depth of commitment to religious freedom and tolerance,” Ramsey wrote in her blog post. This week’s Muslim-Jewish iftar in Chicago reaches for the same goals.

At the dinner, Ramsey wrote, “The president underscored the importance of the American values of religious freedom and tolerance, and reminded us of the sacrifices Muslim Americans have made in defending the country, their losses, too, on 9/11, and the importance of separating Islam and the Muslim communities from the distortions of the faith articulated by the terrorists.”

About JCUA

The mission of the Chicago-based Jewish Council on Urban Affairs is to combat poverty, racism and anti-Semitism in partnership with diverse communities. Guided by prophetic Jewish principles, JCUA pursues social and economic justice for our most vulnerable neighborhoods by promoting a vision of empowering communities from within. Since 1964, JCUA has assisted groups in low-income and minority communities, built coalitions with diverse groups, advocated on issues of poverty and racism and mobilized a Jewish constituency to create a more just city and nation.

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