By Michael Goldberg
A few weeks ago, I joined members of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs and the Downtown Islamic Center in a joint community service event at the DIC.
When I arrived I met a group of lively volunteers. Together we worked in an assembly line to prepare peanut butter, banana and honey sandwiches. We packed them into lunch bags with salads and oranges before setting out across downtown Chicago to offer the lunches to people experiencing homelessness.
I was glad to be working alongside people from different backgrounds on a common goal of service to our sisters and brothers facing hunger and homelessness.
Both Judaism and Islam stress the importance and the necessity of feeding the hungry and helping the homeless. Both traditions emphasize social justice for the suffering, the downtrodden and the powerless. In the Jewish tradition, to perform acts of social justice is to do God’s will, and we are all called on to act on behalf of God in this world.
Service to our fellow human beings can be a vehicle for bringing us together. When we do service together we grow in understanding with one another, deepen our sense of fellowship, and inspire hope in ourselves and others.
As two new friends and I were walking down the street and offering lunches to those in need, an onlooker thanked us for what we were doing. I could tell that we had inspired some hope in him.
Now more than ever it is crucial for Jews and Muslims to come together in the name of love, unity, and understanding. We must stand together against all forms of hatred, bigotry, and division.
Amid divisive rhetoric we have an opportunity to show our strength in unity.
We are commanded: “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). As Jews we know what it feels like to be ostracized and scapegoated, and we must do everything within our power to foster unity and to not allow the heinous crimes of history that we will never forget be repeated on our neighbors.
We are children of Abraham. We can and we must come together in the spirit of love, understanding, peace and justice.
Please join JCUA for their annual social justice Seder: “The 11th Plague – Standing Against Islamophobia” on Monday, April 11 at Beth Emet Synagogue in Evanston. This is a great opportunity for people to come together and learn about ways we can work together to stand against hate. Click here to register: www.jcua.org/seder2016