By Sarah Gold
JCUA’s Manager of Community Building
Over the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to attend three community Iftar celebrations hosted by the American Islamic College, CAIR Chicago and Islamic Community Center of Illinois (ICCI). As JCUA continues to connect with the Muslim community in Chicago in meaningful ways, these celebrations were reminders of the relationships we have with so many of our Muslim partners.
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world abstain from eating and drinking for 29-30 days from sun up to sun down. It is a month of rejuvenation, reflection and spiritual enlightenment. It is also a time for Muslims to intentionally engage with their communities. Friends come together to reflect on all there is to be thankful for and to be reminded of how best to work together to make their communities a better place.
At the Annual Iftar Dinner hosted by the American Islamic College, Judy Levey (JCUA’s Executive Director) and I were warmly greeted and made to feel part of their community. We were treated to a delicious meal and engaging conversations. The keynote speaker Dr. Rami Nashashibi, Executive Director of IMAN, encouraged all of us to be more thoughtful about working to address inequality. He pointed out that many of our brothers and sisters in our own backyards do not have access to what they need to survive and thrive. Rami spoke beautifully of Rabbi Marx, the founder of JCUA, and how his dedication to seeking justice in Chicago is something we should all practice. Sitting among our new friends, it was inspiring to be reminded that our shared belief in humanity fuels a collective desire to build bridges and understanding.
Judy and I also attended CAIR Chicago’s 7th Annual Taste of Ramadan event. While this celebration was a bit more informal, it was just as meaningful. The notion of hospitality in the Muslim community, especially during Ramadan, is incredible. Everyone encouraged us to feast on an eclectic pot-luck style meal representing different cultures and religions from around the world. It was a wonderful dinner, allowing us to connect with old friends and become acquainted with new ones. CAIR Chicago welcomed us with open arms and took this Ramadan to celebrate the diversity in our community.
Finally, Aline Sredni, one of JCUA’s wonderful summer interns, and I participated in ICCI’s (Islamic Community Center of Illinois) youth organized interfaith Iftar event. Individuals from the Jewish, Bahai, Catholic, Buddhist and Muslim faiths gathered for a fascinating interfaith discussion. We addressed questions ranging from, “Can religious leaders and scientific leaders work together?” to “Is it important for individuals of different religions to dialogue despite conflict?” This event marked what I believe is the beginning of a fruitful relationship with the ICCI community.
As JCUA continues to build bridges with partner communities, it is events like these that help to solidify and encourage strong relationships. Participating in each other’s a holy practices, sharing a meal, recognizing our similarities and shared vision for what Chicago should be, all motivate me to continue working together to make Chicago a more equitable place for all and a city I am proud to call home
JCUA wishes all of our Muslim friends a Ramadan Mubarak!