The Ramadan dinner was part of Rabbi Michael Adam Latz’s work with Imam Sharif Mohamed, spiritual leader of Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque and Islamic Civic Society of America, on Muslim-Jewish connections in the Twin Cities.
The feasting after the fast satisfied more than just hunger, as it led to conversations between people of different cultures and beliefs who had met for the first time. Around 60 Muslims and 60 Shir Tikvah members dined together after 8:57 p.m., Wednesday when the Muslim guests were called to prayer. The congregation members and guests broke the fast with three dates and water.
“It’s such a quick encounter but I would hope to gain more occasions where this could happen because I think anytime you can meet someone face to face, it’s such a powerful thing for both cultures,” Joanne Gordon, Shir Tikvah congregant, said. “They’re very different [cultures] but when you can actually talk, be together, and have a meal, I think that’s such a bonding thing.”
Dar-Al Hijrah brings their “Taking Heart Iftar” event to non-Muslims in settings where non-Muslims and Muslims can get to know each other through eating and conversation, according to the Islamic Civic Society of America.
Last year, Shir Tikvah joined 30 other congregations across Minnesota who committed to becoming a Sanctuary or a supporting Sanctuary congregation for refugees.
Said, a refugee from Somalia who came to the United States in 1991 at the age of six, sat next to Sherry and Bill Cooper, who have been members of Shir Tikvah for 25 years. Said came to the dinner in order to step inside a Jewish temple for the first time.
“My main goal was to go inside the Jewish community and learn their culture and their place of worship,” he said.
Leading up the event, Shir Tikvah received an outpouring of responses to volunteer for the dinner. Around 50 volunteers helped serve the dinner and greet guests. When the dinner was announced back in April, some Shir Tikvah members joined a waiting list because the sign-up sheet was filled within days.
The night kicked off with Rabbi Latz speaking to the volunteers about the hopes for the evening.
“We are hosting people on a holy night during their holy month,” Latz said. “It is a religious experience and so we’re going to try to treat it with the level of dignity if we were to imagine what it would be like if they were to host us on Yom Kippur break fast.”
Along with conversation cards placed upon each table including questions like “What is your favorite holiday?” and “What is your favorite thing to do in the summer?” leaders of Shir Tikvah and the Dar Al-Hijrah hoped to end the night with trust between neighbors.
“My house is your house,” Imam Sharif Mohamed said to the audience. Mohamed described America as being a “non-place” where people are non-suspicious of each other by welcoming those who are different from them.
Dar Al-Hijrah will host Shir Tikvah later this year in December where the communities will join together for a Hanukah celebration.