On Aug. 30, 2009, thanks to the dedication of Tobie Lurie, Sharon Priven, and Karen Hecht, we hosted an Iftar (breaking the fast of Ramadan) Ramadan fast-break (Iftar) dinner with Bay Area Cultural Connections (BayCC), a local Turkish Muslim group, whose mission is to organizes activities to help establish a tolerant, caring, and educated society. Over 75 Jews and Muslims sat together, meeting, eating, learning - and, thanks to John Erlich, singing! It was a very special night with 80 or so people who were there.
Two calls, followed by two pauses:
Oytun Eskiyenenturk, a leader of BAYCC, closed his eyes and called the Muslim men and women to prayer. Here we were, gathered in our sacred home, granting space to our brothers and sisters who call God by the name Allah. I stood next to him and felt the hearts of all those gathered, Jewish and Muslim, swell. We breathed so deeply in the fleeting seconds following Oyton's call.
Toward the end of the evening, I gave a tour of our glorious sanctuary to our guests. We discussed our glorious Aron HaKodesh (which was just awarded the lead space for September in the international United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism calendar!). We spoke of prayer. We spoke of individual and communal spiritual experiences.
And then our teacher, Rabbi Bochner, called everyone gathered to attention by blowing shofar. And our hearts swelled again. We stood together, knowing that the world would see us as an exception despite all that we shared. But in that moment, in the pause after the call, we tasted hope. We saw each other as family.
In this month of Elul (marked by our cousins as Ramadan) which leads into Rosh HaShannah, a day where we dream of a world reborn, may we begin to realize a hope that can and will - and must - unite more and more people on Netivot Shalom - Paths of Peace.