On the Monday 7th July 2014, Alyth Synagogue hosted a ‘Big Iftar’. In what’s believed to be the first event of its kind, Muslims in North West London were invited to break their Ramadan fast with a meal known as the ‘iftar’.
The Big Iftar is a national initiative, promoting neighbourliness, strengthening of community relations and sharing. It encourages mosques, community centres, places of worship, to come together and share iftar during Ramadan, by inviting friends and neighbours from different faiths and ethnicities. The Big Iftar encourages British Muslims to invite their friends, neighbours and colleagues to join them at mosques on an agreed date and enjoin them in sharing the meal of iftar. This year, iftars are being hosted by many mosques and centres, and also by churches, synagogues and different faith communities and organisations.
The community of Alyth Synagogue warmly welcomed the Muslim guests and then panel members addressed the audience. The speakers on the panel were:
Rabbi Maurice (Executive Committee of the Interfaith Network of the UK)
Stephen William MP (Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.)
Laura Marks (The Board of Deputies of British Jews
Mustafa Field (Faiths Forum for London)
Julie Siddique (Vice President of the Islamic Society of Britain).
Rabbi Maurice first spoke about the fact that in Judaism they don’t have a month of fasting! However they do have two fasts in the year, which last 25 hours, one, which is on The 15th July called the Jewish fast day of 17 Tamuz and the second day of fasting, is on Yom Kippur.
Rabbi Maurice mentioned that he had received messages asking whether he thought people would attend the ‘Big Iftar’ given what was happening in certain parts of the world! Rabbi Maurice said that he had replied that it was even more important to have such a meeting and that what goes on in certain parts of the world should not affect relationships between Muslims and Jews in this county.
The reoccurring theme through the evening was of peace and commonality and how blessed we are in Britain that Jews and Muslims work together and have good relationships.
The Rabbi described the purpose of fasting, which included resisting temptation, and to feel the hunger of people who always live on just one meal a day. Mustafa Fields, director of the ‘Faiths Forum for London’ described the purpose of fasting in Islam and the importance of organising interfaith events such as the ‘Big Iftar’ gathering people from different communities together and sharing and building relationships.
The Alyth Synagogue hosting the iftar had respected all the Muslim rituals and had made every arrangement to ensure the Muslims broke their fast with dates, water and fruit juices. They had a designated space for all of the Muslims to offer their Magrib prayers. Moreover, all the Muslims amongst whom were also members of the Al Khoei Foundation and the Christian Muslim Forum were treated with respect and love. The Rabbi made a prayer and broke the challah bread and everyone was served a delicious hearty soup made lovingly by Jackie Goymour committee member of Barnet’s Women’s Interfaith Network (WIN).
Al Khoei Foundation, Christian Muslim Forum