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Pardes Yehuda: Synagogue to house Mosque

Friday, October 3, 2008

Synagogue to house Mosque

cross posted at

I just stumbled upon this lovely piece of news from a local Virginia newspaper (thanks to the wonders of Google):
Synagogue Lends Space to Mosque

By Julia O'Donoghue
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) has found a new home for its weekly prayer services in Reston in an unusual place, a Jewish synagogue.
The Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation has agreed to rent its multi-purpose room to the Sterling mosque, which has operated a Reston "branch" for several years, in the early afternoon on Fridays.

"Many people [in the congregation] don’t know yet because I just wrote the newsletter article about it," said synagogue president Hana Newcomb. She accepted an award from ADAMS on behalf of her congregation for its efforts in promoting interfaith dialogues and peace Sept. 27.

"The Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation has opened its doors to our prayers," said Rizwan Jaka, an ADAMS board member, during the ceremony.

The mosque also honored United Christian Parish, which has hosted its Friday prayer services in Reston for the past seven years. The parish sold one of its facilities and no longer has the extra space to share with ADAMS, said parish board moderator Kay Rodgers.

"We don’t have the space anymore but United Christian Parish is totally committed and dedicated to the interfaith experience we have," said Rodgers.

Wow. Just wow. This is a beautiful and amazing show of interfaith relations and co-existence. The shul is a Reform congregation of near 500 families, the ADAMS Center serves 5000 families in seven communities in the DC area. What an amazing opportunity not only to embark on some very real and concrete interfaith work, but to also set an example of using the synagogue in the 21st century for applications that have a unique place in our era--this gives a whole new meaning to beit k'nesset (house of gathering).

Plus, in my minimal experience with Muslim-Jewish dialogue it is difficult to get down to discuss the intricacies and structure of our respective traditions because politics (i.e. the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) loom so large. This seems like an incredible opportunity to engage in joint worship and study in ways that have probably not happened much between our communities in, at the very least, the last half-century.

According to Jewish law, we can pray in mosques (not the case with churches, according to tradition) and as far as I understand, Muslims can eat kosher meat (while kosher Jews cannot indulge in halal meat). The Rambam's brother, David, would practice dhkir, an Islamic meditation on the Oneness of God with Muslims. If we could only put politics aside, we could connect deeply on a religious and spiritual level. The opportunities that have arisen between the All Dulles Area Muslim Society and the North Virginia Hebrew Congregation are endless and provide a great opportunity for the Jewish and Muslim communities of America (and perhaps beyond).

May 5769 continue to bring such blessings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well it is not strange since if you read Maimonides he stated the following

"The Ishmaelites are not at all idolaters; [idolatry] has long been severed from their mouths and hearts; and they attribute to God a proper unity"

Jews are also allowed to pray in a Mosque if no Synogoug is available and Muslims are allowed the same.

The current problems are political and not religious, we both eat Kosher(Halal), we both have religious law Halakha(Shria) and we both pray to the same God Elah Arabic equivelant Allah Muslims pray 5 times and Jews pray 3 times to the one and only God, even the practice of circumcision for men is common.

While Jews in Europe did suffer pograms and exiles, their Eastern brethern were protected and assimilated with many in high positions like Maimonides was the personal physician of Salah-U-Dinn and the golden age of Jewish philosophy was in Muslim Spain.

Politics ruined all of that. I hope that the old times come back, we need a bigger effort on focusing on our similarities and shared history, politics can come when both sides humanize the other.