Q: In a time of heightened tension, what can we do to reach out to our Muslim neighbours? 

  • Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers says: 
Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers

For more than five years I’ve been part of a Jewish Muslim women’s group at West London Synagogue. We meet through good times and bad.

Our relationships and trust have grown. It’s a long term project and one which has already seen several crises.We should speak honestly at these times and understand each other’s pain.

Muslim sisters truly understood our sense of homeland and the importance of security and, indeed, related to it. And Jewish women were able to better appreciate the daily injustices faced by ordinary Palestinians, sensed by Muslims around the world.

We often turn to social media at times like this. I find this frenzy difficult to take, as people shout, seeking a moral victory while those living though the crisis try to deal with their reality.

But social media alerted me to a beautiful idea. While Muslims are fasting for Ramadan, many Jews fasted for 17 of Tammuz on Tuesday. People broke their fasts together, trying to build real, lasting local relationships.

We don’t live in Israel, but events there impact on our relationships here. We need to be constantly working at building those relationships so that we can comfort each other as mourners during these difficult times of murders, rockets and incursions.

• Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers is a MRJ community educator

  •  Rabbi Maurice Michaels says: 

Jewish and Muslim communities should not wait for times of heightened tension to consider how they might reach out to each other. It is essential for the future cohesion of our society that people of all faiths and none should be doing that.

Maurice Michaels

Rabbi Maurice Michaels

  However, reverting to the question, one such possibility is to recognise that as both faiths have significant religious rituals, we could utilise these to come together. An example of this occurred during Ramadan, when Alyth hosted a kosher Iftar and invited Muslim neighbours to break their fast with us.

We took the opportunity of having explanations of the purpose and practice of fasting in Islam and Judaism to create a greater understanding of the things we share as opposed to differences. Although there was mention of difficulties between Muslims and Jews elsewhere, there was general consensus that must not be allowed to negatively impact relations between us in the UK.

Personally, I was delighted seeing Jews and Muslims sitting together, eating and talking as though they’d known each other for years and it was interesting to note that Sunni and Shia Muslims were quite happy together, despite what is happening in Syria and Iraq.

• Maurice Michaels is rabbi of Alyth (North Western Reform Synagogue)