LONDON: A synagogue in the heart of a diverse East London borough opened its doors to Muslims to break their fast with Jews and members of others faiths including Sikhs, Christians and others.
This was the first ever Iftar dinner arranged by Woodford United Synagogue, attended by leading local and national Jewish leadership who served food for local Muslims.
The event included workshops on tackling hate crime, opportunities for local residents to get to know each other and speeches from members of the local community. There was also a delicious meal to break the fast under one roof. At the end of the event guests were encouraged to consider how they could continue to promote tolerance and partnership across their community.
Rabbi Wollenberg, who organised the event with his family said: “The event was a huge success, with Muslims and Jews coming together to learn about each other’s faiths and perspectives. For many Muslims, it was their first time in a Synagogue and for many of the Jewish guests it was their first time at an iftar!”
There were also talks from a range of speakers, including Dr Mohammed Fahim, Head Iman at South Woodford Mosque and Susan Pollack MBE – an Auschwitz survivor who has gone on to campaign for solidarity between people of different faiths.
Also speaking at the event was Khatira Kazemi, a 15-year-old local resident who is a member of Redbridge’s Youth Council. Her message was that the only way to break down barriers is to work together and get to know one another.
Harris Bokhari, co founder of the Naz Legacy Foundation and organiser of the first inter faith Iftari with the Chief Rabbi at St John’s Wood synagogue, which resulted in a number of synagogues across London hosting their own Iftaris appreciated the synagogue for arranging their Iftar said its important for Muslims and Jews to work together to deal with common challenges.
Harris Bokhari said that “the same extreme elements of society who are promoting anti-Semitism in the UK are the same elements who are also Islamophobic. We need to call out all forms of prejudice and racism in society and it is important we speak out against anti-Semitism in the same way we have to speak out against Islamophobia”.
Bokhari, who is one the leading British Muslim voices in the fight against anti-Semitism, has brought British Muslim and Jewish communities together over the last 20 years, organising many of his recent events with the Chief Rabbi of the UK including the historic St Paul’s Cathedral iftar earlier this Ramazan.
Bokhari added “we have to speak out against the anti-Semitism in the Muslim communities and Islamophobia in the Jewish communities, as well as educating society as a whole against these forms of hate. Ramazan is the prefect time to bring our different faith and non faith communities together to show we have more in common and speak out against hate of all kinds.”
Official data from the Home Office has shown a surge in hate crime directed at people in England and Wales because of their religious beliefs. With over 50% of these religious hate crimes aimed at Muslims.
This is also the third successive year with a record number of anti-Semitimic incidents reported by the Community Security Trust, which has monitored anti-Semitism for 35 years and provides security to the UK Jewish community.
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