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Published On:25 March 2013
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Muslim, Jewish communities lay foundations for friendship

By Fiona Buchanan

Ottawa: In the spirit of promoting interfaith friendship and learning, members of the Ottawa Jewish and Muslim communities met Sunday for a social gathering and gift exchange.

Arriving with smiles and brightly coloured flowers, Imam Mohamed Jebara, founder of the Cordova Spiritual Education Centre, entered the lobby of the Beth Shalom Synagogue with members of the Muslim community. They offered the flowers to their new Jewish acquaintances as Cantor Daniel Benlolo welcomed the group.

“Imam Jebara and I want to make sure that we teach our young people,” said Benlolo.
“If we teach young people how to interact with, understand and appreciate each other’s communities, then we can hopefully build better communication and better understanding to live in harmony and in peace.”

Jebara, who was unable to speak due to laryngitis, nodded as Benlolo said the purpose of the gift exchange was to promote learning between the two communities.

“Today we are going to understand that we are closer than you think,” Benlolo said.

Awa Biop, a Muslim woman, said the event was a great opportunity for her to meet Jewish people. She brought her daughter to the meeting to teach her about diversity.

“We live in a mixed society, we have people from different backgrounds, race-wise and religion-wise,” she said. “We want our children to grow up with that idea of being different and accepting other people who are different too.”

Benlolo, who was born in Morocco and whose first language was Arabic, invited the Muslims into the synagogue and asked the men and boys to place a kippa on their heads.

“Girls and women, you don’t have to put it on if you don’t want to,” he said, but added that they were welcome to wear the kippa as well. Benlolo explained that the kippa represents a separation between God and man.

“It is to humble ourselves, to feel humility and to show that God is above and we are below.” He joked that the kippa could also be used as a “bald-spot cover.”

In the synagogue, Benlolo spoke about the similarities between Judaism and Islam. He referenced the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son — found both in the Qur’an and the Torah — and spoke of the significance of the ram’s horn, or shofar, to Jewish tradition.

Benlolo then presented Jebara with a shofar, which he described as a symbol of Abraham’s sacrifice to God. Jebara also received a menorah, a Kiddush cup and a book of the history of the Beth Shalom Synagogue.

In return, Jebara gave Benlolo a carved wooden Qur’an holder, a hand-sewn prayer rug from Syria, handmade calligraphy of the Muslim declaration of faith, books teaching Arabic from the Cordova Academy, three Qur’ans and a long blue string of prayer beads.

Jebara said he hopes the event at the synagogue would be the first of many between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Ottawa.

“There are many interfaith dialogues, but they don’t go any further than meeting and discussing issues,” he said. “Our intention is to go beyond that. We would like to establish friendships that are long term.”

Jebara said that building friendships with other faiths would lead to understanding, harmony and love between the different religious groups. Both Jebara and Benlolo mentioned the outreach to faith groups is not limited to Jews and Muslims; they hope to foster friendships with all religious communities in Ottawa.

(Courtesy: The Ottawa Citizen)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on March 25, 2013. Filed under , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on March 25, 2013. Filed under , , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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