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At the Local Mosque, Sharing Love with our Muslim Neighbors

At the Local Mosque, Sharing Love with our Muslim Neighbors

Group of smiling people holding cardboard signs supporting Muslims

Holding signs of support, we gathered at the local mosque as part of an interfaith group of the faithful and other community leaders. We were participants on a journey others so aptly led. What began, according to a lead organizer, because she was “just trying to be faithful to what was stirring inside me,” grew and grew as “so many were also faithful and showed up.”

Our intentions were as simple as the sign I carried: "That 'Love your neighbor as yourself' thing? I meant it." -God

We wanted to let our Muslim neighbors know that as Jews, as Americans, and along with other faith groups, we embrace shared ethics of diversity, multiculturalism, and religious freedom.

Breaking Bread Together

Of course, it made sense for us as part of Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, CA, that when Muslims became the targets of widespread intolerance and prejudice, we would gather at their house of worship to show our support and share God’s love. Over the past years, our Reform Jewish synagogue has broken bread with the Islamic Center of Conejo Valley, in their spiritual home and ours.

Over time, our communities have worked to break down barriers too. Not regularly enough, but a nice beginning. We have shared holy space during times for prayer, and respectfully learned from one another about the differences between our faiths and of the many values we share too. The gathering was always a mosaic of colors: women in hijab, men and women in kippot, adults indistinguishable from one another, rabbi and imam in traditional religious garb, and many children less interested in the interfaith aspect of it all than by their shared love for a good game of basketball.

At the rally at the ICCV, we honored our shared faith in humanity, as many also celebrated our shared ancestor in the patriarch Abraham. While the Muslim community prayed in their mosque, we stood along the roadway, with supportive signs, singing songs of faith, and waving many American flags. Later, after prayer, they joined us to celebrate our common humanity. Congregation Or Ami’s many congregants joined with Jews from sister synagogues, and with so many Christians, Baha’is, Unitarian Universalists, and other people of faith (and atheists and secularists too) in what we felt was an affirming afternoon of holiness.

Biblical Teachings Point to Interfaith Embrace

The Biblical verse in Leviticus ‪19:18‬ (V’ahavta l’ray-acha kamocha, "Love your neighbor as yourself") does not differentiate between which neighbors we should love. It just tells us to love them all. And the Genesis ‪1:27‬ verse teaching that we were all created b’tzelem Elohim (in God’s image) does not limit which humans God were so created.

The Biblical message is clear: we all are neighbors deserving of equality, protection and religious freedom. Because we all – Jews, Christians, Muslims, Baha’is, Sikhs, Hindus, Native Americans, Buddhists, atheists, Mormons and everyone else – are God’s children.

An Affirmation of the Greatness of America

The interfaith gathering at the Mosque was an affirmation of the best of America. And the best of our individual faiths. We ended with hugs around, speeches inspiring, congressional and local leaders affirming, and a resounding Amen!

May the joy we felt that day, surrounded by congregants and beautiful community members, sustain us. And may we hear ever more clearly God’s call again and again to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Rabbi Paul Kipnes the spiritual leader of Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, CA. He serves as rabbinic dean at URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, CA, and as vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Rabbi Kipnes and his wife Michelle November co-wrote Jewish Spiritual Parenting: Wisdom, Activities, Rituals and Prayers for Raising Children with Spiritual Balance and Emotional Wholeness (Jewish Lights). He also co-edited a national CCAR Journal issue on New Visions for Jewish Community. Under his leadership, Congregation Or Ami has won national awards for social justice programming, for innovative worship programming, for outreach to interfaith families, and for engaging family education, and for best overall use of technology in a synagogue. Or Ami also wins the hearts of its families for its Henaynu caring community, which reaches out during times of need. He serves on the Rhea Hirsch School of Jewish Education clinical faculty at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. His writings can be viewed on his blog, Or Am I? He tweets @RabbiKip.



Rabbi Paul Kipnes
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