— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram
Jews and Muslims will fast together, July 15, in a one-day Fast for Peace timed to correlate with the traditional fast days in both the Jewish and Muslim communities.
The American Muslim magazine has joined with The Philadelphia-based Shalom Center headed by Rabbi Arthur Waskow in widely publicizing the call, urging Muslims and Jews to join in “serious and sorrowful conversations,” and for an iftar meal, breaking of the fast of Ramadan which will also conclude the Fast for Peace.
In Philadelphia, the annual Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation group will also be hosting a gathering of dialogue on July 15th, at 7:30 p.m. at the Al Aqsa Mosque, at 1501 Germantown Avenue, followed by an iftar.
the 17th of Tammuz, is a fast day in the Jewish calender, memorizing the day that the Babylonian army broke through the ranks of the Israelite defenders and the walls of the city. Three weeks later, on the 9th of Av, the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple.
Tisha B’Av was later affixed by Jewish sages as a day of fast, prayer and reflection, to recall that tragedy and the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people, and a subsequent destruction of the Temple, exiles and horrific assaults on Jewish life in other lands.
As the Shalom Center reported, this year, the Jewish lunar month of Tammuz coincides with the Muslim lunar month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a month of fasting during daytime, abstinence from sexual relations, spiritual reflection and study of the Koran. It correlates with the early revelations reported by Mohammed the Prophet and concludes with a major feast.
Like Judaism, Islam follows the lunar calendar, and as happened with many Jewish holy days, Mohammed appropriated the timing of an early Middle Eastern festival originally dedicating to honoring a Moon God (Ibn Al Nadim, Al-Fahrisit, p. 348), for the purpose of establishing the holiest month of the year for Islam.
This approach to encouraging pathways to peace through shared meals, sacred times and dialogue can also be found in the teachings on deep ecumenism of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, of blessed memory, who died on July 3.
Sachter-Shalomi was a long-time scholar in Philadelphia, serving at Temple University and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and the founder of the locally-based P’nai Or Religious Fellowship and ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal.