By Joshua Marks
Jews and Muslims have a lot in common, including community gatherings and festive religious holidays centered on good food. In that spirit, on Oct. 8 Moishe House Capitol Hill hosted JAM DC (Jews and Muslims DC) – an organization dedicated to bringing together Jewish and Muslim young professionals in the D.C. area – for a Sukkot and Eid meal.
The interfaith group took advantage of the fact that Yom Kippur and Eid, short for Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice) fell on the same day this year. Eid al-Adha commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael and marks the end of the annual Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca. Eid al-Adha is one of two major Muslim holidays along with the most important – Eid al-Fitr (Festival of Breaking of the Fast), which marks the end of Ramadan.
“Eid is very much about eating and that experience of food and particularly meat. Sukkot is the harvest holiday. It’s all about eating and enjoying your food. So it seemed like a natural place for us to work together and explore common ground,” said Michael Garber, 25, a consultant who sits on the JAM DC organizing committee and helped planned the event.
The more than 75 people who packed into the row house on Fourth Street, N.E., learned about the lulav and etrog that represent the four species gathered during Sukkot and also about why Muslims enjoy meat on Eid – to represent animal sacrifice. After the programming, which took place in the backyard, guests were treated to fruits and vegetables for Sukkot and pasta with meat sauce for Eid.
Ammar Zaki, 30, also on the organizing committee, explained that last year the Yom Kippur and Ramadan fasts coincided and they broke the fast together and wanted to do something similar this year with Yom Kippur and Eid taking place at the same time. “This is exactly what JAM DC is all about – bringing the two groups together and the shared ideas that we have and celebrating together,” Zaki said.
D.C.-area young professionals Minha Kauser, a Muslim, and Stuart Levy, a Jew, started JAM DC five years ago to build a bridge between the two communities. The group has grown to 845 Facebook followers and a listserv of similar size – and has hosted big events such as the Sukkot-Eid meal and smaller events like a recent screening of the IMAX movie Jerusalem 3D at the Smithsonian.
Former JAM DC organizing committee member Parvez Khan said that he sees JAM DC as riding the wave of a larger interfaith movement between Jews and Muslims that began after 9/11.
“What I’ve noticed personally is Jewish people and Muslim people have been actually coming together since 9/11 and for good reason,” he said.
“We actually have a whole heck of a lot more in common than any other religious faith traditions,” he added. “Muslims reaching out to Jews and Jews reaching out to Muslims is really where the learning is going to be because the similarities are so plentiful. There’s a reason why we’re so similar and in exploring that we’ll find the similarities.”
UPDATE: A correction was made to this story on Oct. 24 to reflect that Eid al-Adha commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael, not Isaac.