Imam Ibrahim Sayar and Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky
Photo credit: Ali Celik, Turkish Cultural Center, New York
The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), one of the premiere institutions of Jewish life in the United States, hosted an iftar dinner for the Muslim community on July 23; approximately 60 people gathered to share the end of the fast day, part of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue of JTS cosponsored the dinner with the Peace Islands Institute, a Muslim outreach organization.
Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, director of the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue, spoke about JTS's longstanding commitment to interfaith understanding, and the fact that Jewish-Muslim dialogue began at JTS in 1956. He noted that
the number of engagements with JTS over many decades had yielded many, many alliances and friendships in the Muslim community. One way of recognizing our good relations comes from the simple act of celebrating with our Muslim colleagues. It is especially pleasing that JTS could host this iftar, and that so many Muslims from the different parts of the community in New York City and beyond came to JTS to celebrate the sacred month of Ramadan together. This joint observance of the break-fast truly makes for a Ramadan kareem, or sweet Ramadan (the common greeting among Muslims during the holy month).
Turkish Imam Ibrahim Sayar, director of interfaith outreach at Peace Islands, spoke about the importance of Ramadan in the Muslim calendar.
The diversity of the group was notable: half was Muslim, including Sunnis and Shiites from various parts of the tri-state region, and approximately one-third was Jewish, with a strong JTS presence of top members of the administration and board, faculty, students, staff, and alumni. Representatives from the Catholic, Protestant, and Buddhist communities were also present.
The end of the fast was marked with a Muslim call to prayer, led by Imam Sayar, and the sacredness of the occasion also celebrated with the birkat hamazon, the Hebrew grace after meals, led by Rabbi Visotzky. Rabbi Visotzky summed up the evening by quoting Psalm 133:1, "How utterly lovely it is when brothers (and sisters) sit down in unity."