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On Saturday, November 16, 2013, over fifty Muslim and Jewish women gathered together for a morning of prayer, conversation, and a shared meal. Part of an international weekend of Muslim-Jewish twinning sponsored by the Foundation for Mutual Understanding, the South Bay Muslim-Jewish Dialogue for Women and Girls began with the traditional Saturday Shabbat prayer service led by Rabbi Melanie Aron. As a part of the service, ING presenter Sr. Humaira Hai was invited to speak. She began with a beautiful recitation of verses of the Quran and then spoke about the Islamic values of forgiveness and gratitude. Lunch followed, and presentations on “Exemplary Women in Islam and Judaism” by ING founder Maha Elgenaidi and Rabbi Melanie. Inspired by the presentations, the participants engaged in lively table discussions about powerful women from each tradition, which were then reported back to the group.
The event was so well received by women from both communities that we hope to organize more of these events in the future. Thanks to all those who participated and presented.
Shaista Ali, ING Trustee
Rabbi Melanie Aron, Congregation Shir Hadash
Reflections by ING Intern Seher Siddiqee
As a part of an international weekend of Muslim-Jewish twinning sponsored by the Foundation for Mutual Understanding, over 50 women gathered at Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos on Saturday, November 16 for a morning filled with prayer, conversation and food. It began with a traditional Shabat prayer service led by Rabbi Melanie Aron. The service focused on the theme of gratitude towards others and God. It included song, prayers and readings from scripture.
One of my favorite parts was watching the ceremony for bringing out the Torah scrolls. It is considered to be a high honor to participate in this and therefore those who participated were respected members of the community. When the scroll was brought out, some of the congregants were invited to the altar to read from the Torah, and then it was held up for the congregation to see. As a part of the service, ING speaker Sr. Humaira Hai was invited to speak about the Islamic values of forgiveness and gratitude in prayer.
We were then invited to lunch where we sat at tables that each had a mix of Jewish and Muslim women. Rabbi Melanie Aron and ING founder Maha Elgenaidi presented the group with information about four notable historical women in each of the traditions. Each table was then given time to have conversation about each of the women and discuss which ones resonate with us most, and how we can apply the lessons of their lives in the 21st century. A representative was then invited to share their discussion with the larger group. Many of the tables had also discussed other women who had impacted their lives.
One of the major themes discussed was that in talking about the struggles of these women, it humanizes them and makes it easier for us to relate to them. It can be easy to dismiss them and their lives because it was at a different time, or because they are special in ways that we may never be able to achieve. However, this is far from the reality; these women faced many of the same challenges that we do today, and while they may be extraordinary, they often came from humble backgrounds and are remembered for their ability to overcome adversity.
This was a special event not only because it was a prayer service that included both Jewish and Muslim traditions, but it was one that was led and attended mainly by women. This is not a common occurrence in either tradition, but was welcomed by all. It was a time and space that allowed the participating women to share their faith experiences with others in ways they may not have been able to had it been a traditionally mixed-gender event. I look forward to more events of this nature encouraging women and girls to be leaders and take center stage!