Iftar in the Synagogue with Rabbi Asher Lopatin

For the past four years, my synagogue has cosponsored, along with the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, an Iftar in the Synagogue, which usually gets about 20-30 Muslims and 60-80 Jews. I feel it’s in the tradition of Middle East Friday Night that we did at the Oxford Jewish Society twenty years ago when we had Israelis and Palestinians reading poetry over a Shabbat dinner that followed davening. Iftar in the Synagogue also consists of schmoozing, then a teaching by a rabbi (me) and an Imam about the dates for Jews and Muslims, then Mincha – and this time almost every Jews stayed – then our Muslims friends go downstairs to break their fast, to pray Salat – usually in the JCC – and then we all feast together on Halal food from the best kosher Middle Eastern restaurant in Chicago. The dinner ends with Bircat Hamazon: which talks about the Land, Jerusalem and the future of the Jewish people. However, as we know, there are also universal parts to benching. It seems that at Iftar in the Synagogue everyone is looking at things that we have in common, that bring us together, rather than things that pull us apart.
But I wanted to point out that as concerned I am for peace in Israel, and for Muslims and Jews to get along and learn from each other in Chicago and America, as much of a believer I am that different people can come together and get a lot out of each other’s company, sometime the most rewarding part of an event like this is to see how it brings out the Jews. There were Jews at this Iftar – dozens – who only get to daven mincha in a shul, or only step into an Orthodox shul, when we can show them that we are open to Muslims coming to our synagogue as well. And if this is their path to Judaism, is this is the way we affirm that their heritage can speak to them as well, that’s great. That is what Morethodoxy is all about: showing people that despite what they may have been led to believe, Judaism is relevant in their lives. Judaism has a power to touch them.
I wish all of us, that just as doors to Judaism opened for some through Iftar in the synagogue, that we find ways to open the gates of Judaism, the gates of Mitzvot and Torah, which were closed to us this year. We have to be creative about finding those gates and figure out how to get through. Maybe even more creative than Iftar in the Synagogue. But we cannot afford to ignore all the doors that await us. We need to find those keys and those doors and allow ourselves to be led to new depths in our Yiddishkeit.
May we all have a year filled with open doors to grow closer to Hashem, our People and our purpose in life. A 5770 with more good, more opportunities for good, more appreciation of Hashem’s good and infinite gifts for us.
G’mar chatima tova l’chulan ul’chol Yisrael,

Asher Lopatin

2 Responses to Iftar in the Synagogue with Rabbi Asher Lopatin

  1. surethang says:

    Speaking of keys, when I can walk the streets of Riyadh wearing my kippah without getting the borscht kicked out of me, I’ll gaze upon this essay with fondness. Until then, I see outreach to Muslims as pure folly, especially as they actively and vocally seek the harm and destruction of our brethren in Israel and possibly elsewhere. Go knock on the Hamas bakery at Foster and Kedzie, or some mosques in Oak Lawn, tell ’em ‘Hi, I’m a friendly orthodox rabbi and I believe in peace.’ Watch their reaction.

    I’d wear a helmut if I were you.

    • Asher Lopatin says:

      I proudly wear my kipah in and into Iqra’ bookstore in West Rogers Park – selling fundamentalist Muslim writings – and the owners were delightful to me. And when I got a flat a few months ago, a kind Muslim store owner tried to help me pump it up. Yes, there are many anti-Semitic Muslims and Christians, there are Muslim thugs in France who tortured and killed an innocent Jewish man. We cannot be naïve, but we cannot ignore the good in this world nor should be give up hope.

      Asher Lopatin

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