Muslim and Jewish Residents Unite for Virtual Iftar

Plano resident Almas Muscatwalla, shown with husband Aziz, helped organize the virtual Iftar // photo Hunter Lacey
Plano resident Almas Muscatwalla, shown with husband Aziz, helped organize the virtual Iftar // photo Hunter Lacey

“This is 36 souls coming together. It is like a bouquet of friendship. Coming together like this gives us hope that when it comes to caring for one another, we can always call upon one another,” said Moazam Syed of DFW’s IQRA for Peace during a unique Zoom video call last Thursday evening. On May 14 members of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council’s local chapter met online for a virtual Iftar.

Ramadan occurs for a month every year, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a holy time of fasting from sunrise until sunset, as well as prayer, reflection and community. This year Ramadan is observed April 23 through May 23. The Iftar is the meal that breaks the fast, eaten after sunset.

Attendees of the MJAC virtual Iftar // photo Hunter Lacey
Attendees of the MJAC virtual Iftar // photo Hunter Lacey

In August 2017 the DFW chapter of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC) was founded. Since then, its members have been prioritizing the combating of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as well as advocating for more accurate and universal reporting of hate crimes and the free practice of religion.

Every year since its founding, both the Jewish and Muslim members of the local council have met during Ramadan for an Iftar. The event has been open to the public and has brought in people of all faith backgrounds.

Plano resident Almas Muscatwalla (center) with attendees at a previous year's Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council event // courtesy Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council
Plano resident Almas Muscatwalla (center) with attendees at a previous year’s Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council event // courtesy Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council

Thanks in part to the efforts of Almas Muscatwalla, Plano resident and founder of Faith Forward Dallas, a virtual Iftar over Zoom was organized this year. Ramadan meals were delivered to MJAC members across Plano and the Metroplex. Though they couldn’t be together in-person, at least they could share in the same meal and see each other’s familiar faces on a screen. U.S. Congressman Van Taylor and Dallas City Council member Cara Mendelsohn were in attendance, as were faith leaders from across the DFW area.

As the online attendees enjoyed a meal together, they prayed and shared their thoughts on this uniquely challenging time.

“As I join members of the Muslim and Jewish community tonight to observe Iftar, I am reminded of the broad diversity that has always been a celebrated hallmark of North Texas. It is that diversity that brings unique backgrounds and cultures together to benefit us all. This has been especially evident over the last several weeks as our entire nation battles COVID-19. Here in North Texas, neighbors of different color, background, religion and creed continue to unite, risking their own health and safety and going out of their way to help a friend, neighbor or in many instances, a stranger,” remarked Congressman Van Taylor.

AJC Regional Director Joel Schwitzer helped pack and deliver meals // courtesy Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council
AJC Regional Director Joel Schwitzer helped pack and deliver meals // courtesy Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council

Rabbi Elana Zelony shared how her Passover experience this year resonated deeply during this time of social distancing. “Matzah is bread in its most basic form. It’s flour and water. Matzah has become my theme for this COVID-19 experience. How do I get down to what’s really basic? What is essential for me, and how do I focus on that?” she shared.

Almas commented that this has been a special opportunity to dive deeper into her faith. “I’ve been able to read the Quran, but also commentary on the Quran, so I can understand deeper concepts. Usually I’m driving around every day, but this has definitely been the most productive Ramadan of my life because I’ve had the time to refine so many of the ideas we learn about in the Quran,” she said.

Bayan AlFathi delivering a meal to Kim Kamen // courtesy Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council
Bayan AlFathi delivering a meal to Kim Kamen // courtesy Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council

Ramadan is normally a time centered around community, as is Passover. Meals are shared, hugs are exchanged, hands are held. Right now, this type of physical connection is not possible, but a group of people from different backgrounds and religions gathering on a Thursday night over Zoom is certainly a testament to how much we need one another. Humans will go to great lengths to be there for one another, and we can only hope that next year, the DFW Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council’s Iftar will be their biggest and most joyful event yet.

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