Temple Beth Shalom/Tracy Simmons photo

Spokane Jews, Muslims come together for shared service

By Amber Woods and Justin Felts

It was with feelings of inclusion and community that Temple Beth Shalom, for the first time, hosted members of the Spokane Islamic Center on Friday for a musical Shabbat, a potluck dinner and Islamic prayers.

Both groups shared a bountiful dairy potluck provided by members of Temple Beth Shalom followed by desserts provided by members of the Spokane Islamic Center. Both groups hoped that the event would work as an ice-breaker for the two communities to come together under one shared identity; Spokanite.

Both congregations have long histories in the Spokane area, but those histories are peppered with stories of fear, misunderstanding and hatred.  The first step in combating these negativities is understanding.

Rabbi Tamar Malino of Temple Beth Shalom reinforced the idea that minority groups of any kind need to support one another, “Especially in times where rhetoric is nasty.”

She said that each group looked at the other and said, “You’ve got it tough”; it was this recognition of shared struggle within the larger community that brought the groups together.  “Regardless of what’s happening around the world, we all live here in Spokane.”

The fact alone that large gatherings, especially on holidays, for either of these groups comes with considerations for security measures reinforces the idea that the community at large isn’t always welcoming or inclusive of minority groups.  Events such as this hope to counteract such sentiment, and bring a deeper understanding and appreciation of one another.

Last year at an event in support of the Spokane Islamic Center Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said, “You cannot live in a state of anger, hate, and fear and expect the principles of America to survive.”  Those principles are what drive people to meet their neighbors and learn about their differences, while discovering their similarities.

A Muslim man who attended the event said,”Interfaith communication is important in a global community because it breaks barriers of misunderstanding.”

He said that both groups were excited for the evening, not only because it was the first of its kind, but because it was the first step toward “creating stronger bonds for the future of the community.”

The bonds of the community will have a chance to be strengthened further at the next Meet the Neighbors event at the Islamic Center on May 20 from 2 – 4 p.m.

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Neal Schindler

It was a wonderful first step toward greater mutual understanding and fewer misconceptions and prejudices. I’m proud of our Jewish and Muslim communities for taking this step.

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